In part 2 of this article, we began our examination of the court process in DUI cases, beginning with the arraignment and pre-trial. Here, in part 3 of this article, we’ll continue our examination of the court process, starting with the legally required alcohol assessment test. By law, any person who pleads guilty to or is convicted of an alcohol-related traffic offense (i.e., a DUI) cannot be sentenced by the Judge until he or she undergoes a legally required alcohol assessment, sometimes called a “screening.” The actual assessment is a written set of questions about your alcohol and substance use history. Your answers to them are “scored” using a scoring key, and then compared to a scoring chart to determine whether you have, or are considered at risk to develop a drinking problem.
After completing the alcohol assessment, you will then go through an interview with a probation officer (PO). The end result of all this is a written sentencing recommendation drafted by the probation officer that must be sent to the Judge to be used when you stand before him or her for sentencing. This recommendation lists specific things that the probation department believes you should be ordered to do (and not be permitted to do) as a result of your charge, including counseling and/or treatment.
Whatever else you read here, or anywhere else, you can take this to the bank: every Judge, in every Michigan court, follows this recommendation very closely. There is NEVER a case where a Judge makes any big, wholesale deviations from his or her probation department’s recommendation. In fact, it’s far more accurate to consider the sentencing recommendation a “blueprint” for what’s going to happen to you than anything else. In other words, a good recommendation equals a good sentence, and a better recommendation will result in a better sentence.