Michigan OWI 2nd Offense and the Issue of a Drinking Problem in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties – Part 3

In part 1 and part 2 of this article, we examined how a person facing a 2nd Offense DUI can almost always be placed into 1 of 3 categories: Those who “get it,” and begin a life of Recovery, those who are starting to “get it” and begin the difficult process of self-examination, and those who just don’t “get it,” and are in Denial.

In other blog articles, and on my website, I have noted that, whatever happens to anyone, in any DUI case, it is almost always EXACTLY what is recommended by the Court’s Probation Department as a result of the Legally required Alcohol Evaluation.

Drunk Again.jpgIf you’re facing a 2nd Offense, then you’ll surely remember this. By Law, before a Judge can Sentence someone for a DUI, they must undergo that Mandatory Alcohol Evaluation. This is a written test which is given a numerical grade, or score. The higher the score, the more likely it is that a person has, or will develop an alcohol problem. The lower the score, the lower that likelihood.

The Probation Department, which administers this test and then writes the Sentencing Recommendation to the Judge, bases that Recommendation upon the person’s test score, more than any other factor.

Whatever kind of Counseling, Rehab or Treatment is given is usually exactly what was Recommended by the Probation Department.

Interestingly, it has always been important for a person to score as low as possible on this test, no matter what the other circumstances of their case. In other words, even though the Law presumes an alcohol problem in a 2nd or 3rd Offense case, there is simply no benefit to going in and racking up a bunch of points that make that problem look all the worse.

Thus, both the Client and I have to walk on both sides of the fence: Treating the case as the moment of epiphany and the prime catalyst for addressing their alcohol problem, or at least beginning to recognize that problem, and making sure that problem is NOT seen as any more severe, or deep seated, than it can otherwise be made to look.

Fast-forwarding a bit, when the person is finally standing in front of the Judge to be Sentenced, who do you think is in line to get the best break? Remember, we’re talking about 3 kinds of people:

1. Those in Denial, or who just don’t see a problem (yet),
2. Those who know something is wrong, but think they can learn to control or fix it, and 3. Those who finally have the light switch flipped and really get it.

Obviously, those in the 3rd group will have the best time of things. Beyond just “getting it,” they’ll be in the midst of learning things about themselves, and sobriety, and in all likelihood be experiencing what those in early Recovery call the “Pink Cloud” or the “Honeymoon” phase. To put it another way, when someone really gets it, they always ring true. You can’t fake that stuff.

Those in that 2nd group, who are beginning to wrestle with the notion that something is amiss with their drinking are really the prime candidates for the programs at the Court’s disposal. Later this year, there will be a change in the DUI Laws as it relates to Licenses for 2nd Offenders, essentially allowing a Restricted License for those involved in an approved “Sobriety Court.” Stay tuned for details about that, but the point here is that people in this group are exactly those all the Classes and Programs are designed to reach.

While the Law pretty much concludes that anyone with a 2nd DUI has a drinking problem, it does fall a bit short in helping the person charged with reaching the same conclusion. The Law basically moves from the presumption of a drinking problem to treatment for it. Helping the person charged get better necessarily involves convincing them that they do, in fact have a problem. In other words, they have to believe there’s a problem before they can do anything about it. It’s said best by the old adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

Quite often, those who do eventually “get it” will point back to an earlier Court-ordered Counseling or Treatment plan and explain that even though they went to and through whatever was ordered, their heart was not in it, and they were still in Denial.

The flip side to this coin is often mentioned by those in AA who point out that, even if a person comes to meetings without any real desire to get sober, the seeds of Recovery have been planted and the words heard at those meetings will forever screw up a person’s drinking. Thus, a person may drink again, but somewhere deep in the back of their mind, they know those other people sitting around the tables at AA are NOT drinking, and have been freed from the grips of a drinking problem. Eventually, they learn to actually listen to the message of the words they’ve heard. It may be trite, but the phrase I’ve learned in my study is that the word SILENT is another version of the word LISTEN.

In the end, most of those who are struggling with the notion of having a drinking problem (or not…) will either move to the 3rd group, those who get it, or just stay stuck where they are.

In that regard, nothing changes if nothing changes.

Those who refuse to see any problem are likely to face a long, difficult road. Beyond not faring well in Court, they will inevitably face additional problems, both legal and personal, as they continue to drink.

In part 4 of this article, we’ll wrap up our examination of 2nd Offense DUI cases and how a person’s recognition, or failure to recognize an underlying alcohol problem affect the outcome of their case.

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