If you’ve been busted for illegal possession or consumption of a substance, you may have to undergo court-ordered drug and alcohol treatment. Learn what the implications are, along with your options as the defendant.
New York, like most other states, usually requires DWI defendants to undergo alcohol treatment. The Vehicle and Traffic Code sets out the general procedure. The specific procedure varies in different counties and even in different courts.
Generally, if the defendant blew less than a .15, the law requires an alcohol “screening.” Usually, a screening is a written test with questions about the frequency of alcohol use and other habits. If the defendant refused a chemical test or blew higher than a .15, there is a mandatory “assessment.” A certified counselor must perform this assessment. This professional usually recommends inpatient or outpatient treatment.
Some alternatives might be available. Instead of an alcohol evaluation, a defendant might be able to take the seven-week Impaired Driver Program. However, specific qualifications apply. For example, the defendant must normally be a New York resident. Furthermore, the judge may waive the treatment program if the defendant shows “good cause.” We’ve never seen a defendant win this argument.
In most cases, the assessment or Impaired Driver Program must be completed before sentencing. Many a favorable plea bargain has unraveled because the defendant had issues satisfying this requirement. A Rochester DWI lawyer can ensure that defendants get the help they need in this critical phase. Furthermore, an attorney ensures that the bar is not set too high.
Twelve-Step Program after DWI
Courts often allow defendants to join twelve-step programs if the DWI was a first-time and one-off affair. For example, Tim, who has no prior DWIs, might get a little carried away at a bachelor party. Alcoholics Anonymous, which began in Ohio in 1935, now has over two million members. AA usually does not help people who are chemically dependent on alcohol. But it often does help people who have trouble controlling their impulses and who need a solid support network.
AA is usually a lifetime process. Most people start by attending meetings several times a week. Then, as they progress through the steps, they attend meetings less and less.
These groups usually meet in churches or community centers. Most likely, there are several chapters near a defendant’s home or office. Furthermore, there are no mandatory dues, and the process is entirely confidential. Twelve-step programs do not turn everyone’s life around, but they certainly cannot hurt.
Usually, Monroe County judges want a defendant to reach a milestone, such as a period of sobriety or several meetings before they approve the plea bargain. An attorney needs to make sure the defendant engages with a nearby group and reaches that milestone as quickly as possible.
Outpatient Treatment and Rochester DWI Lawyers
Most DWI defendants must obtain outpatient treatment. These programs vary significantly. Some are just short of inpatient programs, while others are twelve-step programs on the other end of the scale.
Convenience and cost are sometimes concerns in this area. There are many outpatient alcohol treatment programs in Monroe County, but they aren’t as numerous as twelve-step programs. As for cost, these programs usually are not cheap. Health insurance might or might not cover the expense.
Before sending a defendant to a program, many Rochester DWI lawyers scrutinize the intake portion. Some programs require participants to admit they are alcoholics. If the defendant denies this, the counselor maintains that the defendant is in denial and cannot be helped.
As for the specific program requirements, most defendants understandably want the bare minimum. However, a Rochester DWI attorney must ensure that the bare minimum is sufficient for the judge.
Defendants with two prior DWIs or a BAC level above .24 must usually complete inpatient treatment. These programs typically use highly invasive measures, like drugs and other therapy. Additionally, after they leave the center, most participants must spend some time at a halfway house or similar facility.
Counselors usually only recommend inpatient treatment in extreme cases. In addition to a person who clearly has a severe alcohol problem, inpatient treatment might also be appropriate for extremely belligerent defendants.
Talk to a Diligent Attorney About Court-Ordered Drug and Alcohol Treatment
The alcohol evaluation can make or break your DWI plea bargain agreement. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester DWI lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. After-hours visits are available.