Prepare for the Alcohol Assessment Test with a Michigan DUI Attorney

The alcohol assessment test can prove to be a most important determining factor for a Detroit DUI lawyer seeking a favorable case outcome. In several articles on my Blog, I have covered the subject of alcohol assessment testing in significant detail. Here, on my website, I’ll take more of an overview approach, because the blog articles examine the nuances of an alcohol assessment in a nearly microscopic fashion. That said, this will still be a fairly long section.

As I point out in several other places, there are really 3 major steps involved in a typical DUI case that is based upon solid evidence:

  1. The Pre-Trial, when the DUI Defense Lawyer and the Michigan Prosecutor meet and try and work out a deal to finalize the case;
  2. The Pre-Sentence Investigation (or PSI), which consists of an interview with a Probation Officer and the taking of the written alcohol assessment test, it’s subsequent scoring, and the completion by the Probation Officer of a Report, often called a Sentencing Recommendation, or Screening Report, advising the Judge what should happen to the person facing the charge; and
  3. The Sentencing, where the Judge Orders whatever is going to happen to the person.

In the real world, the first step typically involves getting some kind of Plea or Sentencing deal, which your Michigan DUI attorney can help you to negotiate.

The second step is, in reality, where what is going to actually going to happen to a person is, by and large decided.

The third step amounts to the Judge reading the Sentencing recommendation and, in most cases, Ordering whatever is recommended therein. These are the consequences that a person will have to deal with as a result of their DUI.

This means, then, that the second step is the most important part of the process, at least in terms of thinking about what actually happens to the person. The “consequences” we are talking about, meaning those things that the person will actually wind up having to do (or things they are not permitted to do, like drink any alcohol while on Probation), tend to be things like Classes and Counseling and Impact Panels and Weekend Alcohol Awareness Classes, or Community Service (not, in Macomb County, by the way) or any of many other similar possibilities. And to be clear in my experience as a Michigan attorney, no one with a 1st Offense DUI (with the sole exception being anyone who winds up before 1 particular Judge in the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills), will be going to Jail.

For what it’s worth, most 2nd DUI Offenders in Detroit can likewise be kept out of Jail, although minimizing the other consequences that they will endure requires their attorney to take a very different approach than that for a 1st Offender.

If the Pre-Sentence Investigation is the most important step of the 3 involved in a typical DUI, then the alcohol assessment test is the most important part of that step.

There are numerous alcohol assessment tests that can be administered, although some require certain credentials and training to be properly administered. As it plays out, most Courts use either some version of the M.A.S.T. Test, the AUP (Alcohol Use Profile) or the NEEDS Assessment, which can be “scored” by anyone who can do simple addition and read the instructions.

Expanding beyond my legal duties as a DUI lawyer in Michigan, I have studied the whole subject and field of alcohol (as well as substance abuse) assessment, diagnosis and treatment for over 20 years. Given that the other major part of my Practice is Driver’s License Restoration, understanding the whole panorama of drug and alcohol problems, including the courses which they run, as well as their diagnosis and treatment, is a vital part of what I do every day.

In that regard, this enables me to help the Client do as well as possible on the alcohol assessment test. Remember, this test is numerically scored. The higher the score, the more Classes and Counseling a person will be getting. The lower the score, the more they will avoid. For all the discussion to be had about that, it’s really as simple as that.

It is, therefore, critical that an attorney prepare their Client be thoroughly prepared for this ultra-important part of the Michigan DUI process.

Whatever is recommended in the PSI report is pretty much a blueprint for what the Judge is going to Order. No Judge, anywhere, deviates much, if at all, from what his or her own Probation Department recommends in any given case.

This point is crystal clear to anyone who has had a DUI before (or generally, any kind of prior Criminal Case). Whatever was recommended by the Probation Department is usually EXACTLY what the Judge Ordered. As lawyer of 20 years, I can safely say that anyone reading this who has had a prior DUI will agree that what the Michigan Judge did in that prior case, no matter how long ago, was exactly, or almost exactly, what the PSI Report recommended.

It does no good, therefore, for a DUI lawyer to show up on the date of Sentencing and captivate the Detroit courtoom with all the accomplishments and wonderful traits of the Defendant. The Judge may be impressed, but, quite literally, when all is said and done, he or she will look down at that Recommendation and Order what it has listed on it.

This, in turn, highlights how important it is for the Client to be thoroughly prepared for the PSI process in general, and the alcohol test in particular.

Earlier, I noted that there are 3 commonly administered alcohol assessment tests in DUI cases. I also noted that there are a number of others, but administering and interpreting those usually requires a high level of training and certain credentials, often an MSW (Master of Social Work) degree, or a CAC or CAAC certification. Probation Officers do not have those credentials, leaving them in a position to only administer those tests which require nothing more than adding up a person’s test score, and determining in what point-value range they fall. The particular compliment of Classes and Counseling that is assigned in any given case is closely tied to the specific point value range within which a person scores.

There are 5 components to any alcohol test. Master these, and you can master any alcohol assessment test out there:

  1. Family History
  2. Social Comment
  3. Blackouts
  4. Social Conflict
  5. Effects Threshold

The problem is that you can’t “master” these things quickly, or without some highly qualified help. In my Office, the first appointment I have with a new DUI Client will generally last at least 2 hours, if not more. At this appointment, I introduce the Clients to the alcohol testing process, and how to safely navigate through whichever test they are given.

I’ll follow up with the Client again, before they ever take the test, to review the PSI process and the alcohol assessment. While we’ll spend a couple of hours making sure they score as low as possible on the alcohol assessment test, we’ll also spend some time going over the whole PSI process, and how one deals with a Probation Officer.

Remember, Probation Officers spend all day dealing with people who, whatever else they have going on in their lives, have pled guilty to or were found guilty of a Criminal Offense. Their day-to-day experience is unique, and understanding how they see things is really the most important part of knowing how to present one’s self to them. This is also an important part of the preparation process.

The whole goal here, of course, is to produce the most favorable, lenient Sentencing Recommendation possible. If the Judge is rather predictably going to Order whatever is recommended, then making sure that whatever is recommended is as favorable as possible is obviously Job Number One.

To do that, however, takes time and work. This is not something that can be skipped over, or made easier by throwing money at. Instead, the best practices for a Michigan DUI lawyer is to work together with their client to ensure that when they walk in the door of that Probation Officer’s Office on the day of their interview, they are as well-prepared as possible. The client should know what kinds of things to avoid, and what kinds of things to highlight.

And of course, the Client will have been prepared to “ace” the alcohol assessment test, and score as low as possible.