If you were arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI), a wide variety of penalties could be in store for you. Increasingly, the justice system is attempting to ward off repeat DUI arrests by using an alcohol assessment that could greatly affect your sentence. Rather than a substitute for punishment, the alcohol assessment should be regarded as a way to educate yourself about alcohol issues while making a good impression on the state and the judge. Read on to find out more.
Evaluating the Offender
While recognizing that not everyone that gets charged with DUI is an alcoholic, an alcohol use assessment separates offenders into groups. There is a difference, for instance, between a first-time offender who drank and drove, a young offender already charged with several alcohol offenses, and a repeat offender. Use assessments primarily take the first two categories of offenders and set them on a course of education and counseling to prevent more offenses.
Understanding Alcohol Assessments
It should be understood that an alcohol use assessment is part of the court system but may not be part of the sentencing. Programs vary from place to place. In some situations, those who complete the assessment and perform other actions may be eligible for reduced or dropped charges, for example. Take a look at what usually happens with a use assessment:
- A court official reviews your criminal history, the details of the arrest, and more. They then refer you to an alcohol use assessment if warranted.
- Conducted by a mental health practitioner, interviews are conducted with the defendant about the use of alcohol. In some cases, evaluations using questionnaires are performed.
- Once the assessment is complete, a course of action is recommended. That might include education, alcohol counseling, attendance at 12-step meetings, and even inpatient rehabilitation.
If your area doesn't participate in such a program, you can still benefit from taking similar actions yourself. Being proactive and seeking help will only help your case. Speak to your criminal defense attorney about some steps you can take to send a message to the judge and prosecutor's office that you are aware of a problem and are taking steps to mitigate it.
You may find that taking the initiative will make things easier when it comes to sentencing. Most judges are interested in preventing those who have alcohol problems from re-offending in the future and this interest can be greater than the need to punish. Everything you do after a DUI arrest matters so your first move should be to talk to a DUI lawyer.