Understanding the New York DWI Alcohol-Drug Evaluation Process

It is likely that you will have to take a drug/alcohol screen/evaluation for your arrest for a New York DWI for the following three reasons:

1. Under NYS law, an alcohol/drug screening and evaluation is mandatory if your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at the time of your arrest (as measured by the breath test) was a BAC 0.15 or higher.

2. It is often helpful to have a drug/alcohol evaluation provided to your attorney prior to negotiating a plea on your charges. The results of an evaluation can demonstrate one of two things: (a) that your conduct on the night of the arrest was a one time event, and not a pattern of alcohol abuse behavior or (b) it can show that you are now choosing to proactively address a problem with your use of drugs and/or alcohol.

3. The alcohol screening/evaluation is part of the DMV’s DDP (Drinking Driver Program) and must be done to obtain a conditional driving privilege. This is true whether your final plea is to a DWAI, DWI, or ADWI. The program’s completion is predicated upon a follow through with any treatment recommendations made by the OASAS (Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services) certified provider. They have an excellent website to locate providers in your area, just put OASAS into Google.

There are THREE things you must do before having your alcohol screening/evaluation:

ONE: To allay your fears and give you a good idea of the types of screening questions asked you should read through the MAST (Michigan Alcohol Screening Test), it is available online. Within the DDP program the alcohol screening is a questionnaire/form to determine if you need further evaluation/assessment by a provider.

TWO: You must be prepared to be honest and truthful with the evaluator. It is important for your long term health and wellness that if alcohol and/or drugs are the reason for your current criminal charges the underlying causes can be addressed.

NOTE: Even though DWI recidivism rates are very low (approximately 3-4%), the dangers to yourself and others from a second instance of driving while under the effect of any drug or substance can be substantial. In NYS, second time DWI arrests within a ten year time frame are Class E Felonies and the prosecution seeks jail sentences which can range from 1 to 3 years.

THREE: You must be prepared to follow through on all recommended treatment. You are entitled to a second evaluation/opinion. This second alcohol evaluation and the final result is binding. The Court is going to want proof of completion of any treatment programs recommended and assessed. If you receive a CD (conditional discharge) from the Court this will be one of terms of that discharge. If you fail to meet the Court’s conditions your case can be re-opened and your failure will be considered a violation of the Court’s Order.

If your alcohol evaluation indicates a clean “no treatment recommended” final conclusion that will often be helpful for your attorney to show the prosecutor (Assistant District Attorney) why a term of probation as a condition of your final sentence is not necessary. This report of No Treatment by an evaluator can also assist your attorney in getting a ADWI (Aggravated DWI) charge where your BAC was .18 or higher possibly reduced to a “regular” BAC over .08 DWI.

I hope that this article sheds some much needed light on the DWI alcohol evaluation process.

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