Does Voluntary Pretrial Counseling Help Or Hurt A DWI Case?
I do recommend an early evaluation be done where appropriate. First and foremost, a person charged with DWI may need immediate assistance coping with whatever brought them to that point of driving while allegedly intoxicated, compounded by the natural stressors of the impending criminal court process. I can recommend OASAS certified evaluators who are professional and call it as they see it, but not biased with a need to generate long-term clients (unless befitting, of course). So, get the help you need early and good things will happen.
Second, the court will require an alcohol evaluation in most alcohol-related cases. That means anyone charged with an alcohol-related driving offense is going to have to get an evaluation done to determine whether an addiction might be present. The person or facility who does the evaluation must have a specific OASAS certification from New York State to undertake them and they have certain criteria and procedures that must be followed. One way or the other, that evaluation is going to be arranged by the accused’s lawyer or ordered by the court at arraignment. It is safe to say that an experienced attorney will want to get ahead of the curve and have that evaluation done by a private evaluator if possible before stepping into court.
That evaluator will write a report to the court indicating that the person has been evaluated pursuant to the testing parameters required by the OASAS agency and that the client has been found to either have or not have an alcohol or chemical dependency problem. The licensed agency may require some further educational treatment or educational group meetings for the individual. For some people they require actual affirmative regular treatment and that can often be done on an outpatient basis. In some rarer instances it is recommended that it be conducted on an inpatient basis. Most of the time, however, it is on a local outpatient basis and the person would be going one or two times a week to group classes at night or on weekends.
This plan continues until the licensed agency determines that the person has been successfully treated, and it will culminate with a discharge summary report that they need to file with the court during the case or sometimes after the case is over with as part of a Condition Discharge. As an attorney, I like people to seek treatment first if they have a problem. We will show their success in treatment as part of a mitigation package to be presented to the judge at a later date in order to show how responsible the person has been if they did what was requested of them. They demonstrate they have accepted responsibility, committed to treatment, they have had negative toxicology reports (clean urine tests), excelled in the classes, and they’ve done all of this on a voluntary basis. It shows great responsibility without the need for additional supervision.
If you were sentenced to probation, you would have a probation officer essentially mandating all the same things, maybe more. A failure to comply successfully could result in a violation of probation and a violation of probation is often punishable by incarceration. That is why it’s best for the motorist to try to accomplish all these things themselves and avoid probation in the first instance.
In addition to classes, if the motorist wants to go to AA, the person who helps run the meetings can sign off on a sheet of paper (first name only is okay) that this person appeared and was engaged – which is another positive step someone can take that’s not compulsory. It’s just extra evidence of a person’s growth and responsibility for what occurred. It helps to demonstrate that the motorist will never make this sort of mistake again, it is an isolated incident, and will not be repeated. That’s important because one of the court’s biggest fears is that if they let someone off with fines and some treatment they will go out and get arrested again. That concern of the court must be squarely and satisfactorily addressed throughout the case.
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