Treatment is Important for Those Accused of Drunk Driving

by baronedefensefirm on September 2, 2009

Clients sometimes wonder why we stress treatment as much as we do at the Barone Defense Firm.  There are two reasons for this and both are described below. 

 The first reason is that  we’ve seen firsthand how much our clients lives have improved after becoming sober, and as a Firm we all get a great deal of satisfaction from helping our clients win back their lives in this way.

A second reason for this Firm policy is that treatment helps us obtain results for our clients.  The way I look at it is this; if we are asking a prosecutor or a judge to give you a break, then what we are really asking the prosecutor or judge to do is take a big personal risk.

Imagine this.  You are the prosecutor or judge and you’ve just given a “drunk driver” a break by agreeing to a non-alcohol reduction or a “light” sentence.   The drunk driver pleads guilty and sometime after again drives drunk and this time kills someone.  How would you feel then?

You would feel horrified that your decision might literally have played some part in causing this death.  You would also be full of concern that your decision to give this drunk driver a break might in some way cost you your professional reputation or even your job.

Because of this, the decision to begin treatment really becomes one of risk management.  In other words, what can we tell the judge or prosecutor handling your case is that you are someone on whom it is worth taking a risk.  But, if we tell the prosecutor or judge this, then we sure as heck better be able to back it up. 

In the case of a prosecutor, the specific risk is that you will betray the trust the prosecutor is giving you by reducing your case to a non-alcohol charge.  (This is called plea bargaining).  The specific trust or promise you make is that you won’t ever do this again.  As a judge the specific risk or trust is perhaps a decision not to impose jail time.

At the Barone Defense Firm our opinion is that the best way to mitigate these risks is by helping the prosecutor and judge know that you “get it,” meaning you understand the problems that alcohol has caused in your life and are taking positive and meaningful steps toward a lifetime of sobriety.

If you are a repeat offender then the issues discussed above are magnified and our task even more difficult.  Now our task is to show how things are really different this time.  In the case of a repeat offender we must show how you either began treatment for the first time or changed the type or amount of treatment you had previously received.

It is also important to be able to show that you are sincere.  If you’re simply “going through the motions” the prosecutor will be able to figure this out.  Being involved in treatment only because you think it will help your legal case is not something we recommend.

Here is a section from the DUI Book that discusses this topic:

5.7.  Alcohol and drug assessment (and possible treatment) prior to going to trial.  Simply being charged with drunk driving does not necessarily mean you are an alcoholic.  Research indicates, however, that the probability that you have an alcohol disorder, of which there are several types, increases according to the number of your drunk driving arrests.  Once arrested for an OWI offense, most courts assume that you may have an alcohol or drug problem.  The same may be true for your employer, or even family or friends.  Right or wrong, just being arrested says to the whole world that you may have a problem.  These programs are available almost everywhere, and most can be researched on line for information.[1]

Your attorney may suggest that you undergo an alcohol and drug assessment, and then to follow through on any recommended treatment plan.  The first reason for this suggestion is that if you do have an alcohol or drug problem, the sooner you face the problem, and obtain treatment, the sooner you will be on the road to recovery.  Second, even if you do not have a drug or alcohol problem, the sooner you seek a private, independent assessment, the more likely this prompt action will impress your trial judge, and in the event of a conviction help your OWI attorney arrange a favorable negotiated sentence.

Furthermore, the results of you actions may also be used by your attorney in his or her discussions with the prosecutor.  If this substance abuse evaluation shows that you have no drug or alcohol problems, this might give some credence to and is yet another reason why the charges against you might be lessened.  In the alternative, if the counselor suggests some educational sessions and it can be shown that you have completed them, this can be a negotiating “chit” for your attorney to use to try to get a negotiated plea in your case.

If you decide to retain the Barone Defense Firm then chances are excellent that you will be referred for a substance abuse evaluation and for possible alcohol or substance abuse treatment.  We will be making this recommendation because it will help you and will help us as well.





This post was written by...

– who has written 203 posts on Michigan DUI and License Restoration Lawyers.

Patrick T. Barone is the author on two books on DUI defense including the well respected two volume treatise Defending Drinking Drivers (James Publishing), and The DUI Book – A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding DUI Litigation in America. He is also the author of a monthly DUI defense column for the Criminal Defense Newsletter, published by Michigan’s State Appellate Defender’s Office. Mr. Barone is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School where he teaches Drunk Driving Law and Practice. He is also on the faculty of the Criminal Defense Attorney’s of Michigan’s Trial Lawyer’s College where he provides trial skills training to Michigan’s criminal defense practitioners. Mr. Barone lectures nationally on various DUI defense topics, and he has appeared in newspapers, on television and on radio as a drunk driving defense expert. Mr. Barone has been certified as an instructor and practitioner of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and has also attended a 24-hour certification course at National Patent Analytical Corporation (the manufacturer of the DataMaster) and has thereby been deemed competent by the manufacturer to operate, perform essential diagnostic verifications and calibration checks on the DataMaster. Mr. Barone is a Sustaining Member of College for DUI Defense. Mr. Barone is the principal and founding member of The Barone Defense Firm, whose practice is limited exclusively to defending drinking drivers. The Firm is headquartered in Birmingham, Michigan.

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