Articles Tagged with “substance abuse”

You are nearing the end of your suspension or revocation of driving privileges from the Michigan Secretary of State. The past year or the past five years have been very difficult. You have worn out your welcome from friends and family who have shuttled you to and from work and errands for the past few years. Your ability to maintain employment has been precarious, at best. After all, you don’t live in Boston, Chicago or Toronto, cities known for providing excellent public transportation. You live in Metro Detroit, the car capital of the United States. Now what?

In Michigan, the process of getting your license back is simple, but the path must be followed carefully. We liken the process to climbing a mountain you have never seen before. You know your goal is to reach the summit, but you need a Sherpa, a guide, to lead the way to avoid any pitfalls along the way. You can chance the climb on your own, and you may be successful. However, if you are not successful, the results can cause setbacks.

Many clients seeking reinstatement, or at least partial reinstatement of driving privileges have previously tried to climb that mountain on their own, and they were unsuccessful. It is not that the process is complicated; it is just that they sometimes skip a few steps in the process. They begin the ascent without all of the necessary tools. They believe that if they appear sincere, the hearing officer will restore privileges. Let’s focus for a second on that sentence. In Michigan, driving is not a right…. it is a privilege. You may hear this once or twice from other people you speak with. The hearing officer may even say this during your hearing. This is the mindset in the State of Michigan.

First and foremost, the DUI lawyers at SMDA keep contact with a variety of different substance abuse counselors and related professionals. The first thing we do before requesting a hearing, is instruct our clients to have a substance abuse assessment performed. This process typically involves meeting with a licensed counselor experienced in assessing and treating individuals with alcohol and other substance abuse issues. Depending on whether you possess insurance or not, the typical cost for an assessment is $250-500. Despite the number of pages contained within the final assessment itself, we will focus on the prognosis for continued sobriety. We like to see phrases like words like, “the prognosis for maintaining sobriety is good,” or, “the prognosis for continued sobriety is encouraging.” When we see that the prognosis is “guarded” or “poor,” we will typically recommend that our clients wait for a period of time, continue in AA attendance and counseling and have another assessment performed by a different treater a period of time later.

At the same time, we feel it is critical for our clients to attend AA. Each case and each client is unique. A client appearing before a hearing officer may be asked any of the 12-Steps or the Serenity Prayer. This is why it is important to not simply memorize the steps, but to demonstrate that the client is living these steps. Often times, a hearing officer will want to know if the client was attending AA meetings at the same location on a consistent basis and if the client has a sponsor. As an aside, if a client has a sponsor, we like to have the sponsor attend the hearing with the client for support and to provide testimony at the hearing to the hearing officer.
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Unfortunately for their clients, many DUI attorneys take the limited view that their job is to simply practice law and advise their clients relative to laws in Michigan regarding drinking and driving offenses. The problem with this view is that it fails to address the underlying addiction which may have played a role in leading to a DUI arrest in the first place.

While it is true that not all DUI lawyers are psychologists or substance abuse specialists, this does not mean that these attorneys cannot make valuable recommendations and suggestions regarding treatment. Whether a client is facing a first time DUI arrest or a second or third arrest, developing relationships with addiction specialists can prove to be an invaluable resource.

During an initial client interview, an experienced DUI practitioner should be able to get a sense as to whether a client arrested for a DUI was simply exercising poor judgment, or whether it is a sign of a serious alcohol addiction. To resolve doubt either way, it may be wise to refer a client for a substance abuse assessment. While these assessments are usually associated with the license restoration process, they can also serve a very important purpose with a DUI arrest. A substance abuse assessment by a licensed substance abuse counselor can indicate whether a client is in need of substance abuse treatment, AA attendance, counseling, or some combination involving more than one form of treatment. It can also indicate whether the DUI arrest might be symptomatic of other issues, including the need for mental health treatment. Quite simply, an assessment can provide a measure of a client’s tendency for alcohol dependency or alcohol abuse.

A client who takes the results from the assessment seriously and follows its recommendations can begin the process of receiving treatment and gaining insight toward their problems. Being proactive is key toward gaining this necessary insight. As an aside, it stands to reason that a DUI client facing a judge for sentencing will go a long way toward establishing the road to recovery by demonstrating this proactivity. Judges take notice of those DUI defendants appearing before them who don’t need to be told by the court that they need treatment or counseling. When DUI defendants do things on their own initiative, it demonstrates that the arrest and charge are being taken seriously and steps are being taken to lessen the likelihood of additional court involvement and new criminal charges down the road.
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