Need to know: DWI

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You need to know this if:   you have been charged with driving while intoxicated or driving while ability impaired.  This page is provided as a general guide, and is no substitute for advice of a qualified attorney.  You can always call our office at 716.941.4336 to discuss your case with our Attorney.

What you need to know:  Even if it were not required, most courts want to know that an individual charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI, pursuant to Vehicle and Traffic Law §1192(2), §1192(3) or §1192(4)), is not struggling with drug or alcohol addiction or abuse.  For that reason, most judges will want to see an evaluation conducted by a professional counselor that tells them whether the defendant (the person charged with a crime), should seek treatment of some kind.  It is believed that if addiction or alcoholism is not addressed, a person may be more likely to drive drunk or intoxicated again.   For that reason, we advise all of our clients to begin the process of obtaining a drug and alcohol evaluation immediately following their arrest.  Most quality treatment providers have a waiting list or a delay before they can see a new client, so contacting an evaluator immediately will expedite the process.

We like to present the Court with an evaluation early in the process because we want to establish with the Court that our client is taking the matter seriously and that we have nothing to hide.  If treatment is appropriate, we ask our clients to begin treatment as soon as possible, so that we can show the Court that they have identified a problem and are making a legitimate effort to rehabilitate.  This effort will help persuade the Court that our clients deserve a more lenient sentence because they have voluntarily submitted to evaluation and treatment without order of the Court.

For that reason, we instruct clients to go to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services’ Impaired Driver Program website to locate an evaluator that is convenient for them.  Some providers will take as many as three or four sessions to evaluate a client. Following these sessions, a report will be issued, usually in writing. We instruct our clients to authorize the release of that report to our office so that we can include it in our file and when necessary, provide a copy to the Court.  We take client privacy very seriously, so we will avoid disclosing these reports to the Court unless absolutely necessary.  We cannot and will not mislead the Court on the contents of the report, but we know from experience that Court files are public record, and despite the fact that the law says these reports are confidential, many Courts neglect to protect such reports from the public eye.

We do not recommend or refer clients to particular providers because we believe it is far more credible to use a variety of providers.  If we were to rely on the same providers again and again, it would appear to the Court that we are being selective, or choosing evaluators because we think they will provide favorable reports.  For that reason, it is in our client’s best interest to consult an evaluator of their choice.

We do, however, often advise clients to avoid larger agencies that provide evaluation and treatment services, because experience has taught that organizations that are in the business of treatment may be more likely to prescribe the product they sell– treatment.  Not all agencies are biased in this way, but a few are clearly more likely to prescribe treatment than others.

This evaluation will become important after your case is over as well. If you are ultimately convicted of a DWI related offense, your license will likely be suspended.  If driving is an important part of your life, then you’ll want to obtain a conditional license if possible. A conditional license following a conviction can be issued to individuals that engage in the Drinking Drive Program.

For a more comprehensive guide for clients charged with DWI, go here.