Articles Posted in Alcohol Treatment

Michigan statutory law provides that for every Michigan DUI case the offender must be subjected to substance use evaluation prior to sentencing. More specifically, Michigan Compiled Laws sec. 257.625b indicates that such individuals must undergo a screening and assessment to determine if the person would benefit from “rehabilitative services,” which may include such things as alcohol or drug education or treatment programs.

What is a NEEDS Survey?

Your substance abuse assessment and screening prior to your Michigan DUI sentencing hearing will be conducted by the court’s probation department. To accomplish this the probation officer will administer a 130-question mostly multiple-choice test called a NEEDS survey. The purpose of the NEEDS survey is to assist the probation officer, and therefore the judge who will be sentencing you, in determining if they believe you could benefit from substance use treatment. If so, then you will be ordered into such treatment at sentencing. This will also become a “rehabilitative aim” allowing the court to rebut the statutory assumption against jail or probation on a DUI offense. You will be charged a screening fee for this test. You can pay this in advance, and if you do not, you will be ordered to pay the screening fee when you are sentenced for your DUI.

Many Michigan DUI and other criminal cases are resolved through a process called plea bargaining. A plea bargain is what happens after your attorney discusses your case with the prosecutor and explains why it is appropriate to amend or reduce the charges you are facing with the court. You will be advised of any plea(s) offered by the prosecutor even if your lawyer doesn’t think you will accept the offer or if it’s in your best interest.  This is because the rules of professional ethics applicable to criminal defense attorneys require all offers of settlement to be disclosed to you. Plea agreements are usually reached only after discovery is complete and all viable defenses to your DUI case have been thoroughly explored.

Making the Decision to Plead Guilty

In most instances, if you are pleading guilty it is because the prosecutor has offered to modify or “amend” the original charges in your case, usually by reducing them to something less serious, and you have indicated that you are willing to plead guilty to these amended or reduced charges in exchange for the prosecutor’s promise that the original more serious charges will be dismissed.  This promise is reduced to a written motion sometimes called a plea agreement which will be signed by the prosecutor, your attorney, and the judge. Collectively, this process is called plea bargaining.

The Michigan DUI Lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm had be advising our clients that if they were convicted of operating while intoxicated they should expect to be placed on a term of probation. However, in March 2021 the Michigan legislature passed new and amended laws that focused on Criminal Justice Reform, and specifically provided that non-serious misdemeanors should not be ordered to jail, nor ordered to probation.  Michigan Compiled Laws Sec. 769.5(3) further clarifies that the appropriate sentence for these non-serious misdemeanors would be a fine, community service, or other non-jail and non-probation sentence. On this basis one might assume, therefore,that a qualifying Michigan drunk driving charge would not receive probation.

This despite the fact that the statutory penalties for a first offense Michigan DUI could include a maximum fine of $700, 360 hours of community service, and other non-probation or non-jail alternatives that may include counseling or rehabilitative services, and other educational programs like a Victim Impact Panel.  The maximum period of probation would be 24 months of probation, and the maximum jail term would be 180 days if a High BAC, or 93 days in an OWI or Impaired Driving.

This criminal justice reform measure appears to address these statutory penalties to allow offenders to avoid the probation and jail aspects of the case.

A question the criminal defense lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm are often asked by their client’s is whether it would be beneficial to begin in therapy. Although the question is typically offered in the context of “will it help my case” or “will it make me look better in front of the judge or prosecutor” this is only one aspect that underlies this question.

We have found that many persons involved in allegedly criminal behavior are doing so as an outgrowth or sublimation of an ongoing and improperly treated mental health issue. In the case of an allegation of intoxicated or drunk driving the individual may be suffering from an unmitigated substance use disorder. In such a case, the substance use disorder may be a further sublimation of a mood or personality disorder. On the other hand, a person accused of receiving, distributing, or producing child pornography may have themselves been abused as children or suffer from an addiction to pornography. These are just two examples of how the alleged criminal behavior is really a manifestation or symptom of something else.

Understanding the complexity of the issue, the criminal defense lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm often interview our clients with an ear toward thinking of what additional services might benefit them. If we believe that therapy will help them improve their lives, we will often make referrals to various mental health individuals or group centers. In doing so we are seeking primarily to help fulfill the Firm’s mission, which is to help our client’s win back their lives.

After a Michigan drunk driving arrest, the first thing on many people’s minds is: will I lose my job?  A recent story in the Detroit Free Press details how for many, the unfortunate answer is yes.

As the article explains, a public safety director for a city in Michigan was placed on leave because of an Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) charge. Even though the case hasn’t concluded, the officer is already facing consequences for the OWI charge. The final “verdict” on this officer’s job status could depend not just on the result of the case but also how the officer handles himself before the case is finalized.

The Michigan DUI lawyers are the Barone Defense Firm always discuss this issue with clients immediately after they have retained the Firm. It is important to address this issue at the beginning rather than at the end of a case because getting ahead of the issue can help our client’s save their jobs. There are several things to consider including:

Possession or Use of Firearm Under the Influence in Michigan

All firearms are inherently dangerous, so naturally, it is against the law in Michigan to possess or use one under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Because of the danger posed by individuals who violate this law, penalties are quite significant and are set forth in the statute found at Michigan Compiled Laws sec. 750.237.

This statute defines “under the influence” the following three ways;

  1. You are “under the influence” of alcohol, drugs or a combination of alcohol or drugs, and/or
  2. You have a bodily alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or more, or are;
  3. You are impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol.

This crime is categorized as a misdemeanor punishable by possible imprisonment for up to 93 days.  Additionally, if you are found guilty of this crime, you may also be required to pay a fine of not more than $100.00 for carrying or possessing a firearm, or both, and not more than $500.00 for using or discharging a firearm, or both.

I suppose the answer to this question depends in part on what one thinks is the central role of the DUI defense lawyer?  I think the vast majority of those asked, lawyers and clients alike, would answer the question this way: the purpose of the DUI defense lawyer is to help the client with their legal problem.  Maybe it’s the DUI lawyer’s job to try to get their client’s off.  At a minimum it is the DUI lawyer’s job to get their client a better result than they would have achieved without a lawyer.

This all seems very logical and right, but is this the only answer to the question?  And, is a pending criminal case the only problem a person facing a DUI has? In other words, does the DUI defense lawyer have any role in addressing any underlying addiction issues that may be present?  Perhaps most importantly the question is whether or not there is a relationship between the legal issue and the addiction issues?

Clearly there is a relationship between the two.  Simply stated, addressing any underlying addiction certainly will help improve the client’s legal issues.  The reason this is true has already been discussed on these pages.  See for example:

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings take place almost any time of the day or night all over the state.  Because of this you should have no problem finding a meeting to attend at a place and time that is convenient for you.

If you are new to AA then don’t assume that all meetings are like the first one you attend.  If you go to a particular location at a particular time, and feel like you don’t fit in with the other attendees, try a different time or location.

There are also many trade or profession specific AA groups.  For example, there are AA meetings for Judges and Lawyers, Dentists, Health Care Professionals and so forth.  You may benefit more from AA attendance with a group of your peers.

An interesting article was posted recently on legalnews.com entitled:  Expert Witness: Little Changes at DAAD Mean a Lot.  The article addresses the new DAAD form to be used for driver license restoration, among other things.  In his article the author, Michael G. Brock, correctly indicates as follows:

In December the DAAD made some subtle changes to their evaluation form that may not seem like a big deal, but might be the difference between a person getting his or her license reinstated and have to wait another year and try again.  The Substance Abuse Evaluation form is now the Substance Use Disorders Evaluation.  Other than the title, the only real change in the form is the order of information requested, and that the relapse history has been replaced by a section titled “Periods of Abstinence” and “Abated by What?”  Meaning the cause of the relapse; i.e., quit going to AA meetings and began hanging around drinking/using friends.

In practice, the biggest changes seem to be that the hearing officers are digging into the appellant’s background more than in the past, and they are interested in any substance the person has ever taken, including those taken for only a brief time recreationally and a long time ago.

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