Michigan Drunk Driving Lawyer Explains NEEDS Assessment

Michigmichigan drunk driving field sobriety testan law provides that for every person convicted of drunk driving 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.

A conviction for operating under of influence of drugs has a similar requirement. This is because Michigan statutory law calls drunk driving “operating while intoxicated” (OWI). Drinking and driving is not against the law. To violate Michigan’s OWI law a person must be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you operate a vehicle after drinking enough alcohol to become intoxicated, or consume enough drugs to become intoxicated, then you’ve committed the offense of drunk driving. In other words, DUI and OWI are essentially the same thing.

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.

How to Prepare for Taking a NEEDS survey before Sentencing on a DUI Case

Clients often ask the Michigan DUI lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm how to prepare for or answer the questions in the NEEDS survey. There is no way to answer this question other than to say to be as complete and honest as possible.

The reason for this advice is that the test is designed to perceive when the test-taker is attempting to minimize, stretch or distort the truth. In fact, this is one of the parameters on which the test-taker is evaluated and is commonly called a defensiveness score. If you score high on this parameter, the court will assume that the test is invalid, which is conclusive evidence you need treatment.

Previously, the NEEDS survey was a pen-and-paper test, but today you will be administered this test on the computer. Everything about the NEEDS survey is now fully automated, including the scoring, conclusions, and diagnosis. The results of the NEEDS Survey will be incorporated in the court’s written Presentence Investigation and Report, a copy of which will be provided to your attorney prior to sentencing.

Some sample questions on a NEEDS survey include:

  • During the past year, how many months did you work full time?
  • Compared to what most people consider to be average, do you drink more than an average drinker?
  • Are your manners at home as good as when you eat out in a restaurant?

How is the NEEDS survey Different from a Private Substance Use Assessment?

It is this writer’s belief that no therapist uses the NEEDS assessment. If your drunk driving lawyer refers you to a therapist for a substance use assessment the therapist will not administer the NEEDS.

This does not mean you should not have a private substance use assessment. Private assessments are important for a petition to the Secretary of State for a driver’s license after a repeat drunk driving offense. A private assessement can help your lawyer with plea negotiations and to try to avoid the 93 day jail sentence for a first offense drunk driving.

Also, some courts will allow you to submit a private substance use assessment. For these reasons, the Michigan DUI Lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm frequently recommend that our clients undergo a private substance use assessment.

If you have had a private substance use assessment performed then be sure to discuss this with your lawyer prior to sentencing. If the court does allow you to use the private evaluation, then this may save you the screening fee applicable to the NEEDS survey.

None of the therapists to whom the Michigan DUI Lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm refer use the NEEDS survey. The tools mostly commonly used by private therapists are the ASI (Addiction Severity Index), the SASSI (Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory), the MAST (Michigan Alcohol Screening Test), the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) and the DAST (Drug Abuse Screening Test). The Michigan Courts only utilize the NEEDS.

A private therapist will utilize the results of their screening tools, along with their comprehensive clinical interview, in determining whether, in their opinion, you meet the diagnostic criterion consistent with a DSM-5 substance use disorder.

If the therapist does believe you meet the DSM-5 diagnostic criterion, then your substance use disorder will be further characterized as “mild, moderate or severe.” The private therapist will also recommend a course of treatment to address the underlying substance use disorder.

The results of your private substance use assessment can be utilized by you to get a jump on treatment, which may be beneficial insofar as plea negotiations and sentencing is concerned. Aside from that, a private substance use assessment may help you better understand yourself and help you get the help you may need.

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