If you are charged with a DUI in Washington, at some point you will need to obtain an alcohol and drug assessment with a state-certified alcohol and drug treatment agency. (RCW 46.61.5056 is the state law that explains this in full detail.)
At the end of your case, whether it's a plea to DUI or to a reduced charge like Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving, the court will order you to get an alcohol or drug assessment and follow whatever is recommended. If this is a first DUI-related offense, the agency will likely recommend an 8 hour alcohol education (or “ADIS”) class, and a DUI Victim's Impact Panel. However, if there are aggravating factors such as a high alcohol breath test result or accident, if you have a prior offense, or you've done treatment before, the agency may recommend treatment ranging from a 12 week to a one year (or longer).
Why do it sooner than later?
I typically advise my Washington DUI clients to get an alcohol and drug assessment, and attend a DUI Victim's Panel, as soon as possible. Many clients struggle with remorse and anxiety following a DUI arrest and feel the need to “do something.” Attending a Victim's Panel can help with this. Also, being proactive – even before the case is charged – often helps at arraignment (first appearance) because it shows the judge that you are taking the case seriously and are less likely to not appear at the next hearing, reducing the chance that the judge will set bail in your case. This show of “good faith” is also key in my efforts to negotiate the best possible outcome with the prosecutor. They appreciate it when I tell them my client has completed these tasks, and in some cases won't even discuss a reduction unless the client has completed an evaluation. Finally, at sentencing, the court will find favor with someone who stepped up and acted responsibility early on, rather than scrambling at the last minute to schedule an assessment the day before sentencing – or not at all.
Don't know where to turn?
If you were arrested for DUI and want to take initiative in getting an assessment completed, don't just pick an agency off the internet or off the list often provided by the court. Your attorney, including a public defender, should refer you to an agency they are familiar with, with whom they've built a trust. When they do, feel free to ask why you're being referred you to that particular agency.
For the past few years I have worked with a selected group of treatment agencies with whom I've built trust - who I know I can send my clients to with confidence. This group includes North Star Treatment Group (Tukwila), A Change Counseling (Renton), NW Resources One (Des Moines), and Doorway to Recovery (Lakewood). In deciding which agency to refer a client to, I consider several factors including cost, where they live or work, and the particular facts of the case, before speaking with the client. For those who speak Spanish or Korean (of which I have many) I will often refer to treatment agency with built-in language capabilities to help them. There are also several agencies that I won't list here, but that I avoid like the plague.
Get your alcohol or drug assessment done. You'll be glad you did.
If you're charged with DUI, making efforts to obtain an alcohol and drug assessment early on is not an admission of guilt; it is seen as a “good faith” move on your part that can only help reaching the best possible outcome in your case. Your attorney should help steer you through the process to obtain the best result. If your attorney isn't doing so, ask her why. (Next week I will talk a bit more about how to go through the assessment process itself.)