Alcohol Evaluation & Drunk Driving in Chicago
What is an Alcohol Evaluation?
You have been arrested and charged with a DUI offense in Chicago. Especially if it is your first arrest of this kind, your attorney may have told you to go out and get an "alcohol evaluation," to be used in your case. What your attorney means is that you need to obtain an alcohol and drug assessment uniform evaluation report. Your attorney can present the findings and recommendations of this report in court to assist during either plea negotiations with the prosecutor, or at sentencing by the Court after a finding of guilty, whether by a plea of guilty, or after a trial on the merits.
Depending upon the jurisdiction in Illinois in which your case is being held, there are many distinct and separate Judicial Circuits, some subdivided further by County, and the rules for each regarding where you can obtain the evaluation are different. For example, in all of Cook County, (which is divided into six separate Municipal Districts located at the Daley Center (1st District), Skokie (2nd District), Rolling Meadows (3rdDistrict), Maywood (4th District), Bridgeview (5th District) and Markham (6th District), the only agency authorized to perform the evaluation presently is Central States Institute. They have facilities at each court location above. In some counties, evaluations are performed through the probation services department, in others, a pre-approved list of providers, and in some, any provider properly licensed by the Department of Human Services/Department of Alcohol and Substance Abuse (DASA) will do. It is important to know the rules of the jurisdiction before proceeding, as evaluations cost money, and one does not want to have to pay for something that is of no use in court.
The Evaluation Process
The evaluation process itself is rather complex: through the use of a battery of questions, both written and oral, the evaluator uses your responses to gauge the nature and extent of your alcohol/drug use, to identify any issues, and to recommend the appropriate treatment regimen. There are objective elements as well as subjective elements.
Objectively, your statements regarding past and present usage, your admission to symptoms of abuse or dependency, your family history, and your personal background (including prior alcohol/drug related offenses and other criminal history) enable the evaluator to make findings based upon uniformly agreed upon standards in the industry.
Subjectively, your appearance, your truthfulness as perceived by the evaluator, as well as the evaluator's own personal biases also come into play. Some jurisdictions further require you to submit urine for testing for the presence of illicit substances (cannabis, cocaine, opiates, intoxicating compounds, etc.) or alcohol. So, if you know you are going to have to be evaluated, you might think about total abstinence from any substances well in advance (cannabis can take many weeks to clear completely from a chronic user's system).
The results of the evaluation are documented in a confidential report that is delivered to the court in a sealed envelope (you get a copy for yourself as well, and some are nice enough to provide an additional copy for your lawyer). This report may be used by your lawyer in pretrial negotiations with the prosecutor, to try and obtain dismissal or reduction of the DUI charges, or to obtain the best possible sentence offer available on the charges. But it is primarily used in the court room at the time of sentencing on a DUI charge where there was a plea or finding of guilty. Before disclosing the results of the report in a pretrial negotiation, your lawyer should have discussed your options thoroughly with you, and obtained your express consent to do so on your behalf to further negotiations.
DUI Evaluation Categories and Rankings
There are three (3) basic categories, or levels, of alcohol/drug offenders:
Non-problematic, social drinker, no symptoms of abuse or chemical dependency, no prior alcohol/drug related arrests, and a blood alcohol concentration below 0.15;
This is subdivided into two (2) categories:
2M (for "moderate"): No prior alcohol related arrests, no symptoms of abuse or dependency, other than a BAC of 0.15 but below 0.20, or the refusal of breath, blood, urine or other bodily fluid testing;
2S (for "significant"): One prior alcohol related incident, or no more than two symptoms of abuse or dependency reported, or a BAC of 0.20 or higher;
This is also subdivided:
High Risk w/ symptoms of chemical dependency or other dependency issues in the past whether or not to alcohol or drugs (food addiction may spark a Level 3 result); or
High Risk Non-dependent.
Level 3 findings are based upon having two or more alcohol related offenses within the preceding 20 years, reporting 3 or more symptoms of abuse/dependency (such as previous unsuccessful attempts to quit, inability to control the quantity or frequency of use, loss of family relationships, friends or employment due to use, hangovers, blackouts, etc.).
How you are evaluated dictates how much treatment or intervention you need. Level 1 offenders need only attend and complete a 10 hour "remedial education" program, which involves a pretest and a post-test, and you learn the basics about alcohol/drug use and its effects. Level 2M requires the 10 hour course, AND 10 to 12 hours of group counseling to discuss how alcohol/drug use personally affected you and the others in group, and to learn ways to not repeat the offense. Level 2S requires the 10 hour program AND 20 hours of group counseling AND up to 14 hours of aftercare. Level 3, either way, requires a 75 hour intensive outpatient program, or the equivalent of a residential treatment program (usually 28-30 days). If you are determined to be "dependent", then you should also be directed to join a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or Rational Recovery, etc.
If your arrest is your first Driving Under the Influence offense, in that you have never before been convicted of a DUI, or had a DUI charge reduced as part of a plea agreement to a charge of Reckless Driving, or been sentenced to court supervision at any time for a DUI, then you are generally eligible to receive supervision. However, a Judge is prohibited by law from entering a supervision order unless and until he has received the findings and recommendations contained in a uniform alcohol/drug assessment report, so if your lawyer has advised you to obtain one, you should do so at once.
Evaluation Required For Secretary of State Hearings
Although this article has concerned itself with the role of an evaluation in an ongoing DUI case, there is one other instance in which an evaluation report will be necessary, and that is if you need to go before the Secretary of State's office in Illinois to obtain either reinstatement of driving privileges, or the issuance of a restricted driving permit to alleviate the hardship of the loss of privileges following the revocation of those privileges due to a DUI conviction.
Usually, the evaluation report you obtained in court for sentencing is "stale" by the time you are ready to go to a hearing, as the rules require an evaluation conducted no more than six months in advance of the hearing date. This can be taken care of by simply going to either the agency that did the evaluation originally, OR to the treatment provider, where you did your counseling. These agencies are required to hold your documents for up to five years, so it is always advisable to maintain your own file at home with your evaluation report(s), your treatment verification documents, proof of aftercare, and anything else you obtained from those agencies, in case five years goes by, and they destroy their records, or they go out of business.
Should I Get an Evaluation?
As for the age-old question of when to get the report, that answer is different depending upon the situation. If your case is what we lawyers refer to as "triable" (meaning, we think we can win, or at least it is worth fighting at trial without risking your freedom needlessly), then it is likely we will not have you get evaluated unless and until you go to trial. If you win, you need no evaluation; if you lose, you will be given a continuance to obtain the evaluation in advance of a sentencing hearing. If your case is "dicey", or you have a significant prior history that raises concerns about possible incarceration, mandatory conviction and revocation of your license, or other concerns about your chances of winning at trial, then it may be advisable to be evaluated for the purpose of engaging the prosecutor in pretrial negotiations.
Most prosecutors will demand to see those results before considering any offer to be made. Even if a deal cannot be reached, the contents of the report cannot be entered into direct evidence at trial (although statements made to the evaluator may be usable to impeach your testimony at a trial if it differs from those statements), nor can a prosecutor mention at a trial the fact that plea negotiations even happened. So little is lost if there is a chance for successful negotiations.
Discuss Your Chicago DUI With Our Legal Team Today
If you have been charged with a DUI, or other criminal or traffic case, you need the services of experienced, dedicated Chicago defense lawyers, like the ones at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC. Call us today, and we will gladly schedule you for an in-office, no-cost-to-you, face-to-face consultation, in confidence.