Monday, December 31, 2012

Ithaca Attorney The Anatomy of a New York OASAS DWI Drug/Alcohol Evaluation


In 2006 the New York State legislature mandated that all DWI related drug/alcohol evaluations (aka assessments) be done by OASAS certified providers. OASAS = Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. They are the state agency that overlooks the delivery of alcohol and substance abuse services (assessments/treatments) in New York. NOTE: Throughout this blog post I will interchange the terms assessment and evaluation, for all intents and purposes they are the same.

New Times Call for New Protocols

The majority of NYS DWI defendants will have to be assessed at some point in their case, this can occur either before, during, or after the criminal case is resolved. It used to be that only those with a .15 BAC at time of arrest were legally obligated to get one BUT many Courts (Judges) and Prosecutors will not finalize (sentence) a case without seeing one or will condition any sentencing upon the providing of one by a certain date. Many Judges will also condition their sentencing upon the completion (with proof) any and all recommended treatment based upon this evaluation.

Assessments are important to the disposition of your case because they can influence the view of the District Attorney, the sentencing by the Judge, the license re-instatement by the DMV, and any future investigation of an employer, certifying or licensing body, or anyone placing you in a position of responsibility.

This post will address exactly what happens at an OASAS evaluation?  What are the specific criteria used by the evaluator to make an OASAS assessment?

The Basic Overview A, B, and C

A. The evaluation is an INTERVIEW. It is INTERACTIVE. It will require your participation and engagement. If you come off as standoffish, or guarded, this may be viewed as either lying or avoidance. Either position may be interpreted as covering up (lying about) a problem (issue) with drugs and/or alcohol.

B. There is NO specific alcohol assessment versus drug assessment. Alcohol is a drug. The evaluation wants to know about all your use of any and all substances over the course of your lifetime.

C. The Evaluation is an integration of many mini assessments of everything, spanning and encompassing just about every area of your life.

Evaluators are psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and nurse practitioners who have submitted documented proof to OASAS that they have the necessary experience (training, education, certification) in the specific area of addiction. That is why the approach taken (by these providers) in the giving of assessments may be different and diverse. The goals are the same.

The Anatomy of an Evaluation (Seven Parts) 

I. The evaluator will take a Comprehensive Psychosocial History.

The key word here is HISTORY. This is truly a thorough History of everything you have ever ingested, done, completed, obtained, and/or messed up.

This will involve many of the following areas:

1. History of Use of All substances (Marijuana, Opioids, Sedatives, Nicotine, Alcohol, etc.) used over the course of your lifetime. The frequency, amount, and the time periods of use. History of Any and all related treatment for any of these these. History of recovery and/or abstinence from use.

2. History of YOUR Physical Health. Providers, exams, finding, diagnoses, medications, etc.

3. History of YOUR Mental Health. Past mental health treatment and assessments.
Examination (mini) of your mental health: Orientation, Intellectual/mental ability, Mood history (depressed, anxious, angry, sad, etc.), Lethality assessment (do you have a death wish?), Planning to kill yourself or anyone else?

4. Vocational/Educational/Employment Assessment. Measure of your Literacy, Education, and Employment.

5. Social/Leisure Assessment. ADLs (activities of daily living): Can you care for yourself? Can you provide for your own needs? Social/Leisure activities: What do you do for fun? Does an of it involve drugs?

6. Family Assessment. Issues growing up? Issues currently? Relationships with family members? How well did you do as a child, parent, brother, sister, spouse, etc.?

7. Legal Assessment. Any interactions with legal issues?

8. Gambling Assessment. Any issues with gambling?

9. Military Service.

10. Spirituality/Religion. Involvement in any organized religious groups/activities. Religious Beliefs.

II. Giving YOU either the MAST (Michigan Alcohol Screening Test) or the RIASI (Research Institute on Addictions Self Inventory). They are tests that yield behavioral clues or concerns.

III. Collateral Source Assessments: 

Interviews with family, friends, and/or co-workers to confirm and/or challenge anything you have said (stated/answered) during the evaluation. NOTE: This is soon to become one of the important assessment criteria. How others see you and your behavior will be given greater weight in making a final diagnosis than your view (statements about) of your behavior.

IV. Drug/Alcohol Screening (Urinalysis)

V. Review of the YOUR UTTs (charging documents), Police Report, and Arrest Paperwork 

The Nature of this DWI arrest and circumstances, ie. accident, injuries, multiple drugs, BAC level

VI. Review of YOUR DMV Driving Abstract (10 year history)

Any prior DWs (DUI) in any state, at any prior time?

VII. Signed Consent 

Allows findings, recommendations, and conclusions to be inputted to the DMV Impaired Driver System (IDS) to prevent "doctor shopping." 

2013 Holds New Issues and New Concerns

The evaluator will then use the DSM-IV to make a definitive diagnosis (diagnoses). That was 2012, in 2013 they will use the DSM-V and all prior criteria and prior abuse/dependency verbiage will change. I have written about this in prior blog posts and will continue to expand on this (the changes) as the guidelines are placed into use. Having a new book come out is one thing, but how it is going to applied (practically) is another.

Eliminating or DE-creasing FEAR

It has been said that F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real, knowing the truth (the reality behind the eval) can truly be liberating (freeing). The TRUTH can set you FREE.

Understanding what lies ahead helps to bring down worry, concern, and the fear of the unknowns in many DWI and drug related cases. I like to say, "having more certainty is the cure for alleviating fear." Being prepared for everything that lies before you can also help give you confidence to face the process. Better results in the long term usually come along with this increased understanding and confidence.

Always consult with an attorney about any criminal or non-criminal charges you have pending to discuss your options and/or defenses.

I am certified in Field Sobriety and Breath Alcohol Testing, and an active member of the National College of DUI Defense (NCDD). My online materials include over 500 blog posts, dozens of articles, and over 500 informative videos on my youtube channel.

I have co-authored Strategies for Defending DWI Cases in New York, in both 2011 and 2013. These are West Thomson legal manuals on New York State DWI defense, and focus on the best practices for other lawyers handling a New York DWI case. I was selected by Super Lawyers as a Upstate New York 2013 Rising Star in DWI/DUI Defense based on my experience, contributions, and professional standing.