The Skinny on Substance Abuse Assessment and Treatment for DWI Offenders

When a person’s license is revoked for certain offenses involving impaired driving, the person must, before his or her license may be restored, obtain a substance abuse assessment and complete the treatment or education recommended based on that assessment. G.S. 20-17.6. This requirement applies when a person’s license is revoked upon conviction of any of the following offenses:

  • driving while impaired pursuant to G.S. 20-138.1,
  • commercial driving while impaired pursuant to G.S. 20-138.2,
  • driving while less than 21 after consuming alcohol or drugs in violation of G.S. 20-138.3,
  • driving a school bus, school activity bus, or child care vehicle after consuming alcohol under G.S. 20-138.2B, or
  • a second or subsequent conviction of driving a commercial motor vehicle after consuming alcohol under G.S. 20-138.2A.

DMV must receive a certificate of completion before it may restore the person’s driver’s license; indeed, the revocation period is extended until it does. G.S. 20-17.6(b). And for defendants sentenced to probation under G.S. 20-179, a substance abuse assessment and completion of recommended education or treatment must be required as a condition of probation. G.S. 20-179(g),(h), (i), (j), (k).

These assessments must be completed by facilities so authorized by the state Department of Health and Human Services. G.S. 20-17.6(c); G.S. 122C-142.1(a). An assessment consists of a face-to-face clinical interview, administration of an approved standardized test to determine chemical dependency, review of the person’s driving record, and verification of the person’s alcohol concentration at the time of the offense.  10A NCAC 27G .3807.  After the assessment is completed, the facility recommends the level of service to be completed, which can range in intensity from completion of a 16-hour alcohol and drug education traffic school (ADETS)—the least intensive requirement—to inpatient treatment.

ADETS—the recommendation for 18 percent of the assessments performed in the 2009-10 fiscal year—is recommended if all of the following apply:

  • the assessment does not identify a “substance abuse handicap,”
  • the person has no previous convictions for impaired driving or driving after consuming while under 21,
  • the person’s alcohol concentration at the time of the offense is .14 or less,
  • the person did not refuse a chemical analysis, and
  • the person meets certain placement criteria established by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

G.S. 122C-142.1(c); 10A NCAC 27G .3813.

Otherwise, the recommended treatment is at one of the following four levels (from least to most intensive): short-term outpatient treatment, longer-term outpatient treatment, day treatment/intensive outpatient treatment, or inpatient and residential treatment. The largest percentage of assessments in 2009-10 (48 percent) recommended short-term outpatient treatment.

A person who obtains a substance abuse assessment for purposes of obtaining a certificate of completion must pay to the assessing agency a fee of $100.00. If the person needs more than one certificate of completion, which would be the case if his or her license was revoked for more than one conviction covered by G.S. 20-17.6, the person must pay a $100 fee for each certificate sought, though only one assessment will be performed and a single course of treatment required. G.S. 122C-142.1(f1).

The fee for ADETS is set by G.S. 122C-142.1(f) at $160. Fees for treatment vary, depending upon the provider and level of treatment. In 2009-10, fees for short-term treatment averaged $357.53 and fees for inpatient treatment averaged $675.14.

DHHS’ Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services reports annually to the General Assembly a summary of data gathered from the substance abuse assessment and education or treatment programs.  The statistics cited in this post were drawn from the February 2011 report, available here. The report contains additional data that readers may find of interest, including demographic information about individuals completing substance abuse services (mostly single, white, young, employed males), offense characteristics such as the average alcohol concentration (0.16), and time frames and rates for completion of recommended education and treatment. Biennially, the agency reports an outcomes evaluation study on the effectiveness of the services provided to persons who obtain a certificate of completion. The last study, reported December 31, 2009, is available here. The study reports that within 18 months of completing treatment services, the rate of re-arrest for impaired driving was 7 percent. Younger persons were more likely to be re-arrested for impaired driving as were, somewhat surprisingly, persons with an alcohol concentration below 0.08.  The report states that impairment from other drugs appears to contribute to the latter finding.

2 thoughts on “The Skinny on Substance Abuse Assessment and Treatment for DWI Offenders”

  1. How odd, there is no time limitation on the treatment/assessment/fee schedule

    Would I be inocrrect in saying, if a assesment stated a flat number of hours, with multiple convictions, then once the assessment strictures have been completed, then it merely boils down to a payment of fees?

    100 dollars per certificate, regardless of assessment?

    I ask as 3 convctions for DWI happened in 2011, charges were first laid in 1994/1995/1998?


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