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Substance Abuse Treatment for DWI in North Carolina

After a person has been convicted of DWI, that person’s license may be revoked as a result the conviction for a period of time. Once that revocation period is up, the person’s license is not automatically reinstated. Instead, the person must complete a substance abuse treatment school or program.

G.S. 20-17.6 provides that for a revoked license to be restored for a person who has been convicted of an impaired driving offense, that person must have a substance abuse assessment conducted and then complete either alcohol and drug education traffic school or a substance abuse treatment program. Subsection (a) of the statute provides that this

section applies to a person whose license was revoked as a result of a conviction of any of the following offenses:

(1)    G.S. 20-138.1, driving while impaired (DWI).

(2)    G.S. 20-138.2, commercial dwi.

(3)    G.S. 20-138.3, driving while less than 21 years old after consuming alcohol or drugs.

(4)    G.S. 20-138.2A, driving a commercial motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration of greater than 0.00 and less than 0.04, if the person's drivers license was revoked under G.S. 20-17(a)(13).

(5)    G.S. 20-138.2B, driving a school bus, a school activity bus, or a child care vehicle with an alcohol concentration of greater than 0.00, if the person's drivers license was revoked under G.S. 20-17(a)(14).

For the person’s license to be restored, that person must submit to the DMV a certificate of completion showing that the substance abuse assessment has been conducted and the recommended treatment completed. If a person does not submit a certificate of completion to the DMV, the person’s revocation period is extended until the DMV receives the certificate. Furthermore, subsection (d) provides that if the revocation period is extended because the DMV has not received the certificate, the person is not eligible for limited driving privileges.

Pursuant to subsection (c) of the statute, the substance abuse assessment must be conducted by an entity authorized by the Department of Health and Human Services. G.S. 122C-142.1 sets out the procedures for the assessment, which include a standardized test approved by the DHHS and a clinical interview. After the assessment, the entity conducting the assessment recommends that the person go either to alcohol and drug education traffic (ADET) school or some type of treatment program. According to a report prepared by the DHHS for the North Carolina General Assembly, 20% of those assessed during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013 were recommended for ADET. G.S. 122C-142.1(c) provides that

Attendance at an ADET school is required if none of the following applies and completion of a treatment program is required if any of the following applies:

(1)    The person took a chemical test at the time of the offense that caused the person's license to be revoked and the test revealed that the person had an alcohol concentration at any relevant time after driving of at least 0.15.

(2)    The person has a prior conviction of an offense involving impaired driving.

(3)    The substance abuse assessment identifies a substance abuse disability.

If a person is not recommended for ADET after the assessment, the person is recommended for one of the following treatments: short term outpatient, longer term outpatient, day treatment/intensive outpatient, and inpatient residential. Of those, short term outpatient is the most commonly recommended, with DHHS report indicating that 48% of the people assessed were recommended for short term outpatient.

Subsection (d) states that

[a]n ADET school shall offer the curriculum established by the Commission and shall comply with the rules adopted by the Commission. A substance abuse treatment program offered to a person who needs the program to obtain a certificate of completion shall comply with the rules adopted by the Commission.

Subsection (f) sets out the various fees involved with the assessment and treatment. The fee for an assessment is $100. If a person is recommended for ADET, the fee is $160. If a person is recommended for other treatment, the minimum fee required by the statute is $75, but the treating facility typically charges more. The DHHS report indicates that the average cost of short term treatment is about $360, at $18 per hour, with a minimum of 20 hours of counseling. The average cost of longer term treatment is $630, at $16 per hour, with a minimum of 40 hours. Day treatment averages about $8 per hour. The statute authorizes the facilities providing the assessments and treatments to charge these fees to anyone seeking an assessment or treatment for the purpose of obtaining a certificate of completion, but it provides that “an area facility may not deny a service to a person because the person is unable to pay.”

If a person has more than one more than one offense and needs more than one certificate pursuant to G.S. 20-17.6, the person must pay $100 for each certificate. However, the person needs to only have one assessment and one completed school or treatment program.

The DHHS report also contains some interesting statistics involving impaired driving. It states that there were over 61,000 impaired driving charges reported during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013. Of those, almost 38,000 resulted in convictions, or 62% of those charged. Also in this period, over 51,000 assessments were reported. Of those assessments reported, a little over 31,000, or 60% of the assessments, completed the recommended school or treatment program.

If you have been charged with an impaired driving offense, contact an attorney at Rosensteel Fleishman Car Accident & Injury Lawyers (704) 714-1450, to discuss your options.

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