Motorists in Wisconsin must contact a state-approved facility to make an appointment for a drug or alcohol assessment within 72 hours of being convicted of driving while under the influence. The goal of these assessments is to determine whether or not the individual concerned requires treatment for a substance abuse problem. Recidivism is a serious issue among drunk drivers, and states have come to realize that the problem has more to do with addiction than it does with criminal intent.

During these assessments, individuals experienced in the area of substance abuse will recommend a rehabilitation plan based on a number of factors. Motorists who are determined to be irresponsible but not addicted are usually ordered to participate in a traffic safety program, but individuals with more serious drug or alcohol issues may be sent to intensive outpatient or even inpatient treatment programs.

Assessors will look at prior drug and alcohol issues including previous drunk driving charges, and they may be particularly concerned when a pattern of progression emerges and alcohol or drugs seem to be negatively affecting an individual’s personal or professional life. Other indications that a substance abuse problem may be serious include highly elevated blood alcohol levels and a history of accidents. Completing the prescribed rehabilitation is generally necessary before driving privileges can be restored.

Criminal defense attorneys may urge prosecutors to consider leniency in drunk driving cases where their clients have behaved well in the past and caused no injuries, and they may suggesting drug and alcohol counseling in lieu of more severe sanctions. Attorneys could also point out mitigating factors to prosecutors such as a stable work and home life, long-established ties to the community and sincere remorse.

Source: State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation, “Alcohol and drug assessment”, accessed on July 7, 2017