Michigan Teenagers who drink can sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of the law. This includes being charged with crimes like MIP (minor in possession) and Minor BAC (which is under age drunk driving , also known as zero tolerance), among others.
Many courts in Michigan treat underage drinking very seriously. Some judges have a track record that includes jail time for crimes involving underage drinking, but most judges understand that severe punishment for these kinds of crimes is not appropriate. Instead, many courts look at teenage drinking crimes as an opportunity to assess whether or not the teenage offender is at risk for problematic drinking, and then to order that the offender become involved in treatment. To assure compliance, the court will also order monitoring like daily or random PBTs (preliminary breath tests).
In order to be proactive, and to help the teenage offender and his/her family determine if an alcohol problem does exist, or might be brewing, some lawyers in Michigan will refer their client for a private substance abuse evaluation. This substance abuse evaluation can be used as a baseline to begin treatment, and it can also be used by the lawyer to help with plea negotiations and sentencing.
Substance abuse evaluations for crimes like MIP and Minor BAC as the same as substance abuse evaluations for “adult” crimes like drunk driving. As such, the substance abuse evaluation will include an interview and the administration of usually two or three different psychometric tests, the purpose of which is to help the therapist determine if there is a drug or alcohol abuse problem, and then to recommend an appropriate treatment plan.
The evaluator, usually a clinical psychologist or other highly trained mental health/substance abuse professional, will determine from both the tests administered and the interview if the patient meets the criteria for the DMSV 5 diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder. This diagnosis is one of the factors used in determining the treatment plan with the client. Oftentimes clients will follow up for treatment by using their health insurance plan; however, evaluations that are legal in nature are not covered by health insurance policies. The treatment portion of the evaluation, if recommended, is covered as long as it has not been ordered by the courts. This is another reason for a youth to be evaluated prior to sentencing in the courts. Besides the financial and legal incentive for an independent substance abuse evaluation, the client benefits from early intervention by an evaluator in order to receive guidance and direction toward a healthy relationship with alcohol in the future.
Many times youth will not in need of follow-up treatment, and the evaluation can assist the lawyer in the advocacy of the client in terms of suggesting a lighter sentence. However, when treatment is warranted, early intervention not only assists the youth’s developmental trajectory and well-being, but assists in the planning purposes and shows prior cooperation on the part of the youth at sentencing time.