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Substance Abuse Evaluations (SASSI) in DWI cases

I have always been bothered by one of the ramifications of a DWI conviction:  The Substance Abuse Evaluation.

I am all for the premise and theory behind it.

If you are place on probation following a conviction for DWI, you are required by law to take a substance abuse evaluation, and perform any conditions imposed.  This can be something as small as "no alcohol while on probation," or larger (very time consuming) things like attending AA several times per week, or going to an intensive inpatient or outpatient program.

The point of requiring counseling for DWI offenders is obvious.  I have no problem with that.  Also, the premise that a counselor makes the decisions instead of a judge or prosecutor makes sense as well.  Us lawyers (or "law talking guys") do not necessarily know what the best treatment plan.

Here is the problem:  The offender is usually simply given a short, one page "SASSI – Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory."  It is described by the maker as "A one-page paper and pencil test that identifies people who suffer from substance dependence."  This simple quiz, magically can tell what a person’s substance problems are, and how to fix them.  Oh yeah, even according to SASSI information, training required for administration, is checked off "No."

The reason this came up to me, was a client of mine that was placed on probation took this quiz.  Then, after about a 10 minute multiple choice quiz, he was ordered by the court to attend an intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment program.  This was way more than he bargained for.  Oh yeah, he is required to pay for it as well (the SASSI and the treatment program).

I couldn’t help but feel that it was unjust that this occurred after his negotiated plea.  Not only that, I was troubled by how a one page multiple choice quiz could so vastly affect someones life time wise and monetarily.

When I spoke to the counselor about my client’s recommended treatment, I asked him if I could take a look at one of the blank tests.  I really just wanted to see it so I could prepare my clients for what they are in for if they are convicted. I  was told, that I was not allowed to see one.

Funny thing is, I went online, and found several places to order the SASSI forms from.  I have contemplated ordering a some, along with posting the "good answers."  I was actually pretty surprised I couldn’t find anything about suggested (or not suggested) answers online.  Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough.

I’m curious if any other attorneys have  run into major problems with the SASSI quiz.

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