Washington state has some of the nation’s toughest laws on driving under the influence. But a probation officer and treatment official write in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that “there is an obvious weak link in ours — with grave consequences to public safety.” The two say that state law provides courts the authority to require offenders convicted of a DUI-related charge to have a substance-abuse assessment and comply with any treatment recommended. The state Department of Licensing laws requires that the DUI offender be enrolled in recommended treatment before being reissued a license.
The experts say there is no required protocol for conducting substance-abuse assessments, and that means that many offenders are misdiagnosed with insufficient evidence of substance abuse, and so needed treatment intervention is not recommended. This is the weak link in our public-safety chain. A protocol for assessments was developed by a work group in 2000, but most treatment agencies are not using it. That results in many DUI offenders’ not receiving an accurate assessment and no recommendation for treatment. Further, the offender is then able to get a driver’s license without enrolling in treatment, which negates the safety net designed into the law.