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Substance Abuse Evaluations and Harris County’s Pretrial Diversion Program

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If you’ve been asked to take a SALCE evaluation, you may have questions about what to expect.

  • A SALCE evaluation (Substance Abuse and Life Circumstance Evaluation) may be ordered by a judge after an alcohol or drug charge or arrest.
  • Your lawyer may also ask you to have a SALCE evaluation to determine whether you have an alcohol or drug problem.
  • A SALCE evaluation may be required if entering a DWI Pretrial Diversion Program makes sense in your case.

Are you or a loved one having to take a SALCE evaluation?
Contact defense attorney Brett Podolsky for help on your case >>

What Is a SALCE Evaluation?

The SALCE model seeks to assess the individual’s substance abuse or use by examining his or her behaviors. It also focuses on how the respondent answers questions (instead of relying only on his or her answers to the questions). The goal of the SALCE evaluation is to determine the most suitable intervention to achieve behavior change.

The SALE evaluation appointment occurs in two parts–a verbal interview and a written evaluation:

  • The written portion includes 98 questions. Most of these questions require only a yes or no response. The evaluator will use your responses to consider 1) your level of drug and/or alcohol use, 2) the truthfulness of your answers, and 3) any current stresses that may trigger drug and/or alcohol abuse.
  • The questions seek to identify whether drugs and/or alcohol have affected the accused’s finances, employment, or relationships.
  • The report touches on the accused’s 1) test-taking attitude (TTA), 2) ‘life circumstance’ evaluation, 3) drinking evaluation, 4) drug use evaluation, 5) recommended interventions, 6) summary, 7) important symptoms, 8) BAC/driving record, and 9) demographics.

Based on the information collected, the evaluator will consider DSM Diagnostic Classifications of the accused’s substance dependence and/or abuse:

  • 90 Alcohol Dependence. (The accused reported his most frequently-used drug as alcohol and reports that the last use of alcohol occurred yesterday.)
  • 90 Cannabis Dependence. (The accused reported his second-most frequently used drug is marijuana, and reports that the last use of marijuana occurred yesterday.)

This part of the SALCE evaluation seeks to identify the underlying cause of the accused’s problems, such as anxiety or depression.

You may request Spanish language intake materials. If you need someone to translate the interviewer’s questions in the second part of the evaluation, it’s best to bring an interpreter to the appointment.

The verbal interview includes a review of the Pre-Evaluation Sheets you were asked to print and bring with you. This portion of the evaluation is usually completed in 15 – 30 minutes.

Note that:

  • The interviewer may ask uncomfortable questions. It’s important to tell the truth—understand that the interviewer isn’t trying to cause embarrassment. It’s okay to express your truthful feelings.
  • You’ll be asked to provide contact details for several other people to be questioned about you/your substance abuse. Bring their full names, best time to reach them, and contact information (e.g. phone and email address).
  • You may be asked to provide a urine sample to determine if alcohol and drugs are present now.
  • Stay honest. If you’ve recently taken any drug, including prescription medicines, or alcohol, tell the counselor.
  • Based on the results of your assessment, the counselor makes recommendations concerning your treatment to the court. The counselor chooses one of three categories:
  1. Dependent on Drugs/Alcohol: If the counselor states that you’re dependent on alcohol or drugs, the court may order rehabilitation at a state-certified center for an eight-month to two-year treatment program.
  2. Suffering from Drug/Alcohol Abuse: If the counselor states that you’re suffering from drug and/or alcohol abuse, the court may order mandatory counseling. If placed in this category, the counselor doesn’t believe you’re addicted but, without treatment, the potential for addiction exists. Court-mandated therapy will span six to 12 months.
  3. Not Enough Evidence to Diagnose: If the counselor states there isn’t enough evidence available to diagnose at this time, the court may order a day or drug/alcohol school. This requirement is intended to teach the accused about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.
  • After completion of the interview, the evaluator combines the question and interview results to create a formal report. This includes a clinical summary to be sent to your lawyer.
  • In addition to the SALCE evaluation summary score (i.e., the individual’s general levels of substance abuse-severity), a more specific abuse referral level (based on the American Society of Addiction Medicine, ASAM, guidelines) is made:
  1. Level IV-ASAM IV (“Medical managed care is suggested”),
  2. Level III-ASAM III.5-111.7 (‘Medical monitoring is suggested),
  3. Level IIa-ASAM III.3 (‘Some form of day care, residential milieu, or halfway house may be needed’),
  4. Level IIb-ASAM II.5 (‘Day care, residential milieu, or halfway house may be needed’),
  5. Level IIc-ASAM II.5 (“Referral to an intensive outpatient treatment facility is recommended’ after detox is addressed),
  6. Level II-ASAM II.1 (‘Referral to an intensive outpatient treatment is recommended’),
  7. Level I-ASAM II.1 (‘Referral to an intensive outpatient treatment is recommended’),
  8. Level I-ASAM I (‘Referral to an intensive outpatient treatment is recommended’),
  9. Level I-ASAM I (“This individual may have had a substance abuse problem in the past, but reports no use for at least one year…his current attitude/high risk behaviors suggest further investigation may be needed’),
  10. Level I-ASAM I (‘Verification of abstinence and stability of life should be substantiated),
  11. LEVEL 0-ASAM 0.5 (‘Further investigation may be needed depending on his circumstances for taking this survey),
  12. Level 0-ASAM 0.5 (‘His current emotional state suggests further investigation may be needed),
  13. Level 0-ASAM 0.5 (‘Further investigation, and/or education, may be warranted depending upon the circumstances for this assessment,
  14. Level 0-ASAM 0.5 (‘Further investigation, and/or education, may be warranted),
  15. Level 0-ASAM 0.5 (‘Referral to education should be considered’).

The evaluator notes specific issues for the court to consider, e.g. the accused’s attitude, his or her unusual life stresses, and/or the “need for residential treatment and/or detoxification.” For instance, if the evaluator believes the interviewee was naïve about his or her use of drugs, this could reflect “immaturity on this person’s problem-identification or decision-making abilities.”

Your lawyer brings the clinical summary report to court. If necessary, the report includes recommended treatment suggestions.

How is the SALCE appointment scheduled?

SALCE meetings are scheduled by telephone. Know your next court date so that the appointment—your lawyer will need the evaluation report to share with the court.

Your appointment will be scheduled as soon as possible, typically within two to three days. Your lawyer usually receives the evaluation summary within two to three days.

How long is a SALCE appointment?

Most evaluations take about one hour to complete.

What should I bring to a SALCE appointment?

Bring any court documentation to the appointment, including:

  • Arrest documents (tickets, incident reports, sentencing sheet, and/or probation records)
  • Criminal history record
  • Seven-year Motor Vehicle Report (DUI)
  • DUI School-Completion Certificate plus NEEDS Assessment
  • Bring completed Pre-Evaluation Sheets to the appointment
  • Pay with cash or a credit card (Visa, MasterCard, or Discover—not American Express)
  • Provider your lawyer’s name, law firm, and his office and fax number
  • Request a copy of the evaluation to be sent to your probation officer, if appropriate

Houston DWI Pretrial Diversion-Intervention

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office may show leniency to the first-time drunk driver if he or she agrees to take part in the Pretrial Diversion Program.

Depending on your particular circumstances, the decision to enter the Pretrial Diversion Program might or might not be in your best interests:

  • Pros: If the accused successfully fulfills the conditions of the program, his or her case is dismissed after one year.
  • Cons: The burdens aren’t so obvious. Consult an experienced Houston DWI lawyer as soon as possible. He will evaluate the facts and determine the best next steps and whether the Pretrial Diversion Program is in the accused’s best interests.

What does entering the Pretrial Diversion Program entail?

The accused enters into a contract with the District Attorney’s Office. Thereafter, accused must perform each step in exchange for the District Attorney’s agreement to drop charges against him or her in the future.

Not everybody is eligible for the Pretrial Diversion Program. It’s specifically reserved for the first-time DWI offender (with no prior criminal arrests).

The Pretrial Diversion program includes the following aspects:

  1. The accused must attend classes that are intended to re-educate him or her about drinking and driving.
  2. He or she must submit to an assessment.
  3. He or she must install an ignition interlock device.
  4. He or she must attend mandatory alcohol and/or drug treatment.
  5. He or she must perform community service.
  6. He or she must submit to regular urinalysis tests.
  7. He or she must regularly report to a probation officer.

If the District Attorney’s Office has probable cause to believe the offender has violated the terms and conditions of the Pretrial Diversion Program agreement, he or she may be convicted of DWI and become subject to a full sentence.

When is the Pretrial Diversion Program in the accused’s best interests?

There are some scenarios in which the accused should agree to pretrial diversion.

However, it’s not advisable to accept Pretrial Diversion without asking a knowledgeable DWI attorney to examine the options:

  • If there’s any type of positive evidence that the accused is guilty of DWI, e.g. elevated BAC levels on a blood test or urinalysis, the accused needs to reach out to an experienced Texas DWI lawyer now. It may be possible to have the charges dismissed.
  • If you agree to Pretrial Diversion, the arrest remains on your criminal record during the year you’re going through the program. Expunction, or the complete erasure of your record, isn’t guaranteed.

Consult attorney Brett Podolsky about your Pretrial Diversion case >>

Houston DWI Pretrial Intervention Program

If you or someone you love has been arrested or charged with a first-time non-violence offense, you may be offered the DWI Pretrial Diversion (Intervention) Program.

Know that the Texas criminal justice system is complex. Without a deep understanding of how it works, it’s difficult to make decisions about an arrest and/or DWI charges. An experienced Texas DWI lawyer will investigate and analyze the case to discern the appropriate aggressive defense strategy needed to get the best potential case outcome.

The DWI Pretrial Intervention Program is a voluntary one-year supervised program for a first-time offender charged with a Class B Misdemeanor DWI/BWI:

  • A first-time offender facing a Class B Misdemeanor DWI or BWI offense with BAC level of less than or equal to 0.149 may apply.
  • He or she must have a job or attend school.
  • Class B DWI or BWI cases resulting from prescription or illicit drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, may apply.
  • Offenders with prior Class C convictions may apply
  • Offenders less than 21 years old may apply
  • The court evaluates each offender’s juvenile history on a case by case basis
  • The offender must have a valid Texas driver’s license at the time of the offense.
  • The offender must offer valid proof of insurance for the vehicle he or she operated when arrested.
  • He or she must be a U.S. citizen, Harris county resident (or resident of an adjacent county), legal resident, or possess work permits or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), and/or present other identifying information prior to an arrest.
  • POM, PDD, and PCS misdemeanor companion cases are allowed.

Individuals who have previously participated in Pretrial Diversion-Intervention, probation, deferred adjudication, or any conviction (other than a Class C misdemeanor, in or out of Harris County) are ineligible.

If your DWI lawyer recommends Pretrial Diversion-Intervention, it’s necessary to apply to the District Attorney’s Office within 60 days of the arraignment. After successful completion of the DWI Pretrial Diversion Intervention Program, your case may be eligible for dismissal and expunged two years after dismissal.

Contact an Experienced Texas DWI Lawyer

The results of a SALCE evaluation may affect your life for years to come. Contact the Law Office of Brett A. Podolsky in Houston at 713-227-0087 to request an initial case evaluation.

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