EXPERT WITNESS: Substance use evaluations are still my bread and butter

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By Michael G. Brock

Lately I've been taking on a lot of CSC cases as an expert and writing about the process and what I see as it's failings in my monthly column. Some folks have asked me if I'm still doing substance abuse evaluations for driver license restoration hearings. The answer is yes, it is still the majority of my practice, although the other is picking up, and there is a lot more to be said about the shortfalls of forensic interviewing, and, perhaps, forensic science in general. But the nice thing about driver license cases is that they are relatively non-political and enjoyable. Those convicted of driving while intoxicated or impaired are almost all guilty (though sleeping in your car may be questionable), and if they do what they state requires, (which are not unreasonable requirements) they can get their license and their life back.

Granted, the process is more difficult and protracted than it used to be, but hearing officers are, I'm sure, used to having people run scams on them. You'd think that someone who got their license back would have learned their lesson, but it is not always the case, and some of them get popped again for drinking and driving. I once heard an adage, I don't know where it comes from, that I often repeat to my clients: "A fool never learns; a prudent man learns from his mistakes, but the wise man learns from the fool's mistakes." Hopefully, most of those who get their license back have learned from their mistakes, and may learn other life lessons from others' mistakes.

Matt Zick and I put several articles we wrote together into a little book that I email to all of my license restoration clients and which I also make available to any attorneys or judges who would like to have it, either for their own use, or to disseminate to their clients. It you'd like a copy, send an email to: michaelgbrock@comcast.net requesting one and I'll get it out to you. There is a chapter in the book called Driver's License Appeals Are Subject to Murphy's Law, that covers a lot of what I am about to say here, but not everything, and good ideas bear repeating.

I recently met with Herb Gilbert, who has a company called Nationwide Interlock that installs these devices for people who have been awarded a restricted license. My clients and the lawyers I work with give me positive feedback about him, which is not true of every interlock company, so I give my people his coupons and my recommendation. By way of a disclaimer, I have no financial connection to Mr. Gilbert or his company. I just want my people to be taken care of, and just getting their license back and remaining abstinent is not necessarily all they have to do to keep their license. Equipment can be finicky, subject to weather problems, or other factors which may or may not be under the control of the client. Clients need to be proactive to insure that they keep their license.

Mr. Gilbert gave me the following list of tips that he passes out to his customers with a plastic cover and which may be hung on the dash, and which they are wise to heed. These tips are as follows:

1. Do not eat during or 15 minutes prior to taking a breath sample.

2. Do not leave your car unattended while it is running or the key is turned over.

3. Keep the device out of direct sunlight for long periods of time.

4. Do not attempt to circumvent the device, it is illegal.

5. Do not tear, cut, mutilate, bang, tamper, or let the device, cords, or wires get wet.

6. Be sure to notify [Nationwide] PRIOR to taking your vehicle in for any maintenance work, towing, battery changes, or jumps done to your vehicle during business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.

7. If you fail a test, the device will have a 1-3 minute countdown for a retest. You must take a new breath sample until you pass.

8. Do not disconnect your device. You may remove the mouthpiece to clean it with hot water ONLY. Make sure the mouthpiece is completely dry before reinserting back into the device.

9. If you miss or fail a test, we would suggest you take a PBT or EtG test. Documentation must be faxed to Draeger Reporting prior to next service appointment.

10. Avoid using or storing anything in your vehicle that contains alcohol or ethanol ingredients, which may include some of the following items: hand sanitizer, mouthwash, Windex, perfume, cologne, gas containers, air fresheners, etc.

11. If you fail or miss a retest, pull over and turn the vehicle off if at all possible. This will allow the device to complete its temporary lockout and for you to take another test. Call the reporting department at 855-888-2509 immediately, to notify them of the incident.

A couple of other things we tell people is to keep a bottle of fresh water in the car in case they have to clear their mouth for a retest. Simple things like pizza or bread with yeast will trigger a false positive. Also, you can usually take a PBT or EtG at the nearest police station, though they may charge clients a minimal fee. The most important thing is to forewarn your clients that getting a restricted license with a blower does not mean they are home free. They still have to prove that they can drive sober and responsibly with the interlock device before the state hearing officer is going to award them a full license, and that is more difficult than it sounds.

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Michael G. Brock, MA, LMSW, is a forensic mental health professional in private practice at Counseling and Evaluation Services in Wyandotte, Michigan. He has worked in the mental health field since 1974, and has been in full-time private practice since 1985. Much of his practice in recent years relates to driver license restoration and substance abuse evaluation, but he also consults and serves as an expert witness regarding forensic interviewing and the use of forensic interviewing protocols in cases of child sexual abuse allegations. He may be contacted at Michael G. Brock, Counseling and Evaluation Services, 2514 Biddle, Wyandotte, 48192; 313-802-0863, fax/phone 734-692-1082; e-mail: michaelgbrock@comcast.net, website, michaelgbrock.com.

Published: Wed, Jul 19, 2017

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