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What is Chemical Dependency Assessment and Why Do I Need One?

Posted by attorney Linda Callahan

If you were arrested for DUI in Washington State, you will probably have to obtain a chemical dependency assessment for the court. This is so even if your DUI is reduced to a lesser offense because the court will most probably order you to obtain one.

What is a chemical dependency assessment? Also known as an “evaluation," a chemical dependency assessment is a diagnostic evaluation, performed by a state certified agency, to determine whether a person suffers from an alcohol or drug dependency. The results of the evaluation are then prepared in a written form.

How is the evaluation done? State law requires that it be performed in a face-to-face interview. The evaluator may use diagnostic tests such as the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (MAST) and the Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST). The evaluator will gather information from the person about his or her past and current use of alcohol and drugs, prior alcohol/drug treatment or education, relapse history, and legal history.

What information is considered? In addition to the interview, the evaluator will review a report of the breath or blood test result (if any), an abstract of the person’s driving record and criminal history, and the police report. The person will also be asked to provide a urine sample for analysis.

What is in the written assessment? The evaluator describes the sources of information considered and the interview results, and concludes with a diagnosis. The evaluator may cite the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Placement Criteria in the diagnosis, indicating the level of care recommended, if any.

What are the ASAM levels of care? Levels of care (treatment) include: Early Intervention, Outpatient Treatment, Intensive Outpatient/Partial Hospitalization, Residential/Inpatient Treatment and Medically-Managed Intensive Inpatient Treatment.

What if there is insufficient evidence of substance abuse or dependence? In that event, the evaluator will usually recommend that the person attend Alcohol Drug Information School (an 8-hour course) and a DUI Victim Impact Panel (a 2-hour presentation).

Are the results of the assessment confidential? Federal law prohibits disclosure of the assessment without the person’s specific written consent. However, the agency may ask for the person’s consent to allow disclosure to the Department of Licensing (DOL). If the person is convicted of DUI or Physical Control, and DOL does not receive a form from the agency concerning the assessment result, the person’s license may be suspended, revoked or they may be denied reinstatement of their license.

Where can I get a chemical dependency assessment? Ask your attorney if he or she can recommend a particular agency. Otherwise, a list of agencies can be found online at

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