The CRN is an important step mandated in DUI cases in Pennsylvania. It is also a mandatory step to take if you want to participate in the ARD program in York County, Pennsylvania. What is it, though?
CRN Evaluation: The Basics
"CRN" stands for "Court Reporting Network" which is just as unhelpful as "CRN" is for describing what it is. Essentially, the CRN is a rough screening tool used to determine if some DUI offenders need to be evaluated for substance abuse. It has other uses, but that is the primary one that most of my clients want to know about.
At your preliminary hearing in York County, you are given a CRN referral sheet by the magisterial district judge ("MDJ"). The MDJ tells you that you have 21 days after attending your preliminary hearing to have the CRN completed, or you will not be allowed to participate in ARD. This is a hard deadline set by the York County District Attorney for participation in the York County ARD program. Other counties in PA operate differently, so do not rely on this for a DUI case in Bedford County or Lancaster or Harrisburg.
It costs $50.00 to get the CRN done for a York County case and they need the CRN referral form. I can give you one before you see the MDJ at your preliminary hearing, and I do this for almost all of my clients to get them started early.
In this covid-19 era, they are doing many of these by phone or Zoom. If you are out of the area, doing a "phone CRN" has long been a convenient option, though some providers are more willing to do it than others.
Call my office to ask for help with getting a referral form: (717) 848-8455.
What does the CRN ask about?
The CRN consists of over 100 questions, mostly multiple choice, that relate to drug and alcohol use. The process involves asking defendants these questions and comparing the answers to a scoring sheet (this is done automatically). Information is also pulled from driver records and individual criminal history information. In other words, when you are asked if you've experienced trouble with the law because of drugs and alcohol and answer, "no" remember that the test administrator will see if you had underage drinking offenses, a prior DUI, prior drug charges, and so forth.
The questions themselves are based on work done in the 1970's by two researchers who were hired by the US Department of Transportation to evaluate DUI offenders for the likelihood that they would re-offend because of substance abuse. These researchers were named "Mortimer" and "Filkins." To this day, the score generated by the CRN is called the "Mortimer Filkins" score. It appears on the standard CRN report as the "M/F" number on the right hand side of the report near the top. In some counties, judges use this in assessing what conditions to impose on defendants at sentencing. Lancaster used to do this, for instance. York generally does not follow this practice.
A copy of an example CRN report and the questions themselves can be found here. These two things came from training materials I received years ago at a continuing education class offered by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. The questions themselves would be obtainable independently through "Right to Know" requests if you asked the right government agencies. They are not trade secrets and they are not protected information. They can also be found elsewhere on the internet if you know how to search well. On Duckduckgo.com you can search for "mortimer filkins evaluation questions" and a result will take you to an older version of the test (with the scoring chart) but it is a version that is no longer used.
If you have anxiety about the evaluation, don't. In almost all cases, nothing you say will have any impact on the outcome of the evaluation - if your BAC is over .16 or your current DUI is not a first offense, the CRN is a mere formality that cannot change based on anything you say. You could tell the evaluator that you drink a quart of whiskey a day, and it won't impact the evaluation. I suspect those circumstances include about 90% of all DUI cases I see.
What Happens After I Complete the CRN?
The CRN, for first offenders, really only has a couple of possible outcomes.
First, you will be told, no matter how you answer, that you must complete 12.5 hours of "Alcohol Highway Safety School" which is also referred to informally as "DUI Classes."
Next, you may or may not be told that you are to get a formal "drug and alcohol evaluation" which is also called a "D&A Eval" by people in the court system. If you are in tier 3 because your alcohol level is .16 or higher, no matter how you answer questions on the CRN, you will have to get a drug and alcohol evaluation due to the law contained in Title 75 Section 3814. DUI charges that are Tier 3 because of drugs do not carry a mandatory requirement for a drug and alcohol evaluation. If the present DUI is a second offense in 10 years, you are also required to get a drug and alcohol evaluation.
If you have a first DUI where your alcohol level is under .16 or where there are only drugs in your system, the CRN is a screening tool where there is a possibility that you will not get recommended for a drug and alcohol evaluation. In other words, it will come down to both your documented public records as well as your answers to the questions.
If you are in maybe 10% of the population where you have an alcohol-only DUI that is a first offense and your BAC is below .16, it might make a difference if you try to "game" the system, but ultimately that's a fool's errand. Even without seeing the questions, it's pretty obvious what they are getting after. If you play that game and you give innocuous answers to all the questions, you'll almost certainly get referred to a drug and alcohol evaluation because of the perception that you are minimizing and in denial.
Do I Have To Do the CRN?
Do you have to do the CRN? No. You do not have to do it. You have the right to be free from self-incrimination, and what you tell the CRN evaluator could be used against you in court. In most cases, it makes sense to do the CRN evaluation anyway, especially if you want to participate in ARD. If you think there is a reason not to do it, that is a discussion that requires an individualized discussion with a qualified lawyer who does lots of DUI work.
Should you do the CRN? In most cases, yes. It will be a net benefit, but there are some cases where it might not be helpful. If you are reading this and are unsure about what to do, you really need to talk to an experienced York County, PA DUI lawyer who can give you a good answer. Call my office to make an appointment at (717) 848-8455.
The bottom line is this: If you are looking to enter ARD in York County, PA for a DUI, the most important thing on this page other than my phone number -- (717) 848-8455 -- is this: get your CRN done within 21 days of seeing the judge at your preliminary hearing.