Drug Addiction in the Justice System

Unfortunately, drug and alcohol addiction touches the lives of almost everybody at some point.  Drug abuse and addiction is one of the main factors that gets people in legal trouble and destroys family relationships.

Fortunately, the California legislature, the voters, and the courts have made good progress in the last decade at recognizing the link between crime and drug use and now offer some programs for people struggling with addiction.  People arrested for possession of drugs for personal use will generally be allowed to complete a basic drug program for their first couple cases.

More complicated situations arise where an addict has been stealing or selling drugs to support the habit.  Depending on the individual, they may be sentenced to complete a drug rehabilitation program that will often include 90 days to 1 year of intensive work examining their life, accepting that their drug use is a problem, talking about the pain they have caused others, and getting to the root of the cause of their reliance on drugs.  Rehabilitation is not a “free lunch”, which can be the public perception, but is incredibly difficult.

An even more difficult issue is where a person has attempted to hide or deal with mental health issues by using drugs. Many families are torn apart by family members who have this “dual-diagnosis” because the addict family member can lack insight into their addiction due to their mental illness. Alternatively, the addiction can keep the individual from having insight into their mental illness. Sadly, individuals in this position are often rejected from both mental health courts and drug courts because the players in those courts believe that they can not treat both issues at once, and feel the individual will not be successful. So these most needy people are rejected from the very treatment that they need the most.

If you have a family member who is addicted to drugs, get them help immediately before they end up in legal trouble. Beginning with AA or NA meetings, or an intervention (there are amazing interventionists available to help) is the beginning of the road to success. Rehabilitation centers are also amazing in helping people to overcome addiction and place the addict in a place where they are helped in their recovery by professionals. The best rehab centers are expensive, but there are several competent local rehab facilities that have charity beds and provide essentially the same service in much more humble surroundings.

If your loved one does end up in legal trouble, it is imperative to get an attorney to help through the process. There are many collateral consequences to a drug conviction, and even drug diversion, that are not generally known, such as the denial of federal student loans or deportation. Getting a dedicated and knowledgeable attorney involved early in the process can help you to find proper rehabilitation services to present the best case possible when appearing in court. In addition to helping address the addiction problems immediately, when a person is pursuing rehabilitation, most judges will be at least hesitant to hand down a prison sentence that pulls him or her out of the program.

If you or somebody you love is an addict facing charges, treat this event as a wake-up call, get into treatment, and use it as an opportunity to turn a troubled life around.