This photo shows a DWIBeing charged with a drug offense, or incurring a “drug charge” can be a daunting, humiliating and fear provoking experience. Laws vary from state to state and can seem unfair. Legal council is paramount without question, but what lawyers won’t tell you is that outcomes can be vastly improved by seeking treatment alternatives.

Many judges remain open to the idea of eliminating or dramatically reducing jail time and other penalties providing that that one is in comprehensive treatment for addiction, alcoholism or other treatable mental health issues. The thing that judges want to know is this: whatever crime or behavior that brought the person before them won’t be happening again. Many social problems including: domestic violence, theft, vandalism, sexual assault, etc…dramatically reduce in frequency when use of alcohol or other drugs declines, and judges are well aware of this.

While lawyers approach the problem of addressing “drug charges” by looking to maximize billable hours and finding loop holes, it is a far better idea to promote the fact that the individual charged is healthier and therefore less of a risk because they went into treatment.

We can help negotiate the issues by creating a file of evidence for the judge that includes: documentation of treatment, randomized breathalyzing, randomized toxicology screenings, and medication management.

Noted interventionist, Todd Urese has acted as court liaison on numerous cases, appearing with the charged individual to support them in court and to speak directly to the judge. We work closely with your legal team to maximize the best possible outcome.

Last year, “Jason” was arrested and charged with “intent to distribute”, a felony charge that could have ruined his young life. After a comprehensive assessment it was clear that Jason was suffering from untreated bipolar disorder in addition to chemical dependency. Jason remained in comprehensive treatment and we worked closely with his lawyer and thus were able to document his progress in treatment for the court. Jason ended up with “probation” pending his continued progress with his mental health issue and verified sobriety. Jason could have ended up with jail time but instead, he is returning to college, and focusing on his sobriety & mental health issues.

    Another example is a young mother who was facing a nasty divorce and bitter custody battle. Her ex-husband made claims about her “past drug use” and “unstable behavior” alleging that she was unsuitable to be a custodial parent. She came into treatment and was detoxed off a drug which was being used to treat her underlying anxiety disorder. She learned knowledge, values, and skills to manage anxiety and demonstrated in family court that she was drug free and capable of caring for her children appropriately. Without our advocacy it is likely that she would have had only supervised visits with her young children.

Mental health problems, addiction and crime often intersect. It’s common for people to come into treatment on the heels of a crisis with the law. If this has happened to you or someone you know, we can help. While legal council will be needed, legal fees can be dramatically reduced and outcomes improved when treatment is part of the solution.

Scott Bienenfeld, M.D. and Stacey Cohen-Meissner, Ph.D.

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