The drug addiction epidemic is one of the biggest health problems our country is facing. As criminal defense lawyers, we have a front row view of how this epidemic is affecting the community here in Sangamon County, Morgan County, Montgomery County, Macon County, Menard County and all of the surrounding area. People–our neighbors, friends, colleagues, siblings, cousins, parents, children–are dying or surrendering large portions of their lives to drug addiction every day. And while politicians wrangle and posture about whether a drug addiction is an actual illness that should be covered by health insurance (it is and should be), and how much marijuana someone has to have on their person before it becomes a felony (why should it ever be?), old, punitive laws remain on the books, and insufficient funds are directed to treatment facilities and programs for those affected by this epidemic. For our clients, this typically means that they have committed some illegal act in furtherance of their addiction or because they are actually under the influence at the time of the crime, and are looking at the very real possibility of an extended stay in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Shipping people with a drug or alcohol addiction to the Department of Corrections, in addition to being costly, does not solve the problem. Labeling someone with a drug or alcohol addiction as a “felon” and making it that much harder to find employment and move forward with their lives upon their release does not help cure their illness, and in fact can make it worse.
Frequently, part of a criminal defense attorney’s job is to get everyone on board with what the best treatment alternatives are for the client. And by everyone, we mean everyone: the State’s Attorney, the judge, the parents, the spouse, the children, and (most importantly) the client himself. If the client is in Sangamon County, this can mean a sentence to Drug Court. It can mean a sentence to TASC Probation, First Offender Probation, or Second Chance Probation. It can mean an agreement that the client will engage in intensive drug counseling as part of another disposition.
One of the most important things for our clients with drug and alcohol addictions is that everyone in the client’s support system be on the same page. This means that family members and friends are reinforcing the skills the client is learning in their drug/alcohol counseling. If the client can go home to someone who will let them backslide and help them make excuses, then the counseling can be an exercise in futility and the client will find herself in trouble with the law again sooner rather than later. For this reason, we always encourage the families of our clients who have substance abuse issues to find counseling and support for themselves. This can be with individual therapy, family therapy, Al-Anon, or any other community support group that reminds the family they are not the only ones experiencing this trauma, and that with treatment and support, their loved ones can achieve sustained remission (abstinence from drugs/alcohol) and lead rewarding, productive lives.
It is sad, often heartbreaking, to watch a client with so much life, so much potential, surrender himself to drug/alcohol addiction. There is help available and the path is not easy, but it can be traversed if the client and the client’s support system is willing to persevere.
If you or someone you love is struggling with drug/alcohol addiction – do not wait – today is the day to take your first step and find treatment for the disease.
If you or someone you love has already found the bottom and committed a crime (or been accused of committing a crime) in furtherance of or on account of the disease, call our office. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers are here. We will listen. We will help you find a solution.