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.