Dealing With Substance Abuse in the Courtroom
Posted by Scott Gorman - November 16, 2016

Addiction is a compulsive behavior and breaking an addiction requires significant willpower, as well as repeated actions designed to counteract the compulsions that lead to a specific behavior. Recovering alcoholics attend AA meetings, avoid bars and drinking in social situations, remove alcohol from their homes and work with support groups — all steps designed to counteract their desires to drink. In tough situations, recovering alcoholics may be tempted to drink to cope with stress. Managing and treating an addiction is all about taking one day and one instance at a time.

The key to treating addiction is a strong support system. Family members, friends, doctors and even attorneys can work together to provide the best possible support for a recovering addict. This is especially important because most addicts face criminal charges as a result of their behaviors and have to sober up quickly for court appearances and hearings without having the full benefit of lengthy treatment programs.

Representing someone who has an addiction to drugs or alcohol can be challenging for attorneys because the person’s struggle with addiction will have an influence over every aspect of the case. An attorney representing someone who has been charged with substance abuse or related drug crimes will need to be ready to handle these challenges so that the client can receive the best possible defense.

Rising to the Occasion

One challenge is understanding exactly what happened from your client’s point of view. Defendants who are addicted to cocaine, heroin and other mind-altering drugs often have trouble connecting events in their mind and cannot accurately relay what happened and when it happened. In addition to memory and recall issues, drug addicts often lie to cover their behavior or actions. They may have a different understanding of what happened or they may be outright lying to you. Either way, an attorney will likely have to do a bit more digging than a simple interview to get to the bottom of a problem.

Frequently, understanding a client’s particular struggles with addiction can be critical to negotiating a more favorable outcome. For example, prosecutors and judges may be more inclined to show leniency towards non-violent individuals who have demonstrated good faith efforts to address their issues with chemical dependency.

People who are struggling with substance abuse are also likely to miss important events—court dates, hearings, trial, probation appointments and even treatment meetings to gain control over their addictions. Although this irresponsibility can be linked to a person’s addictions, it does not necessarily excuse the behavior in front of a judge or jury. If a defendant misses key steps in his or her trial, it could lead to additional, fines and penalties.

Drug Court Programs

Any lawyer who works closely with substance abusers should be familiar with the New Jersey Drug Court program, which offers addicts a way to work on controlling their addictions while avoiding lengthy terms of incarceration for their crimes. The focus of these programs is to provide treatment to an addict rather than throw him or her in jail.

At The Gorman Law Firm, Scott Gorman represents those who have been charged with substance abuse or related drug crimes in New Jersey. For more information on drug crimes, penalties, and options for defense, contact an Essex County drug lawyer at the firm today.

Published in Categories: Criminal Defense, Drug Posession