I’ve seen a lot of drug cases and represented scores of drug defendants. The legal issues are generally the same- search and seizure, affirmative links, etc. What is always different is the defendant. Drug defendants can be broken down into three categories- addicts, users, and the innocent.
By far, addicts are the most difficult group to represent. Addicts can and do miss court dates (not to mention payments), pick up new cases, dress inappropriately (eg pajamas in court) and lack the mental stamina required for criminal litigation.
By definition addicts are short term thinkers. They see coming to court and worrying about their case as a problem with an easy solution- plead guilty and get probation.
Not so fast. Addicts make horrible probationers. State jails in Texas are a monument to the futility of putting addicts on probation and magically expecting behavior to change.
Probationers may hate their PO, hate doing community service, fall behind on payments, unable to find work, etc. Stress triggers drug use. Community supervision is stressful. Failing drug tests can often lead to a revocation hearing and/or incarceration. The road goes on forever, the party never ends.
I’m a criminal defense lawyer. I solve legal problems. Addiction is a medical issue that requires medical attention. I’ve had enough CLE on addiction (and viewed enough Intervention episodes) to know this is not an area I can personally assist clients. What I can and do recommend is that all clients with substance abuse issues seek treatment immediately.
The time between arrest and case disposition varies from county to county. In Dallas/Kaufman the average state jail dope case can take anywhere from a few months to nearly two years to finalize. I encourage all drug defendants (except the innocent non user) to use this time to address any addiction problem they may have.
Going to treatment is a win/win for drug defendants. I’m often asked if by defendants if they will “look guilty” if they seek help. My answer is always the same.
SEEKING TREATMENT WILL ONLY HELP YOUR CASE. It’s a win/win for the defendant no matter how the case ends.
If your case is going to end in a plea bargain completing treatment helps. Part of plea bargaining is selling the defendant. If my client has completed treatment that will set him/her apart and often leads to better plea offers.
Unlike legal/factual problems which your defense lawyer may or may not share with the State (depending on the case/court/prosecutor the decision to divulge legal/factual issues must be carefully weighed) information about positive change in the defendant’s life is always shared.
If your case goes to trial and you win, then completing treatment will help you avoid the rap, and the ride in the future. If your case goes to trial and you lose, then your defense lawyer can put on evidence (at the punishment hearing) that you are addressing your addiction problems head on, rather than waiting for the case to finalize. This can sway a judge/jury to grant a better sentence.