The Drug Addiction Defense To Colorado Criminal Drug Crime Charges – Drug Addiction As Mental Illness
The Drug Addiction Defense To Colorado Criminal Drug Crime Charges – Drug Addiction As Mental Illness – Most cases are plea bargained in the criminal justice system. That is a fact. Persuading the DA – prosecutor and the Judge as to the mitigating and extenuating circumstances that explain why someone has been charged with a drug based felony and or misdemeanor may turn on the individual’s lifetime struggle with addictive substances.
Criminal Defense Lawyers – Should Make The Argument That Drug Addiction Is A Mental Illness
Research according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), has demonstrated that drug addiction can – and most often is – a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite the harmful consequences.
It is a “brain disease” because of the fact that certain drugs actually change the brain – its structure and its mechanisms. The long term impact of these changes can last a lifetime – leading to other harmful behaviors that are symptomatic of people who are addicted to and abuse drugs.
Arguing that drug addiction is a mental illness based on the research (and therefore making an “evidence based”argument) – means that Colorado criminal defense lawyers in terms of successful plea bargaining and or sentencing decisions made by judges who may seek to “punish the addict” – have an opportunity to support their arguments for leniency that is supported by the research.
Drug addiction is a complex brain disease characterized by compulsive and at times uncontrollable drug craving, seeking, and use, despite devastating consequences, behaviors that stem from drug-induced changes in brain structure and function.
The changes caused by drug addiction to certain areas of the brain are very similar such mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
Often persons charged with Colorado drug crimes have what is known to those in the criminal justice system as “dual diagnosis” cases that is drug addiction coupled with other types of mental illnesses.
The New Science Of Drug Addiction
In order for Colorado criminal defense lawyer to successfully defend drug crime cases – they must be thoroughly conversant with the “new science of addiction.” Obtaining effective drug and mental health evaluations is the key here. Seeking out experts who understand that addictions run hand in hand with chronic brain disease and that critical biological, behavioral, and social elements must all be viewed and addressed in drug treatment and recovery programs.
Public safety is enhanced – not by incarceration the mentally ill – but by treating them with the goal of enhancing the addicts decision making skills..this ultimately leading to reduced recidivism (repeat crimes) and therefore enhanced public safety.
Countering The Myth That Drug Addiction Is Voluntary Behavior
Of course no one is disputing that drug addiction may begin with a voluntary act. What happens over time however – and what most do not realize in our society – is that when addiction takes over the changes brain structure and brain function which are fundamental and long term.
The behavioral distortions in the conduct of addicts – that lead to the commission of crimes – is a result of these long-lasting brain changes. The compulsion to use drugs – that which is the essence of addiction – means that criminal responsibility for the commission of these crimes becomes more problematic…. to believe – as most do – that drug addiction is simply a failure of will or of strength of character, is NOT TRUE.
The power of the argument is found in the research. As time passes – a drug addict loses substantial control over what was initially voluntary behavior, and it becomes involuntary or “compulsive.” Many people who are addicts truly cannot control themselves. It is the enlightened Colorado defense lawyer who understands this fact.
The Drug Addiction Defense To Colorado Criminal Drug Crime Charges – “The Rub” – Not Running Away From Legal Responsibility
Walking away from legal accountability for criminal acts is NOT what this argument is all about. The defense of mental illness as a true legal defense – is nearly impossible defense to successfully assert in court. Having a brain disease is not a complete defense for the purposes of defending a criminal case – what it does do is to EXPLAIN why a person cannot simply stop using drugs by sheer force of will alone and why they may feel forced to commit certain crimes to obtain the drugs they believe they “need.”
Pure Punishment Approaches To Drug Crime Prosecutions Makes No Sense
In the 30 years that I have prosecuted and defended Colorado crime crimes – I have become convinced that the State’s increased use of prison sentences does not stop drug related crimes. One Colorado organization – the CCJJ – The Colorado Commission On Criminal and Juvenile Justice
” …locking up more and more people eventually leads to the incarceration of less serious offenders. When that happens, costs increase without a commensurate increase in public safety.”
Drug addiction recovery in the context of the typical probation based sentence ignores the cycles of failure and success – the cycles of recovery, relapse, and repeated treatments that can and most do – span many years before eventually resulting in a stable recovery. Overworked and frustrated probation officers take a short term approach to drug treatment programs.. That is based on limited resources and limited time for each client. The “system” is not designed for the treatment of chronic diseases that involve trying to change deeply imbedded behaviors, .
A system based on conditions of probation that expect only success after success has trouble with the concept that relapse does not mean failure.
The Long View – A Lifelong Approach To Drug Addiction And Drug Treatment
True progress in drug treatment probation in criminal cases – is always marked by stress, resumed drug use followed by multiple treatment starts. The too often – too brief probation based sentences handed out in an overly burdened criminal justice system – does not meet the “science” developing in this area and these short terms sentences do not support a long term approach to drug addiction based crime.
The Drug Addiction Defense To Colorado Criminal Drug Crime Charges
The Law Offices of H. Michael Steinberg, in Denver, Colorado, provide criminal defense clients with effective, efficient, intelligent and strong legal advocacy. We can educate you and help you navigate the stressful and complex legal process related to your criminal defense issue.
H. Michael Steinberg, is a Denver, Colorado criminal defense lawyer who will provide you with a free initial case consultation to evaluate your legal issues and to answer your questions with an honest assessment of your options.
Helping Clients To Make Informed Decisions In the Defense of Colorado Criminal Cases. Colorado Defense Lawyer H. Michael Steinberg provides solid criminal defenses for clients throughout the Front Range of Colorado – including the City and County courts of Adams County, Arapahoe County, City and County of Boulder, City and County of Broomfield, City and County of Denver, Douglas County, El Paso County – Colorado Springs, Gilpin County, Jefferson County, Larimer County, and Weld County,…. and all the other cities and counties of Colorado along the I-25 Corridor… on cases involving …The Drug Addiction Defense To Colorado Criminal Drug Crime Charges.