Archive for the ‘Addiction Treatment and NOT Jail’ Category

Drug Charges! Drug Charges! Drug Charges! For Criminal Defense Cases, Where Are the Treament Centers?

Friday, November 4th, 2011

A man charged with a nonviolent criminal felony charge sits in jail in Kane County. He knows his drug history situation, but it’s hard for him to admit it to others. He’s a young black man, poor with a poor education, and wonders whether anyone will believe him about his drug addiction or, even worse, whether anyone will care about a poor, young black man facing drug charges. He weaves and he bobs and comes up with every other excuse until I ask him, What’s really going on here? He cries and wants to run out of the client meeting room at the jail because he’s crying. He stops and says he has nothing. Nothing until he stops using drugs – he wants to know if I’ll listen, and if I will help him.

I am his criminal defense lawyer, hired to represent him on his nonviolent felony criminal charges. It is my job to help him, I admit that, but I hope people accept I have a passion beyond the legal fees. Sometimes with lawyer jokes abounding, it’s hard for people to believe. But you know what? – it wasn’t just me giving a damn that this man got his chance for the first time in his life – it was the prosecutor in Kane County too. The Kane County prosecutor offered prison at first, but then agreed to the TASC program (Treatment Alternative for Safe Communities) after looking at the man’s history, the police report, and his plea for help. The TASC evaluator agreed. Moreover, the Judge agreed, and gave my client not just lip service, but a talk that showed how much the court wanted him to make it.

    After delivering the paperwork to TASC and the probation department that day, I contacted TASC to learn my client was 4th on the treatment center waiting list. Great news for my client, and I went to the jail to tell him so.

     But two months later – he’s still in jail at about seventy taxpayer dollars a day! No calls, no mention there’s a problem. What’s wrong with TASC?

     Here’s what’s wrong – severe cutbacks in treatment centers as well as in TASC personnel. Experienced, hard-working, caring people losing their jobs; treatment centers losing bed spaces or closing down altogether. To those who say, Good, put all those criminals in jail, I point out that it costs $24,000 to $27,000 a year to house someone in prison, where treatment programs are extremely limited and where the person is released the same way he or she went in, without at least an opportunity to reach recovery. If people think that jail ought to “cure” addiction, then they do not know a thing about addiction. Besides, the percentage of people this country has in prison for non-violent offenses ought to embarrass everyone.

     I am all for people making money (hey, I’m a lawyer, after all, right?) but whether it’s treatment for the addicted, the mentally ill, the aged, the wounded Veteran, the child in need, well, I just don’t understand what we’re doing these days. Perhaps out-of-sight, out-of-mind, provides comfort to some. But this country’s roots began with the motto – E Pluribus Unum,  From Many, One, about a hundred and fifty years before In God We Trust made its appearance. Has that been forgotten?

     Like wounds, physical ailments, mental health difficulties, unemployment, and, of course, the aging process itself, addiction can happen to any of us or the loved ones around us. These days we all seem to be waiting for the money that’s there in the private industry to be invested in our own country, while political gamesmanship and name-calling continues unabated, with some media people getting wealthy off just that. In the meantime, people suffer; people die. Shouldn’t we strive for better?

     After this criminal defense lawyer learned what I could, and called who needed to be called, and faxed and mailed what needed to be faxed and mailed, I sat down with my client, said my piece, apologized, and asked him to say his piece. I think he’s okay, and still has the right attitude to receive treatment. I hope so. Only time will tell. I’m not writing all this to tell you how to vote or which political party you should align with. Instead, I’m just putting the facts out there about one fellow human being, his situation, and the fact that any one of us or someone we may know, may be in the same situation one day.

Drug Defense / Criminal Cases / Alcohol Case, Elgin IL Branch Court, Kane County

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Alcohol, drugs, and criminal charges. Defending a lot of drug defense cases as a criminal drug defense lawyer: not too long ago, I looked into the eyes of a man who was the opposite of everything I ever wanted to be, or what I would eer want to see with someone facing a criminal charge. It happened by a chance meeting, but felt inevitable by the time the EMTs took him away.                

     I had arrived at the Elgin, Illinois Branch Court that early afternoon, armed with my criminal defense lawyer pinstripes, criminal defense lawyer brief case, and criminal defense lawyer case law, to represent a young woman in a contested hearing on a traffic charge also dealing with a drug charge. At the entrance to the building, a man, probably around 60, asked if I would help his friend, probably around 75. I couldn’t talk much to them at the moment as my client’s hearing was set to go, but the older man’s traffic ticket and fine seemed easy enough. I said I’d help after my client’s hearing was over. Both men left so the older man could get the money needed to pay the fine from an area ATM.                

     With the hearing over successfully (motion to quash arrest and search granted), I saw the older man now had the money to pay the fine for his traffic ticket. As I sat next to him, I got a good look at his eyes. Extremely bloodshot, watery, flitting as though too embarrassed to look at me. His short, unkempt hair matted with new and dried sweat. He had shaved but had missed patches of beard, and his pale skin blotted red here and there. His speech wasn’t slurred, but his sentences were clipped, as if he felt no need to speak since the sagging state of his thin-limbed body proved everything about him. The words on his T-shirt expressed an irony: United States Veteran. Proud and Strong.                

     Turns out the friend, the man I thought was 60 to 65 was actually a robust 77-year-old man, energetic, neatly dressed, polite with clear eyes. “How old is he?” I asked him, about the man I had thought was at least 75. The friend sighed in a way that told me I wouldn’t believe him. The man with the ticket, who I thought was an unhealthy 75, was only 54, a year older than me.

     I asked the 54-year-old to smile. He did.

     No teeth.                

     The 54-year-old man paid the fine on his ticket and walked with me and his friend to a hall beside the courtroom. His arms shook and we all sat down on the chairs there.  I asked him, “How long have you been an alcoholic?”                

      There was no alcoholic odor about him, but it’s common for alcoholics to do their best not to drink the day before a court date. His shakes no doubt were the DTs. The friend filled me in.                

     He had been military for 9 years, with an honorable discharge. Always a drinker for the 12 years these two have been next-door neighbors. An avid fisherman who had worked as a highly skilled machinist. The drinking, and extreme smoking too, continued and intensified. The list of this man’s losses due to alcohol was nearly complete: fired from his career, divorced, the ensuing girlfriend leaving him, a son who wouldn’t talk to him, a drunk driving arrest where he failed to even remember the conditions of his court-ordered supervision, let alone follow them, which led to revocation of his driving privileges. Then the unlawful driving tickets began to mount and his house fell into disarray. Foreclosure was becoming inevitable since he ignored his mail and had no idea what bills were overdue. All he had left was his life. Even that was ebbing away fast at age 54. And what for?                

     The cheap beer and hard liquor in his fridge.                

     Somehow this man had been caught driving under the influence only once in his life. Why his ticket and the fine he had to pay were so mild the day I met him remains unexplained. Still, with the state of his mounting legal troubles, there was only one thing that was going to save what was left of his life, as well as his freedom and surely the safety of people out on the road should this man again get behind the wheel of a car. He needed long-term inpatient treatment with aftercare. Now. That’s when the friend laughed. 

     It turned out that the friend had taken his neighbor to an area Veterans hospital as well as an alcohol evaluator. He was sent away both times. The professional in each instance had deemed him “un-evaluatable.”                

     In my 26-year legal career, I have never before heard of a person deemed to be “un-evaluatable.” I asked this human being, “After all that’s happened, all that we’ve talked about, to keep you out of jail, to keep you out of prison, to get you healthier and stop endangering people around you – what are you going to do with those cans of beer and liquor bottles in the fridge?”                

     Without waiting a beat, the man said, “Drink ‘‘em. I ain’t going anywhere.”                

     I asked the friend why he keeps trying to help when it seems that his neighbor doesn’t want to start. Before he could answer, the neighbor made a sickening gasp. He stiffened, jaw clenched, eyes rolled back, arms outstretched as if reaching for a ghost, and his mouth frothed. I placed my hands on his shoulders to keep him from falling out of his chair during his seizure, and shouted for court security. The friend helped me lower him to the floor. The friend’s eyes teared up, but he did not speak the words of an enabler. Instead he said, “I warned you your drinking would lead to this, you goddamn son of a bitch.”                

     Court security attended to this man in an impressive, professional manner. Likewise with the EMTs. Fifteen minutes later, the man was on his way to a hospital as his friend and I watched the EMT vehicle and fire truck siren away.                

     We sat quietly on a bench for a moment and began to talk about our lives, as strangers sometimes do after sharing a shocking event. This friend, too, had been in the military. He was good with his hands and had been involved in building a lot of the infrastructure from Elgin to Aurora, Illinois. He loved his yard work. He loved the fact that he was well at age 77, enjoying an active life with his wife of 51 years. When it came to his neighbor, the friend said he enjoyed fishing with him, he was good company, until alcohol was all that remained of his life.                

     “I never told you why I keep trying to help that poor son-of-a-bitch,” he said, patting my back. “It has to do with my faith. I don’t like to say the words, but I try my best to do the deeds. Besides, like I said, he used to be good company on the fishing boat.”                

     I gave the friend my business card. I told him if his neighbor does go into long-term treatment, to let me know and I’ll represent him. The judges will need to hear he’s in treatment and that he’s serious about it, or else he will be in jail for a long time for the sake of everybody’s safety. The friend added the obvious: “Or dead.”                

     It had been at least twenty minutes since the EMTs had taken the neighbor away. The friend and I parted for our cars and our own lives filled with loved ones and active things to do. I’m sure George knew as well as I did that it was not likely we would talk with each other again.

Drug Charges / First Time Criminal Charge Offenders, non-violent charges- What to do? Often, sadly, it depends on the County.

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

As a criminal defense attorney and drug defense lawyer, I was handling a client’s criminal charge – a cannabis case, at a sentencing hearing out in Kendall County (Oswego) a short time ago when an experienced felony prosecutor hinted that perhaps the criminal defense lawyer (which would be me) was ineffective for not making an application on the criminal charges  to the TASC program. That accusation made this criminal defense attorney nearly fall out of my legal briefs, especially since it was being made in Kendall County.

     In Kendall county, there is no Drug Court program for drug addicts and their drug charges or drug addiction related criminal charges, despite the push for such drug treatment courts state and nation wide, and there is no Second Chance program for first-time offenders charged with criminal cases in Kendall County, also despite the push for one.

     Regarding the criminal drug charge discussed at the start here, when it came time to respond to the State’s argument before the Judge on behalf of my client, I pointed out that had my client’s drug charge, marijuana possession, been in Kane County, DeKalb County, DuPage County, Cook county, and all those counties near and around Kendall county, my client would have been offered and would have taken a Drug Court program. But instead he had the misfortune of tripping over Kendall County’s borders with his cannabis charge, where no such program exists despite proven effectiveness. Further, that if the TASC program (a drug counseling program pre-dating drug courts) had been so successful on its own, then why was there a need for the State Legislature of Illinois to create Drug Courts? Even worse, the State here wouldn’t offer TASC in the first place. Rather I had on my own directed my client some time before, and the client had wisely accepted the need, to attend Aurora Il’s Breaking Free program, and I had asked the client to call me every week on his progress. Fortunately, the client followed through and was able to present a good report from Aurora’s Breaking Free program. As a result, regarding the drug charges, again, cannabis, the Judge, who was quite familiar with Kane County’s successful drug court, sentenced my client to probation instead of the 3 years the Kendall county prosecutor had asked for – at about $24,000 tax payer dollars a year – for cannabis possession!

        Why Kendall county does not have a Drug Court is unfathomable, just by the example given above. At present, the Kane County Drug Court does a fantastic job. Attorneys, both private and public defenders, are made welcome at their staff meetings. The members of the staff listen, allow the attorneys to present our concerns and options. Kane County in particular has come up with creative options. Recently, two of my clients, who were failing, were given creative choices, and both are doing quite well now, although of course only time will tell. Kane County’s Drug Court staff, and its Judge, go out of their way to advocate for the result we all want – recovery from addiction. The Kane County Drug Court Judge and staff continue to hone their approach by furthering their knowledge through effective seminars and hands-on approaches and new techniques. Although I have less experience with DeKalb’s and DuPage Counties’ Drug Courts, I know enough to see the care involved. I have success stories in all three counties, and, sadly, some failures, but the effort is truly there. Kendall County? – well, their policy requires me to be creative as a criminal defense lawyer, and thankfully the judges understand treatment as being preferred over incarceration. The fact that Drug Court programs provide close supervision, require the probationer to report often for drug tests and updates, and be active in their own recovery at all times – you’d think Drug Courts would be right up Kendall County’s generally tough attitude toward addicted criminal defendants.

     A similar situation arises when dealing with first time offenders of non-violent crimes. Kane County had the highly effective Pre-Trial Diversion Program when I became an assistant public defender there in 1987, and later developed under expert hands into the Second Chance Program. DeKalb County has followed suit in its own way, and now DuPage County is looking into it in all earnest. Kendall County – not even on the radar screen despite requests to check out Kane County’s high success rate. And why is that? Let’s face it – we all can make a serious mistake, even a criminal mistake, once in our lives. And if it is a non-violent event by a first-timer, is it really in anyone’s best interest to weigh that type of person down with a criminal conviction for the rest of his or her life?

     Under the Second Chance concept, victims get restitution nearly right away in most cases. The accused, to be accepted into the program, must undergo scrutiny by members of society, and truly face remorse and make his or her apologies. Costs to the court system and the overload of cases and charges are lowered even as the accused gives to society by performing 100 to 200 community services hours at approved and monitored locations. If successful, after one to two years in the program, the accused sees his or her charge dismissed and becomes eligible for expungement of criminal charges right away. If the person messes up again – there is no second bite at the Second Chance program.

     So where is the down-side, Kendall County, whether it’s the victim, the accused, or society? Well, there isn’t one. The Second Chance program over the years has saved many of my clients’ college careers, and so many have gone on to do wonderful things with their lives, including heading charitable organizations and bringing relief to the impoverished in other countries as well as in the US. I would ask the leadership of Kendall County’s State’s Attorney’s Office – even outside the realm of criminal behavior, haven’t we all done something that has deeply disappointed a friend, colleague, or loved one in which we received a second chance to prove we were sorry?

     To first-time, non-violent offenders, and to the drug addict, as well as to their loved ones, you can see that where a crime happens is often more important than anything else in terms of your options. I hope that the example of the Kane County Drug Court, and its Second Chance program, and the Drug Courts in DuPage, DeKalb, Cook, and other counties, as well as their second chance programs, persuade Kendall County leadership to change their collective mind on this. After all – many of us have children who may, no matter how hard we try as parents to do right by our kids, while growing up through their teen years and early 20s, may make a mistake of a criminal nature, or be in need of fighting off an addiction.  

     Whose policies would you want your own children subjected to? Just a thought, Kendall County. The right answer is obvious.

Criminal Defense Lawyer and Drug Charges: Keeping the Mind focused on Hearts of Hope

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Dear Readers: Regarding drug charges and addiction, a link to Hearts of Hope is provided at the end of this blog entry.

     When the new criminal charge comes into my office, and the client has no interest in fighting a criminal drug charge, for instance, as a drug defense lawyer I tell the new criminal defense  client and his or her family that I do not want the client’s repeat business. Although this hardly seems effective as a business model, when it comes to defending drug cases and drug charges, it absolutely is the only model that makes sense. As a criminal defense lawyer, I always look over every page in the criminal case to look for anything and everything that will help my client charged in a criminal case. Motions to quash regarding an illegal search, errors in charging the criminal case, motions to dismiss the criminal charge – the client’s right to know all information and opportunities in his or her criminal case does not change simply because the client confides his or her drug or alcohol addiction to me. In fact, as a criminal defense lawyer, I know that I can often take advantage of such errors in criminal cases to my clients advantage, allowing them the freedon and opportunity to get drug treatment as opposed to incarceration without any hope for drug addiction treatment.

     Look, if a former drug client wants to hire me again, of course I’ll do it, and charge the legal fee. But what does this mean? It means that the client, despite the prior case or cases, has continued on in the world of drugs. Of course I presume each client innocent, as I should. But even if a person is innocent in fact, a new arrest may mean that the person has been traveling in circles that allows a false accusation to be charged. And if the person is in fact not innocent, then the addiction has continued. Whether the first case resulted in an outright not guilty, a motion to quash being granted, or some other form of dismissal, or if the person negotiated probation as a result –  with treatment – well, despite the successful surgery, the drug-addicted client has ripped the stitches wide open again because the addiction continues.

     In trying to improve my understanding of what people go through combating addiction, I had the pleasure of recently attending a Hearts of Hope meeting in Geneva, IL, in Kane County, a couple miles east of the Kane County Judicial Center. I cannot reveal names or even general details, because of promised confidentiality, but I can say that Hearts of Hope is one amazing organization, one that every criminal defense attorney in Aurora, Elgin, Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, all of Kane County or from anywhere for that matter, should attend. Although open to recovering addicts, the focus seems to be on the parents of addicts. I saw the pain and frustration upon the faces there, and the strain and love in their voices. After all, these are the mothers and fathers who raised babies into toddlers, toddlers into teens.  And for each loving parent, it is so harshly devastating to witness that beautiful child succumb to addiction along with addiction’s impact on the addict’s life and health, and that of the loved ones around them.

     The session showed a helping hand of hope, a real heart of hope, a name this group well deserves. Each parent not only seeks comfort among those who understand because they too have been living the pain of addiction upon a child, but also each parent searches for answers in a realm where there just doesn’t seem to be a concrete answer. There are also parents there whose children have maintained recovery for a long time, providing an even bigger heart of hope. As a criminal defense attorney, I wanted to see, hear, and learn from such parents. Hearts of Hope provides a wealth of information and honest facts about real addiction histories. 

     It is clear that the age-old adage of the addict not only recognizing he or she is an addict, but also wanting help, remains true. Forcing someone without these basic steps just won’t work. But even with addicts receiving inpatient treatment for 3, 6, even more than 12 months, relapse happens, and sometimes quickly after release from inpatient treatment.  When I pressed for an answer why, what did the addicted person say was the reason to relapse, so hard and so soon? –  I found that there was no definitive answer to be given.

     In my March 18, 2011, post, I wrote about the need for the drug addict to be genuinely scared before treatment will stand a chance to work. Indeed even though an addict has seen death of friends due to illegal drugs, or loss of child custody, loss of employment, college, career, a place to live, the trust of family, or may have suffered a near-death overdose themselves – far too often, none of what would keep the rest of us straight seems to be enough in the face of addiction, especially heroin. It’s as though, when relapse happens, it’s because the addict’s mind at the point of relapse has emptied of every other thought, and the logical reasons not to relapse are at least muted. The person simply wants the drug. Maybe there’s a plan, doomed form the start, to sneak a hit one more time, or a plot to work around drug testing. But such plots and plans always fail at some point. Always.

     I still could be wrong, but my gathering with Hearts of Hope strengthened my belief that the addict seeking recovery has to have made up his or her mind to be scared of the addiction every single day. To make up the decision to be scared of the drug every single moment of the day. In this way, a decision is made, and made every day, before temptation arises and before the inner voice to use begins to talk. Is this the answer, or even part of the answer? I wish I knew for sure. I wish that each and every parent could have his or her son or daughter back the way they were before addiction took over the child’s life. I am convinced, however, that Hearts of Hope is invaluable for parents seeking personal relief from their own pain, for persons seeking information, as the people there provide a wealth of valuable information. And it’s also a valuable group for the recovered addict and the parents of the recovered addict to attend, to provide their own Hearts of Hope and strengthen their own continuing recovery.

     In our criminal courts, no lawyer or judge should deny a defendant his or her statutory or constitutional rights, nor provide each person anything short of  full information and options on any given case. To do otherwise not only would violate the principles lawyers and judges are sworn by oath to uphold upon licensing, but also would serve to cause an addict, typically suspicious of authority to begin with, to deeply mistrust or turn away from a court system if that system’s honesty is suspect. However, that certainly does not mean treatment is inconsistent with criminal defense. Even if litigation is the addicted client’s choice, with an eye toward victory for that case, the criminal defense attorney should provide the whole truth, that victory will be for that case only, and not for the rest of the addict’s life, unless recovery from addiction is fought for and won.

     I hope each of you who have honored me by reading this blog entry will also link (provided below) to the Hearts of Hope web site, and then pass it on to your friends and family. Sadly, I think we all know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who is hurting because of addiction. Hearts of Hope – it’s not the only organization out there, but it is special and powerful, and will in turn link you to other, helpful organizations. The cost?

    Hearts of Hope is both free and priceless. Please click on –  http://www.heartsofhope.net/

Regarding drug charge cases, are Illinois Legislators Thinking Things Through?

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Dear Readers:   At the end of this post is an article from the front page of the Daily Herald (4/8/2011) covering Rep. Keith Farnham’s (Elgin) and State Sen. Michael Noland’s proposed legislation to fine a person convicted of a criminal drug offense that would go to “cover the police’s [sic] cost to bust them.” After you read my blog here I would ask you to consider contacting State Representative Farnham at krfarnham@gmail.com / 847-841-7130 and State Senator Michael Noland at 847-214-8864 – these are approved contacts per their web pages. At all times, please be polite and professional in your messages.

     Rep. Farnham was quoted in the Daily Herald article as claiming that such a fine would help better keep our neighborhoods safe and further discourage drug sales. The most disturbing thing about this legislation is that it was apparently approved by House Legislators without a single “no” vote.

      My claim here is that this proposed legislation shows a complete lack of understanding about why sellers sell, the addiction of users, and especially of all the significant existing money fines already in place. Further, it is demonstrative of a system in which our legislators will vote for any bill that dresses itself up as “anti-crime” or about “safe neighborhoods” without actually thinking things through.

     As to deterrent impact, anyone with an ounce of experience or willingness to learn about drug addiction will know that the last thing a drug addict will think about when seeking out drugs is deciding not to use drugs because, if arrested and convicted, he or she will have yet another fine to pay. Drug addicts, and anyone thinking about committing a crime, know jail or prison is a possibility if caught. Yet another fine to pay is going to be a deterrent beyond the threat of prison? 

     If anything, fines taken from drug addicts and especially sellers, in criminal cases, ought to go to drug TREATMENT programs, not law enforcement which, by the way, already benefits from seizing drug-seller money, cars, homes, and other property. The sums and value collected from such seizures are more often quite significant. 

     As a citizen and parent, I’m all for law enforcement. I respect who police are, what they represent, and the risks they may face during their work days. But who doesn’t already know that the police get paid whether they are working a tough murder case or are at their desks on a slow day? There really is no reimbursement that officers aren’t getting paid via salary already. If anything it sure would be interesting to see how such money, if any is collected, would be distributed.

     And what about whether money would be collected from such a fine? Here are the existing facts that one would hope Farnham, Noland, and all the other legislators in Springfield should know about before deciding not to challenge the proposed legislation: 

         * Even a misdemeanant marijuana possessor already faces a $750 fine for drug paraphernalia, plus fines and costs on the marijuana possession itself.

         * When you get to controlled substances, even the lowest Class 4 felony possession amounts, there are already these fines in place: $500 drug assessment (which, ironically considering Farnham and Noland’s legislation, already goes to the State supposedly for law enforcement); reimbursement fines to the crime lab for the cost of processing the drug test; $212 fine for the DNA sample for felons who have pleaded or were found guilty; probation fees of up to $50 per month for at least 2 years ($1,200 minimum); separate additional fines and costs that range anywhere from $300 to $750 dollars. Ten percent of bond posted, if posted, automatically goes to the clerk, even if a person is found not guilty. There are other costs that include drug trauma costs, spinal lab costs, and so on and so on. This is in addition to the cost people on probation pay for mandated drug evaluations ($100 to $200), counseling ($300 to $900 outpatient; $13,000 per month for inpatient private pay), and the cost of drug testing ($60 each time for each positive test), as well as as the requirement of public service hours.

       * Here’s what additionally happens to money assessed against people convicted of selling illegal drugs. The drug assessment fee goes up, to $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the amount of drugs involved; plus a significant fine that is based on the weight of the drugs ( to the benefit of law enforcement already). Then there are existing forfeitures of cars and homes and any cashed seized (again to the benefit of law enforcement). And what about prison? Unless the drug amount sold is under 5 grams and the convicted seller has no prior, serious felonies in the past ten years, such a person cannot get probation and is heading to prison at a cost of about $27,000 per year to the tax payers of Illinois. So – how are these fines ever going to be paid?

     Which leads to my next point:

     It costs tax payer money to pursue people who have violated their terms of probation. Let’s say a drug user is placed on probation, with all these fines and costs. And let’s say the person does well on probation, the drug drops all are clean, and the end of probation nears. But he has been unable to pay fines and costs. The prosecution will then file a petition to revoke so the court has jurisdiction even after the probation end date passes. It doesn’t matter how poor or how recovered a drug addict on probation may be, the state prosecutes the failure to pay for each and every case. Most of these cases are handled by the county public defenders office, another use of a tax payer resource along with the state’s attorney’s office. The cases stay in court and get continued and continued as the probationer tries to pay all of his or her assessed fees. This of course causes more cases to remain on the already packed court dockets. Finally, the matter is set for hearing in which the State not only has to show nonpayment, but also that the person had the ability to pay and chose not to. Most often the person could not financially make complete payment, there is a no-wilfull-failure-to-pay finding, and the matter can be continued up to two years for payment only, or be ordered referred to collections which involves more tax payer money via lawyers and court rooms, or a judgment is entered against the person, impacting credit rating, and the whole thing was a journey that accomplished very little or nothing at a cost of resources used far exceeding the amount of the fine in the first place.

     As to convicted drug sellers, most often going to prison, after property seizure and the already assessed fines and costs, the notion of the person paying back such costs and the cost of pursuing nonpayment by someone in prison for 3 actual years or more is ludicrous, as well as is the notion of deterrence for this fine.

     The news on the proposed legislation does not say what the new fine amount would be.  But the obvious question as to deterrence is: If a person convicted of a drug possession charge is already assessed to pay $4,000 to $5,000 in total costs, and a person convicted of selling drugs is already assessed $5,000 to $10,000 or more, plus forfeiture of money, car, or home seized, how in the world is yet an additional fine along with the many others on the books going to provide any shred of deterrence, even if a drug addict or drug seller would think of such a thing as a deterrent? And how does it deter the cost of pursuing the cost of prosecution of nonpayment?

     Isn’t the answer obvious?

     Over the last 15 years in dealing with drug addicts, there has been a thankful move towards drug rehabilitation through TASC legislation and the newer drug courts. In these challenging times with public finances at a low ebb, treatment centers are under threat of closing, pushing more people toward overburdened jail and prison systems. Farnham and Noland’s proposed legislation, born of, at best, not thinking things through, is contrary to the latest trends that have shown rehabilitation to work, not perfectly of course, but significantly. The thought that users or sellers would be deterred by an additional fine under the current realities of court punishment and existing fines is fantasy. The notion of funneling more money to law enforcement (in addition to the money and other property they seize through forfeiture as well as drug assessments discussed above) rather than to treatment centers is baffling. And the thought that there would be any real, notable collection of money from drug users trying to recover and from sellers locked in prison, especially in light of the cost in collecting such fees, is, again, squarely in the realm of fantasy.

     If our legislators continue to fall all over themselves to approve Farnham and Noland’s legislation, it is going to result in yet another box to check on court orders that already have at least 5 to 10 boxes to check regarding fines, each printed in eye-straining font to make room because there are already so many fines and costs on the forms.

     Another burden on the prosecutors, public defenders, and courts (e.g.  – tax payers) to chase fines down.

     Another proclamation of deterrence and being tough on crime to puff a chest out during campaign season.

     The one hope I see is this: so many of the readers’ blogs in response to the Daily Herald article are against Farnham and Noland’s legislation – in fact all of the 37 that were posted when I read them were against the legislation. While I’m not ordinarily a big fan of newspaper article response blogs, because they often turn angry and attacking, it is interesting to note that in this case the bloggers show more insight on this topic when it comes to Farnham and Noland’s claims.

     I cannot help but ask why Farnham and Noland are singling out drug cases with their legislation and not theft, forgery, sexual assault, arson, domestic violence, weapons offenses, or murder, along with any other crime. Certainly all of these examples of crime use police time, equipment and resources, often more so than drug cases. Is there something about an addict possessing drugs that needs this additional fine as a deterrent more so than a case of sexual assault?  More than anything, this question, I believe, goes to the not-thinking-things-through problem with Farnham and Noland’s legislation, and all the legislators who let this bill pass without a single no vote.

    If there is any criminal case, especially a felony or even a first-time DUI misdemeanor case, that isn’t already packed with court-ordered fines and costs, I’d really like to know because it simply does not exist.  As a criminal defense attorney in Kane, DeKalb, DuPage, and Kendall Counties, often in Aurora and Elgin, where this legislation appears to be coming out of, I perhaps should be happy with such new legislation because I’d have more petitions to revoke to represent people on. But I’m not happy about it.  I’m not for things that obviously do not even begin to accomplish what they say they will.  

    And now – here’s the article for you to read for yourself, to decide for yourself. Whether you’re for or against the legislation, please contact Farnham and Noland, and all the other representatives who let this legislation pass the House without challenge.  I hope people out there contact Farnham and Noland in droves and, at a minimum, educate them. Make them see one of the typical court orders in a drug possession case and a drug selling case. Make them see the need for additional  funding for treatment.

SPRINGFIELD — State lawmakers are advancing a new proposal that could force people convicted on marijuana and meth charges to pay fines to cover the police’s cost to bust them. Sponsored by Rep. Keith Farnham, an Elgin Democrat, the plan was approved by the Illinois House this week. The idea came from Elgin police officer Chris Jensen and Lt. Jeff Adam, who has suggested taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for the costs of others’ illegal activities. “These fines will be another tool to discourage the sale of drugs and will help keep our streets and communities safe,” Farnham said. Another Farnham plan, to ask for federal money for a statewide anti-gang program, also was approved by the House. Both were approved without a single “no” vote on the House floor. Both move to the Senate now, for further debate. Sen. Mike Noland, an Elgin Democrat, will sponsor the reimbursement proposal in the Senate.
Read more: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110407/news/704079919/#ixzz1Iwi7Yi39