Archive for the ‘Addiction Treatment’ Category

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.

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/

“Addiction Treatment” – What does that mean for the Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Whether charged with a criminal case in Kane, DuPage, Kendall, DeKalb or any criminal court in any county, when a judge orders someone into drug addiction treatment,  what does “treatment” mean? This is an important consideration for a criminal defense lawyer.

     Criminal defense lawyers should know there are no magic wands to stop drug use, or magic words for that matter. Over the years defending the accused on criminal charges related to drug additiction, I have heard of, and seen in a few clients, a situation in which some dramatic moment occurs in his or her life, and the cycle of drug use suddenly ends. But this is extremely rare. More commonly addicts use and continue to use even in the face of jail or prison time, loss of contact with loved ones including newborn children, loss of work, health, trust, respect and self-respect and, admittedly, in the face of mounting legal fees.

     I’ve experienced a client, after jail, inpatient treatment, an intervention specialist, and incredible family members, use and commit new serious felonies a day after re-entry into a program, losing a significant career, freedom, the opportunity to keep all felonies off his record, and face long-term prison away from a young child. Believe me, after experiencing that one last summer, I was ready to throw my hands in the air and give up on the notion of “treatment.”

     But I can’t. I’ve seen it work, and work often. Besides, the consequences of not trying are clear and deadly.

     As a defense attorney, I always have and will continue to give significant discounts in fees if the voluntary option chosen is treatment. It’s an encouragement, I believe, to help reluctant addicts come up with the courage to face treatment for addiction without force, without sacrificing other choices such as trials and motions that are each person’s constitutional right. This becomes burdensome, but necessary work when a client relapses a second, third, or even more times, and I keep stepping up with the client for minimal or no additional fee. I have to – I know them and their family dynamics too well to stop trying.

     I have asked such people, who have relapsed again, what actually goes on in treatment sessions. What I have learned consists of conversations between therapist and patient that are what you may expect. Discussions intended to scare (usually health, family / work consequences, prison and death). Personal discussions (how did this start, and why). Community discussions (support groups / sponsors). Educational discussions (the truth of addiction, the voice that never goes away completely, but can be made to fade and weaken). Approaches (usually day-at-a-time approaches / 12-step programs / Narcotics Anonymous) so that the patient-addict is not overwhelmed by the major goal to simply “just say no.”

    In an older post I talked about  the incredible success of several of my clients in dealing with addiction. Soon after, sadly, more than half of these persons relapsed, all of them badly. Today, one is lost entirely to long-term prison. A hard, very hard, and sad case. But the others? They’re still in there fighting back. In one case in particular, in Kane County, with incredible help from the Kane Count Rehabilitation Drug Court Team, I got one of my relapsed clients back into inpatient treatment just before the Illinois budget cuts on such treatment occurred (which is another topic for discussion). I simply had to ask each of these clients why they relapsed, yet again, in a court system with prison and other personal consequences hanging over each person’s head.

     What I gathered from each was not so much a failure of the treatment itself, but the fact that they weren’t really listening to the treatment provided. They went into the programs with their minds made up that they would succeed, that the addiction was as good as licked, even before the program started. When talking to those people who made it to the extent of long-term sobriety in which they successfully completed treatment and their probation without re-offending or relapse, I found the common theme from each person as to treatment was as follows: they didn’t know whether they would make it; they didn’t draw any conclusions as to their own success; they feared failure; they had no answers and weren’t even sure of the questions. In conclusion, they were scared.

     It’s interesting that those with fear, at least among the clients I talked to, appeared to have more success reaching sobriety than those who expressed confidence about their success. At least in the world in which I have worked, it wasn’t a lack of motivation on anybody’s part. What seems to have made the difference is the patient’s honest desire to listen to the treatment providers. Those who were scared were more inclined to listen and, more importantly, more likely to follow the treatment provider’s advice. As an example, when the drug addict’s inevitable internal voice to use drugs, to relapse, comes, the scared persons talked about a willingness to immediately call his or her sponsor right away, to work through this building desire to use drugs through conversation, or to actually meet with the sponsor until the desire to use passed. But the confident patients tended to have the go-it-alone, I-can-do-this-without-anybody’s-help approach, thus rejecting treatment’s guidance and coming up with his or her own game plan, usually as to why this just-one-more-time use of the drug can be rationalized; then, since it cannot be rationalized, the use goes full-blown again.

     In a realm such as drug addiction, where a definitive conclusion is dangerous to make, I propose that the question of treatment and what that word means for drug addicts should also focus on the drug addicts themselves. Are they ready for treatment? – is a key question. Moreover – are they willing to listen? And, perhaps most important, are they scared enough to give up all preconceived notions of success so instead they may better absorb what is taught.

     I keep my hopes up for my clients even after relapse. As distasteful as it is, relapse happens, and often does so more than once before recovery is truly obtained. As a criminal defense attorney, I am grateful for this understanding within today’s court system and the drug court system in particular.  

     I’m looking forward to attending a particular drug court graduation ceremony. There’s someone I’m hoping will be there among the other people who have reached meaningful sobriety.

     I have some confidence that this client will make it.

     After all, for the first time in his life, he is scared that he won’t.

Aurora Criminal Defense Attorney / Criminal Charges: 2009

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

In defending drug chrages and drug cases in particular in 2009, I’ve noticed something uplifting. It seems I have had the benefit of witnessing more than a few of my clients achieve sobriety this year, maintaining it, keeping drug addiction urges at bay. And, off course, avoiding any new criminal charges.My role as the criminal defense attorney is to give my all to provide the opportunity, through effective negotiations, trials, motions to quash, and contested sentencing hearings, so that my clients who come to me for a drug treatment opportunity in fact get that opportunity. But the bottom line is that each person has to take advantage of the resource. The criminally charged clients are the fighters and the heros, to themselves and their family you long for their loved one’s sobriety.

I wish each of you the best, and continued success. Work to avoid the relapse but if you do relapse, don’t run away from what you’ve learned. It has been a privilege to represent each of you, and to be a witness to your fight, and your success.

Criminal Drug Defense Lawyers and the DeKalb County Drug Court

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Whenever I post a blog on a criminal case or a criminal defense lawyer matter, I always keep the full names of living subjects completely out. This is such a blog, but certainly people know that when I mention Drug Court in DeKalb County, a bunch of people know which Judge I’m talking about. I had the pleasure of spending close to an hour talking about Drug Court with the DeKalb County Drug Court Judge. I’ve learned that this is a well-run program, now up to approximately 32 participants (at the time of our early October talk), closely monitored, and giving addicts the opportunity to make a real change rather than count the days in a prison at 25,000 tax payer dollars a year, while living among more harden criminals than themselves.

I’ve met plenty of people who are jaded by the notion of drug court, that it doesn’t work, or it’s a nice idea but good luck. Anyone who has read my blog on Anthony Robinson knows how I feel about this. The fact is, recycling people into prisons guarantees the never-ending cycle of addiction, the cost to individual lives as well as the burden addiction places on society. Like the Judges in Kane and Dupage Counties’ Drug Courts, the DeKalb County Drug Court Judge shows a great understanding of the cycle, and the structures and processes that increase the chances of sobriety.

And the Judges have their feet rooted in reality, not fantasy.

The Drug Court Judge related a story of a Drug Court graduate (also name withheld) who later relapsed. While this may be thought of as a complete failure, the Judge noted that this person came back to seek help, to seek sobriety-something this person would never have done before going through the DeKalb County Drug Court program. While this relapse was a setback for the person, it was not a failure. It’s a recognition that drug use does not end with the bang of a gavel, or a written court order, or even with graduation from a Drug Court program. A recognition of relapse, the ability to know what to do, to have the trust and courage to do the right thing after a relapse, must be recognized as an incredible step forward toward long-lasting recovery. This person came back for help and guidance because of what was learned in the program fully aware and accepting of the failures on the road to success in defeating the urge to use illegal drugs or abuse prescription drugs.

Congratulations to the DeKalb County Drug Court Staff and its Judge. It’s a tough battle worth fighting for.