Working with drug and alcohol offenders for the last 20 years, I have learned a lot observing and participating in court proceedings. I’ve seen several strategies that improve chances at a better outcome. One is to follow the explicit instructions of their attorney and only their attorney. Another important aspect of court is presentation, from the clothes one wears to their posture as they sit in the courtroom; it all speaks to one’s respect for and attitude towards the court. Looking professional and respectable says one understands the gravity of what is happening. Act like you don’t care and neither will the jury.
Next, keep your mouth shut. I’ve seen things go bad in a matter of minutes when the defendant feels the need to explain themselves, to make everyone “understand”. In theory it sounds like a good idea… it isn’t. I saw this result in a 3 year sentence in the penitentiary. This individual was caught in no less than three lies and came across as a “Right-Fighter.”
This brings me to what I believe is the most important step a drug or alcohol defendant can take to promote his own defense…build some credibility. An attorney I know always says it best, “Today if we go to court you would be found guilty and sent to prison because you are guilty and you have absolutely no credibility. The good news is we have 6 – 8 months before we go to court and we can start to build your credibility today.” He then directed, not asked, them to immediately go to inpatient treatment and/or Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) depending on the severity of circumstances.
After years of working with addicts, performing interventions, sitting in courtrooms, and watching the outcomes, it has become clear that IOP before court can only help matters. Despite arguments that any form of treatment before court admits there is a substance abuse problem, I have never seen this work to one’s disadvantage unless their defense is that they were not intoxicated at all.
Taking initiative and going to some form of treatment shows a personal stake in one’s recovery. Not everyone can afford inpatient treatment but there are affordable alternatives available like Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). Just sitting back and waiting for the court to offer treatment is a route I would not suggest. It looks like one is only willing to get help if their hand is forced. Another problem – you could go to treatment in prison and, depending on bed availability, you might sit in prison 6-12 months just waiting on a 9-month program. That’s a lot of jail time.
There is no guarantee that one will avoid jail time because they made a preemptive strike by going to treatment, but again, it doesn’t hurt. Spending time in treatment versus sitting it out waiting in prison? No contest.
Lastly, how much more would it cost to go to prison for a year or two as opposed to paying for treatment? How much does it cost the family? Friends? Employers? It’s a pretty high price all the way around both emotionally and financially. Getting in front of it, building a good history, possibly staying on the outside…well what could be worth more? Treatment before court is priceless.