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Drug Offenders: Lawmakers Are Urged to Take a Different Approach

August 17, 2018, on Drug Crimes |

In New York and throughout the United States, defendants face harsh criminal charges for alleged involvement with controlled substances. An Albany drug crime lawyer can provide legal representation to defendants who have been accused of a crime related to narcotics and can help those accused of wrongdoing to fight charges against them.

Unfortunately, many of the people who are charged with crimes related to drugs do not mean to break the law but are being punished for their addictions. Addiction is a health issue that can be very difficult to recover from, and throughout the country, experts are urging that lawmakers reconsider the ways in which drug offenders are treated so those who suffer from addiction can get help instead of just being jailed.

In fact, a recent criminal code evaluation task force is urging that lawmakers take a different – and more compassionate – approach toward drug offenders.

More Empathy is Needed for Drug Offenders

According to US News, one of the suggestions made by the criminal code evaluation task force is for prosecutors to wait to press criminal charges instead of pressing charges immediately when someone is arrested for a drug crime.

If the offender successfully completes a drug treatment program, the prosecutor could then drop the charges entirely instead of pursuing the case and seeking to punish the addict. Or, the prosecutor could agree to accept a guilty plea from the defendant and not push for a prison sentence as part of the deal, but instead could ensure that the offender undergoes mandated treatment instead of being jailed for the criminal misconduct.

The proposed change to the way drug offenders are treated is, in part, a response to a warning from the state's drug enforcement administration officials that one of the biggest obstacles that is preventing people from seeking treatment for opioid addiction is that they are ashamed.  This shame could perhaps be alleviated if reforms were made to encourage law enforcement officials and others within the community that drug use is not as much of a criminal act as it is a public health issue.

Taking a more compassionate approach to offenders has been successful in the past, and states across the U.S. have been moving forward towards reducing the penalties for drug crimes – especially for offenses such as simple possession of controlled substances. Waiting to prosecute and dropping charges or accepting a guilty plea from offenders who complete treatment successfully would be just one more important step in the direction of resolving drug problems with compassion rather than punishment.

Although there is broad support for changes to the law that recognize drug addiction as a health issue and not a crime, it remains to be seen if lawmakers respond and make modifications to existing rules. Unfortunately, as long as the current system remains in place, those who are accused of controlled substances offenses will continue to be at grave risk of being prosecuted for very serious crimes. An Albany drug crime lawyer can provide representation and assistance to those facing charges so contact an attorney for help as soon as possible.

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