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Is Addiction A Valid Defense for Criminal Drug Charges?

woman with hood up holding a small bag of cocaine in a dim room

Drug addiction is a serious problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences."

This means that people who struggle with a substance use disorder often do whatever it takes to get their next fix, even if it means committing crimes. In this blog post, we will discuss how addiction can lead to criminal drug charges and what defenses may be available to those with this type of condition.

How Drug Addiction Affects Behavior

Addiction is a disease that alters the brain's chemistry. People who struggle with this disorder often cannot control their impulses or make rational decisions. In addition, they might also struggle with a co-occurring mental health disorder. This can lead to them committing crimes in order to get money to buy drugs, or even committing violent crimes while under the influence of an illegal substance.

Common drug offenses that individuals suffering from addiction may commit include:

  • Drug possession
  • Drug trafficking
  • Selling drugs
  • Possession with intent to distribute
  • Drug manufacturing

In addition to drug crimes, individuals with substance abuse disorders may commit unrelated offenses in order to fund their addiction. For example, they may commit a theft crime to get money to purchase their preferred substance of choice. Others may steal the drugs directly, which can put them in harm’s way.

Using Addiction As A Defense

Many are in agreement that drug addiction is a disease. Those who struggle with a substance use disorder have trouble controlling their actions and typically cannot stop their own drug use. You may be wondering, can substance abuse disorder be used as a defense?

Generally, drug addiction alone is not a valid or successful defense for committing a crime. However, it does make some defendants eligible for alternative sentencing.

What is Alternative Sentencing?

Alternative sentencing, sometimes referred to as conditional discharge, involves the use of unconventional penalties for a number of offenses. For drug offenders, alternative sentencing focuses more on rehabilitative efforts, rather than sentencing the defendant to a period of incarceration.

If someone is offered an alternative sentence for a drug offense, they may instead be required to complete community service, substance use treatment, probation, or another type of program. Upon successful completion of the alternative sentence, their initial criminal offense may be removed from their record.

Typically, alternative sentencing is reserved for nonviolent drug offenders who committed relatively minor crimes due to their addiction. Individuals who had weapons present at the time of their offense, or committed a felony or federal crime, will most likely be ineligible for any type of alternative sentencing.

Alternative sentencing is a highly favorable type of penalty for drug offenders, as it helps individuals get the treatment they need rather than be put into incarceration. Sadly, the current prison system has very little resources available to help those who struggle with mental health and addiction. Oftentimes, individuals who suffer from substance abuse disorder will continue to commit crimes once released from jail or prison because they still have the addiction that they are seeking to satisfy and do not have access to recovery resources while in custody.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You

If you believe that you or a loved one is a good fit for alternative sentencing after a drug offense, you should contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss the possibility. You should also always have a criminal defense attorney by your side whenever you are facing charges - regardless of whether or not you are seeking an alternative sentence.

At , we have helped our clients receive periods of probation and mandatory drug treatment programs rather than be sentenced to a harsh incarceration period. We understand that many drug crimes occur due to underlying addiction issues, and we believe everyone deserves a second chance rather than punishment.

Savannah Drug Crimes Defense

Our attorneys at Schneider Lerch, LLC can help you determine the best defense for your drug case. We can also help determine whether or not you or your loved one would be eligible for alternative sentencing or conditional release. Call us at (912) 417-5008 to discuss your situation. You can also click here to fill out our online contact form and we will reach out to you as soon as possible.

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