Cincinnati has long battled drug addiction. For those who have lost loved ones, either to the drugs themselves or incarceration, this disease casts a dark shadow that the legal system seems to overlook.
With the deluge of opioid and fentanyl overdoses in recent years, the outlook regarding drug crime and addiction is bleak. However, there is hope. The legal landscape may be changing, offering paths to rehabilitation and second chances for those charged and folks living with harsh convictions.
Cincinnati Drug Charges & Addiction
It should come as no surprise, but drug-related offenses heavily burden Cincinnati’s justice system. According to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Annual report, there were 3,229 felony drug arrests in 2021. And the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction shows 32.6% of Ohio’s inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses.
This coincides with a national report by the Prison Policy Initiative that states 52% of people arrested multiple times reported a substance use disorder and a National Center for Drug Abuse finding that 1/3rd of all inmates committed their crimes to get drugs or get money for drugs.
These numbers underline two key points. First, felony drug charges in Cincinnati and addiction are inextricably linked. Secondly, despite high incarceration rates, the legal system’s approach might not be the most effective solution for the root cause – addiction.
Can Addiction Be a Defense to Drug Charges?
Addiction is not typically a direct defense for someone facing felony drug charges. That said, acknowledging addiction can play a significant role in how a case is presented and sentenced. By highlighting addiction’s role, a defense attorney may argue for more lenient sentencing, emphasizing the need for rehabilitation over incarceration.
Suppose you were charged with petty theft because you needed to fund a 100-dollar-a-day heroin habit. Your attorney may try to highlight your struggles and negotiate for drug treatment and probation instead of time in custody. Hopefully, this can get you the help you need rather than burden state resources further.
When presented effectively, the argument of addiction can humanize an individual. It shifts the perception from that of a hardened criminal to a person fighting with a recognized medical condition. This can be instrumental in cases that have the option of alternative sentencing or diversion programs. For example, Ohio drug courts focus on providing addicted offenders with treatment and strict supervision rather than sending them directly to jail or prison. The aim is to reduce recidivism by addressing the root causes of criminal behavior.
However, it’s essential to approach this defense strategy with caution. While it can be effective in improving your case, admitting addiction can also be an acknowledgment of drug use or drug possession. So working with a knowledgeable defense lawyer is crucial to ensure the strategy aligns with your best interests.
The Role of Your Defense Lawyer
If you or a loved one were arrested for drugs or a crime related to drug addiction, the case can feel open and shut. But no one should blindly accept a conviction or court’s decision. It’s your defense lawyers’ job to not only develop an effective defense to your specific drug charge, but they should also advocate for an approach that addresses the larger problem.
Your attorney can help with drug cases related to substance abuse by:
- Understanding Your Addiction: Recognizing that addiction is a medical condition and not just a moral failing allows you to present cases in a manner that seeks rehabilitation over pure punishment.
- Negotiating for Drug Treatment: Where appropriate, you can work towards plea deals emphasizing treatment and rehabilitation over incarceration. This can include drug court programs, probation with mandatory treatment, or other alternatives.
- Defending Your Rights: Ensuring that individuals are not unfairly prosecuted or overly punished is crucial. Everyone deserves a fair trial and representation.
There’s Room for Improvement Regarding Cincinnati Drug Crimes
As highlighted, felony drug charges are but a symptom of a larger societal problem. Here are some proposed solutions:
- Increasing Access to Treatment: By expanding access to drug addiction treatment, we can help individuals reintegrate into society and reduce the chances of re-offending.
- Reintegration Opportunities: A felony on one’s record can significantly hinder seeking employment and housing. Programs that aid in reintegration can benefit both the individual and the community.
- Rethinking Prosecution: It may be time to reconsider how drug offenses, particularly possession, are prosecuted. Do they always warrant felony charges? Could lesser penalties or diversion programs be more effective?
- Addressing Root Causes: Tackling the root causes of drug addiction – be it poverty, lack of opportunities and resources, or other societal issues – is a long-term solution that requires a concerted effort from all sectors of society.
Currently, Hamilton County’s Drug Court program is the only full-time court of its kind in the state. It does a lot to address the core issue of addiction behind felony drug charges.
In addition to helping people deal with their disease, mental health, and other factors, there are plenty of practical benefits to addition treatment and reducing the number of people with felony drug convictions. Approaching these cases with the goal of rehabilitation rather than punishment helps reduce recidivism rates and save Ohio taxpayers money. The National Institute of Justice concluded from a decade-long study of a drug court that “reduced recidivism and other long-term program outcomes resulted in public savings of $6,744 on average per participant.”
Hamilton County’s Drug Court represents a good first step toward these goals, but increased access to felony drug expungements and addiction resources can do much more.
Consult a Lawyer for Help
The relationship between drug addiction and felony charges in Cincinnati is multifaceted. While the statistics and possible penalties are harsh, understanding the deeper issues and advocating for more compassionate and effective solutions is the way forward. As a community and a justice system, we must focus on healing rather than solely penalizing. Only then can we hope to see a significant shift in these staggering numbers.
If you or a loved one need help dealing with drug charges due to substance abuse, contact the Cincinnati defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates. Attorneys Brad Groene and Juliea Crumes of LHA pride themselves on their dedication, skill, and experience in Cincinnati drug cases. They have helped countless people in situations like yours.