Substance abuse and crime are closely related. The first and most direct relation is the fact that possessing, using, and distributing controlled substances is illegal and harshly penalized under state and federal law. The second and less direct connection lies between substance abusers and crime, where they may commit crimes to obtain drugs or may take part in illegal acts due to decreased inhibitions or impaired judgment.
Substance abuse, such as alcoholism or drug abuse, is often triggered by a negative experience or a series of negative experiences, such as child abuse, spousal abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, abandonment of a parent during childhood, death of a parent, or witnessing a violent event, such as a murder or the death of a loved one.
Ask any executive director at a homeless shelter or a counselor at a rehab center, and they’ll say that most people struggling with addiction experienced trauma in their lives and turned to the bottle or drugs to “feel normal” or to “stop feeling the pain” associated with their painful pasts, experiences that keep running through their minds over and over.
The problem is that once someone develops an addiction to alcohol or drugs, especially drugs, they’ll do almost anything to get their next fix. As substance abuse worsens, it becomes harder for the individual to hold down a job, pay their bills, and come up with the large amounts of cash to fund their addictions. This is where people resort to crime to buy drugs and alcohol.
The Connections Between Substance Abuse & Crime
Let’s take a closer look at the connections between substance abuse and crime in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Drug abuse is implicated in at least three types of drug-related offenses: (1) offenses defined by drug possession or sales, (2) offenses directly related to drug abuse (e.g., stealing to get money for drugs), and (3) offenses related to a lifestyle that predisposes the drug abuser to engage in illegal activity, for example, through association with other offenders or with illicit markets.”
Statistically, those who use illegal drugs are more likely to break the law, and it’s very common for individuals to use drugs or alcohol before committing a crime, especially violent crimes, or for them to be using them immediately before they commit the crime, reports the NIDA.
According to 2012 statistics reported by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the correctional population in the U.S. was estimated to be nearly 6,940,000, with about 4,800,000 offenders on probation or parole. Of the criminal offenses committed by all those individuals, the majority were for drug violations.
Drug Abuse Treatment
The prevalence of substance abuse in the U.S. and its connection to crime makes it a crucial issue to address for the well-being of our entire society. Clearly, one of the most important solutions is to get offenders substance abuse treatment so they can get clean and live a drug-free, crime-free life. A focus solely on punishment without any hope for rehabilitation will only land drug offenders in jail again.
According to the NIDA, there are several ways to incorporate drug abuse treatment into the criminal justice system, such as:
- Community-based treatment after the offender’s release.
- Drug courts that require treatment as a condition of the offender’s probation.
- Drug treatment that is included under probation or parole supervision.
The NIDA and the Florida Courts agree that by effectively treating substance abuse and addiction, crime can be reduced, and communities can save money. In Hillsborough County, we have the Adult Pretrial Intervention Drug Court, which is specifically for first-time drug offenders. It gives them a second chance. The goal of such programs is to positively address substance abuse and crime—reducing the number of arrests and convictions and lowering crime rates.
How Pretrial Intervention Works
Even if you’re facing felony drug charges, this alternative method of sentencing may allow you to avoid a felony conviction if this is your first drug offense. If you pass a background check and are willing to sign a contract promising to complete the drug treatment program, the State Attorney’s Office may agree to drop your charges once you complete the program.
But to be eligible for the drug court, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be 18 or older.
- You cannot have any felony convictions on your record.
- This must be the first time you’ve participated in the program.
- You must waive your right to a speedy trial.
- You must admit that you have a drug problem.
- You must demonstrate the desire to receive drug treatment.
Addressing Substance Abuse & Crime in Florida
There’s no question about the link between substance abuse and crime. If you or someone you love has been arrested for a drug-related offense or has allegedly committed any crime, now is the time to involve an attorney. At Thomas & Paulk, we are former prosecutors with extensive criminal defense experience to apply to your case. Our lawyers understand that rehabilitation is far more valuable than punishment when it comes to substance abuse, and we also know how to effectively defend clients against misdemeanor and felony drug charges. We fight for our clients’ freedom with all of our resources and knowledge.
Learn more about the connection between substance abuse and crime, and get experienced insight if you’re facing criminal charges. Whether this is your first, second, or third offense, we urge you to contact our firm to meet with a drug possession attorney.