By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
I’m asked every now and again by a family of a client if they shouldn’t just talk with a prosecutor in a case where their loved one clearly has a drug or alcohol problem — to see what the prosecutor can do to facilitate treatment.
That many not be the best idea.
Here’s why — because the prosecutor’s version of help and the real version of help may be completely different concepts.
Some prosecutors understand drug and alcohol dependency issues and others simply don’t. Prosecutors who tend to see addiction and mental disorders as excuses may use what you tell them as a battering ram against your loved one. To be fair — many prosecutors “get it” and do bend over backwards to help. The problem from a family member’s stand-point is that divulging negative information to an agent of the State is always a gamble.
As criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors, substance abuse treatment and counseling aren’t really at the core of what we do. We tend to analyze people’s cases from legal perspectives but there’s obviously a heavy overlap with substance abuse and treatment.
My advice is typically to seek private treatment over treatment affiliated with probation or directly with the criminal justice system. The reason being is that there are several legal layers of protection in the private setting which are not available otherwise.
HIPAA and patient privacy laws will protect a patient in a private treatment facility but may not in a state or probation run program. Also there tends to be better customer service in the private sector. There, the treatment facility is accountable to the paying client. In the probation setting — the treatment providers are conflicted between treating the patient and reporting violations to the prosecutors or the Judge.
If treatment is ordered as part of probation, for instance, and the patient doesn’t follow through with meetings — or admits to other unresolved crimes during treatment — those could be used for further prosecution and/or probation revocation.
*Jeremy F. Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For specific legal advice of your own situation you should directly consult an attorney.