Substance Abuse and the Criminal Justice System


I started my career in the criminal justice system as a prosecutor with the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office. I was in my late twenties when I began working there and, without a lot of life experience, it was easy for me to view those who found themselves in the crosshairs of the State as criminals with little to no justification for their actions. It didn’t take long before I realized that not all those who violated the law were bad people. That realization impacted my approach to prosecuting.

In 2005, I became a criminal defense attorney and for the first time I was sitting down, face-to-face, with people who had been accused of committing crimes. I was listening to their stories and getting a picture of who they were and why they wound up where they were. My eyes were opened about the extent of police misconduct and racial profiling that existed in our world, which is a subject for another blog post on another day. And, I was also able to understand how good people find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system because of mental health issues including addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.



Those who have battled addiction/alcoholism or who love someone who is waging that war know how difficult it can be. Even when it extremely apparent to everyone else that help is needed, often the addict is so controlled by their brain’s need for the drug (or alcohol) that they cannot stop and will reject help. Or, worse yet, they will pretend they understand the need for help/treatment, but will bolt as soon as they get an opportunity. It can be exceptionally frustrating for the loved ones of an addict to watch as time-after-time the help/treatment offered is squandered or rejected. Many in recovery would say that the person hasn’t hit rock bottom yet, which is why they still seek to use. Unfortunately, rock bottom sometimes comes in the form of handcuffs and jail cells.


My goal when representing an addict/alcoholic who finds themselves facing criminal charges is to not just help them out of their legal quandary, but to help them find their way onto a genuine path of recovery. And, I have had great success in doing just that. I have recently teamed up with a licensed therapist with years of experience in the substance abuse treatment field. With her help, we can find the right treatment program for the person while simultaneously fighting the criminal charges. Over the next few blogs, I’m going to spend some time discussing the interplay between the criminal justice system and substance abuse/mental health disorders. However, if you or a loved one have been arrested for a criminal offense as a result of a drug, alcohol, or other mental health issue, please give me a call at 404-474-2531 for a free and confidential consultation.


Leave a reply