My Child Needs Alcohol or Drug Rehab Treatment Program - Not Jail or Prison!


By Daniel Smith

Criminal defense attorneys will tell you that on many occasions a parent will come in to retain their services and tell them “I want you to get him into rehab”. This is a plea for help from parents who are quite insightful in recognizing that their son, daughter, husband or wife is involved in criminal activity due to his or her drug and/or alcohol abuse. By the way, it is very common that the misdemeanor or felony the loved one is charged with is in no way a drug possession or under the influence criminal charge. Most of the time parents, husbands and wives are right! But challenges exist, and this is my approach to handling these types of circumstances.

Criminal defense lawyers represent the client, ie. the son, daughter, husband or wife, NOT the third party family member that recognizes the root of the criminal problem being substance abuse. I frequently have to remind the family member that comes to my office that they are not the client and they do not and cannot dictate what I do, and in a case like this, what I recommend to the prosecutor to resolve the case in a plea bargain. However, as an example, recently I had a mother come to my office to tell me that she had just talked to her son in jail and that he had agreed that he needed rehab. No, he wanted rehab !

If that is the case, I told her, I will go to see your son and confirm his desire to enter a drug program, in this case, for methamphetamine abuse. If that is what he wants, I told her, then I will pursue that course of action in court. The problem is that I, as a criminal defense attorney, must hold my client’s interest paramount. A five dollar word that really says that I should not put my client more at risk in getting jail time should they relapse from treatment.

If your lawyer is working for you and your son, in this case, the lawyer will try to structure a deal that offers motivation to enter the inpatient or outpatient treatment program without a penalty for relapsing which would require re-entering the program. It is a delicate balance and there is no one way to achieve the goal of getting the defendant the help that he or she needs. In some cases, a lawyer may ask the court for a referral to a program (especially if the program is sponsored by the County) and that enrollment will satisfy the condition of probation. In other cases, a client may ask that he or she be held accountable and that they are voluntarily requesting that the court make the completion of the treatment program a condition of probation. There are many ways to achieve the goal of treatment. A good lawyer will find a way. Call San Diego Defenders and we can talk about our options.