Defense Lawyers Call for Major Overhaul
Substance Abuse Should Be Public Health, Not Criminal Justice, Concern
Washington, DC (September 29, 2009) – Drug courts – first created 20 years ago as an emergency response to an epidemic of drug-related criminal cases that clogged courts and prisons – have in many places become an obstacle to making cost-efficient drug abuse therapy available to addicts and reducing criminal case loads, the nation’s largest association of criminal defense attorneys said today.
In too many places, access to treatment comes at the cost of a guilty plea for low-level drug offenses while hard cases are denied and offenders wind up in jail at great expense to taxpayers, a report by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers found. The report flowed out of a two-year task force study of problem-solving courts.
Well-intended prosecutors and judges, generally with little input from the defense bar, often limit entry to treatment to offenders most likely to solve their own problems while insisting that “harder cases” go to jail, at considerable taxpayer expense, the study found. Minorities, immigrants and those with few financial resources are often under-represented in drug court programs.
“Today’s drug courts have been operating for over 20 years yet have not stymied the rise in both drug abuse or exponentially increasing prison costs to taxpayers,” said Cynthia Orr, President, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “It is time for both an extensive review of these courts and for the average American to ask themselves; is our national drug policy working, and perhaps it is a public health concern rather than a criminal justice one?”
The 11,000 member association issued recommendations that would enable drug-courts, which were set up as ad hoc responses to local situations, each one different, to more successfully manage those with substance abuse problems and alleviate the stress on prisons and our taxpayers. “America’s Problem-Solving Courts: The Criminal Costs of Treatment and the Case for Reform” argues that substance abuse should be seen and treated as a public health concern, outside the criminal justice arena.
The first drug court opened in Miami in 1989. More than 2,100 such courts exist today in nearly every state, yet incarceration levels for drug offenders and the cost to taxpayers has skyrocketed. In 2008 the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program said 1.7 million arrests were made in drug-related incidents, one arrest every 18 seconds.1
Major findings of the report include:
- Treating substance abuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice one
- Opening admission criteria to all those who need, want and request treatment
- Enforcing greater transparency in admission practices and relying on expert assessments, not merely the judgment of prosecutors
- Prohibiting the requirement of guilty pleas as the price of admission
- Urging greater involvement of the defense bar to create programs that preserve the rights of the accused
- Considering the ethical obligations of defense lawyers to their client even if they choose court-directed treatment.
- Opening a serious national discussion on decriminalizing low-level drug use.
Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
Death Investigation: Forensic Pathology in the Courtroom and Cause & Manner of Death (2022)
This unique program provides criminal defense lawyers with an accurate and clear overview of forensic pathology and the countless factors to consider in a death investigation and will methodically explain what happens during an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
You'll uncover the different types of medicolegal death investigations, what to request from your MDI expert, quality benchmarks for accreditation and certification, guidelines and standards, common terminology and frequently asked questions.
The Psychology of Persuasion & Storytelling for Criminal Defense Lawyers
This Trial Resource Guide is a masterful collection of practical tips, techniques and strategies focused solely on using the arts and sciences of persuasion to improve your storytelling skills at trial.
You'll learn how to master the ability to communicate with juries, deliver powerful openings and closings, perform convincing cross-examinations, use effective courtroom choreography and non-verbal communication, identify and develop the optimal theme and theory for your case, and offer compelling arguments during mitigation and sentencing.
Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victims Cases (2022)
Defending charges of sexual assault and child abuse can be daunting — but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Every year, NACDL identifies the hottest topics and most pressing issues when defending these cases, and brings-in nationally-renowned lawyers and experts to help you prepare for battle. This year’s 13th Annual Defending Sex Cases training program is our best yet; packed with topics and speakers you won’t want to miss!
NACDL Communications Department
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.