How can a substance abuse issue affect Florida criminal charges?

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Substance abuse issues can begin manifesting in a myriad of ways. Some people start having a beer when they get home from work every night and then find that they can’t stop after a few beers several years later. Others may have medical issues that lead to prescription pain relief and then discover that they’re struggling with a chemical dependence that persists long after their prescription ends.

Drug offenses, property crimes and even interpersonal violence are all crimes associated with substance abuse disorders. Statistically, there is a strong correlation between criminal activity and substance abuse disorders. People struggling with substance abuse may break the law due to their addiction. Although substance abuse doesn’t always lead to criminal activity, these challenges may affect someone’s criminal defense options in the event that an individual who suffers from addiction is charged with wrongdoing.

Substance abuse issues won’t automatically excuse the offense

Some people mistakenly think that they could convince a judge or a jury that they aren’t really responsible for their actions because of their struggles with addiction or because they were under the influence at the time that they committed an offense. Florida law is very clear about voluntary intoxication and criminal charges.

Defendants cannot assert an affirmative defense claiming they did not have criminal intent if they chose to consume the alcohol or drugs that impaired them at the time of the offense. Only involuntary intoxication might help someone defend against charges, and an individual would have to prove that they did not consent to consume the alcohol or drugs.

These issues can mitigate some consequences, though

In some scenarios, those with a verifiable substance abuse disorder who stand accused of a qualifying criminal offense could ask for adjudication in the Florida adult drug courts. These courts focus on treatment rather than just punishment. If someone successfully completes the drug court process, they can avoid criminal charges and the lifelong criminal record that would mark them as someone with a history of substance abuse. Provided that someone qualifies for drug court proceedings, their need for support could help reduce their consequences.

Oftentimes, substance abuse disorders are a complicating factor in criminal proceedings, and they can sometimes qualify individuals for special consideration by the courts. Reviewing the state’s evidence and the possible defense options available can help those who are facing drug charges or other criminal accusations related to a substance abuse disorder to strategize with the assistance of an experienced legal professional.