Putting DUI Laws in Context

28December
2014

We’d like to believe nobody is above the law and yet our legal system is far from perfect. In a story that certainly has brought about much scrutiny, a Florida judge convicted of her second DUI and reckless driving received probation, a $2,500 fine in court related fees and community service — she won’t spend a single day in jail, leaving many casual observers crying foul. Is this simply a misunderstanding of how the law works or is it something more?

Whereas a more pointed question might be what the average sentence is for second time DUI offenders in that district, it’s easy to jump to conclusions here. Do a little probing and you’ll quickly find that many states don’t actually hand down jail time for a first or second DUI-related offense. Look at the facts of the case and you could just as easily deduce the judge in this case received an average sentence — most practicing attorneys in the state of Florida would be quick to corroborate.

The bigger issue at hand is perhaps whether certain DUI-related laws are too flexible in some parts of the country. Here in Arizona, where first time offenders typically receive jail time and zero tolerance laws are in effect, it’s easy to take exception to these stories. Stiff penalties don’t always prove a deterrent and many fatalities involve alcohol; if the ultimate aim is to drive down these grizzly statistics, perhaps it’s time to revisit the drawing board for better solutions.

There’s a lesson here — the public cannot overreact to headlines and certainly requires putting these items in context before issuing judgment. For legislators, it’s long overdue that we prioritize spreading DUI awareness over stiff penalties if we truly want to drive down accident statistics. Remember not to drink and drive and to contact an experienced attorney to handle your case if arrested.

Posted in DUI | Tagged |

When Will We Embrace Mental Health?

17December
2014

Recently, an important questions being asked more and more: are we capable of embracing the complexities that come with mental health? As many a practicing therapist can tell you, this is a trying time in regards to this critical aspect of our overall wellbeing.

Mental health matters in relation to justice. When someone commits a crime and disrupts the fabric of our society, our legal system is in place to enforce the consequence. Many of these cases are open and shut – we’re content enough to lock violators behind bars without every really exploring why crime happens.

The logic that overpopulating our prisons with offenders will diminish crime is inherently flawed; the only way to stunt its growth is to address it at the root, requiring us to understand its motivations. Understanding such motivations requires us to pull back the curtain on mental health and truly absorb the findings.

America has exhibited a tendency at times to put the issue of mental health on the shelf, refusing to probe its complexities on account of factors like time and money. Our elected officials seldom look to change laws regarding mental health unless spurred by a national tragedy. Why does it take the tragic actions of someone mentally unstable to draw about change? This complacency only further stigmatizes those who suffer from a mental condition.

The criminal justice system will readily defend those who suffer from a mental illness accused of a crime, but perhaps these crimes wouldn’t occur without better prevention in place. Mental health is one issue that won’t be going away anytime soon – how many high-profile incidents need to occur before we provide better solutions to those addled by mental health?

It’s time for America to wake up and accept the challenge. We can do better – the question is will we?

Posted in Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Diverting Mental Health Clients Away from Criminal Justice System

14December
2014

Well, here is good news:  Utah and Arizona are at the top of the list of states diverting the mentally ill who are charged with crimes, out of the Criminal Justice System and into other services.  So says the Treatment Advocacy Center in this report.  On a grading scale, the national average grade given states was C+, with fully 1/3 of the states rating a D or F on this scale.

The Treatment Advocacy Center (Arlington, VA) runs a national campaign to expand access to treatment, for the mentally ill.  They bring a spotlight into focus on the consequences of not treating them, and on the success of prevention programs. 

In New Jersey, we see programs improving for recognizing mental illness and dealing with it in the criminal justice system.  There, they estimate that 14 percent of inmates suffer from depressions, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder.   In the nine years since instituting treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration, they have experienced a 78% success rate – those with no arrests or convictions in the following four years.

The Arizona system is complicated, and if your loved one is charged, and is suffering from mental illness, you don’t have time to figure out how to navigate it.  You need experience on your side.  Criminal Defense Attorneys want to see the best outcomes for their clients, but many attorneys are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the Arizona courts in dealing with mental illness.  While we applaud the general trend of improvement, we emphasize that you can’t just go with the flow.  You need experience on your side.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses |