By Paralegal Emma Sliwinski
In my blog post from January 26, 2022, I discussed the importance of mitigation in DUI and traffic cases. However, the process of mitigation does not apply exclusively to these two types of legal matters. When an individual has been charged with a misdemeanor as minor as shoplifting or even with a felony as egregious as attempted murder, he or she may present to the court mitigation in the form of character reference letters, proof of employment, proof of community service, and other such documentation to illustrate why he or she should receive a reduced sentence or even why his or her case should be dismissed. While these examples stand as the most common forms of mitigation, some forms of mitigation only apply to certain types of legal cases. One very specific form of mitigation is proof of enrollment and participation in a drug treatment program, which applies to cases where a defendant's substance abuse serves as a focal point in his or her legal matter. In these cases, providing proof of enrollment and participation in a drug treatment program can help one demonstrate how he or she is willing to overcome his or her addiction and to carry out the rest of his or her days as clean, law-abiding citizen. As a result, by enrolling and participating in a drug treatment program, one holds immense power of possibly persuading the court to reduce the sentence for his or her crime or even dismiss his or her case overall.
A Refresher: What is Mitigation?
“Mitigation” generally refers to “A reduction in how harmful, unpleasant, or seriously bad a situation is.” Mitigation, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). In the world of criminal law, the idea more specifically is known as “mitigation of punishment,” or “A reduction in punishment due to…circumstances that reduce [a defendant's] level of culpability.” Mitigation of Punishment, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). In other words, mitigation in the legal world involves a defendant demonstrating to the court why he or she should receive a reduced punishment for his or her crime or in some instances, why the court should completely dismiss his or her case. While the most common form of mitigation involves a series of various documents that are compiled into a packet that is then presented to the court and prosecutor, proof of enrollment and participation in a drug treatment program can generously help a defendant obtain a lesser sentence if evidence suggests that his or her substance abuse played a major role in the crime for which he or she has been accused. This type of mitigation commonly is presented in the form of a log that records each drug treatment session that a person has attended or even a certificate of completion if the recovering individual fulfills all the requirements of the drug treatment program.
Finding the Most Suitable Drug Treatment Program
Drug addictions differ significantly across the human population due to various biological and environmental factors as well as the age when an individual first starts using drugs and how he or she usually takes drugs (i.e. smoking, injecting, etc.). Drug Misuse and Addiction, National Institute on Drug Abuse (July 16, 2022), https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-misuse-addiction. In response, medical professionals have developed various methods of drug treatment to help an individual successfully overcome his or her addiction. These methods include behavioral counseling, medication, evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues, as well as long-term follow ups with a drug treatment coordinator. Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction, National Institute on Drug Abuse (July 16, 2022), https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction. Due to the complexity of drug addictions, drug treatment programs often are complex themselves and vary among one another. Therefore, while an attorney will provide legal assistance throughout the duration of a defendant's legal matter, it is ultimately up to the defendant himself or herself to research, enroll, and partake in a drug treatment program that is easily accessible and that best fits his or her personal situation. Furthermore, it is also the responsibility of the defendant to punctually provide proof of his or her enrollment and continuous participation in the drug treatment program to his or her attorney as well as to the attorney's paralegal or law clerk, so that they can ensure that the defendant's mitigation is presented properly to the court.
Long Term Goals
One of the biggest challenges with drug treatment is applying the skills learned in the treatment program to everyday life in order to avoid triggers that may pressure a recovering individual to relapse. While support and patience from loved ones as well as regular check-ins with a drug treatment coordinator can help prevent a person from relapsing, the most effective indicator in determining whether an individual will relapse is the recovering addict's willingness to enroll and actively partake in a drug treatment program. By providing the court with proof of enrollment and active participation in a drug treatment program, a defendant communicates to the court that he or she is willing to overcome his or her addiction in order to better not only themselves but the rest of society. Demonstrating to the court how one truly wishes to learn from his or her mistakes and become a law-abiding citizen traditionally has provided reduced sentences and even dismissed cases for defendants in both misdemeanor and felony matters. As a result, it is crucial that a defendant forwards the proof of enrollment and participation in a drug treatment program to the attorney, paralegal, or law clerk who is in charge of collecting the mitigation when that legal personnel asks for the mitigation.
In cases where a defendant's drug addiction serves as a major focal point, the defendant has a chance to redeem himself or herself by presenting to the court a specific form of mitigation: proof of enrollment and participation in a drug treatment program. Providing the court with proof of enrollment and participation in a drug treatment program allows a defendant suffering from a drug addiction to demonstrate how he or she is willing to overcome his or her addiction and become as a clean, law-abiding member of society. As a result, by providing the court with proof of enrollment and participation in a drug treatment program as a form of mitigation, a defendant holds much power in possibly persuading the court to order a lesser sentence or even dismiss the case for the defendant.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug-related misdemeanor or felony and needs legal assistance, CTM Legal Group can help. Please call our office at 312-818-6700 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. After the consultation and if you wish to retain us, don't forget to be on the lookout for correspondence regarding the mitigation documents, particularly proof of enrollment and participation in a drug treatment program.