Cumberland County PA Drug Treatment Court – Graduates and the Community Win!

Many people seek out the help of a Harrisburg criminal defense lawyer without actually realizing what the job entails. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Cumberland County Drug Treatment Court graduation ceremony where a young man I had helped obtain admission into the program was being honored for his successful completion of it.

When I first met this young man, he was facing Felony Drug charges in two different counties. These charges were the product of an underlying prescription drug addiction.

During the ceremony, Angie Chiara, the Adult Probation Officer who oversees the Program, addressed the graduates and audience stating as follows:

Each of these [graduates] come from different backgrounds, have different levels of education and range in age from 28-56 years old.

See addiction doesn’t discriminate.

It doesn’t care that you went to college or only went to the 8th grade. It doesn’t care if you have had a job your entire adult life or have never been employed.

All addiction cares about is leading you to one of three places….jails, institutions or death.

So while you all have differences, your addictions have landed you all in the same place.

These words spoken by Ms. Chiara reminded me again why I do what I do…

Candidly, why I do what I do is often the subject of misconception. Whether by a stranger, an acquaintance, or a friend, I have often been asked: “HOW DO YOU REPRESENT PEOPLE YOU KNOW ARE GUILTY?”

There was a time where I found the question offensive and an affront to our inalienable rights. I would restrain myself from reminding people that the question ignores all of our fundamental, constitutional right to the presumption of innocence. However, I would ultimately chalk it up to an innocent misconception of a law-abiding citizen and tell them what they wanted to hear so they could sleep better at night without wondering how I do.

Today, without hesitation, I can answer this loaded question quite simply:

“I DON’T REPRESENT CRIME. I HELP PEOPLE.”

Being accused of a crime can be a de-humanizing and stigmatizing process. People are labeled by the crime(s) with which they are charged, named as a defendant, and identified by a case tracking number. Contrary to all of our constiutional rights, they are presumed guilty unless and until they prove their innocence. The fact that they are people can be lost.

But they are…people. They are someone’s brother or sister, mother or father, niece or nephew, etc. They are professionals and laborers, white collar and blue collar. They are red, yellow, black, and white.

Like Ms. Chiara and the Cumberand County Treatment Court, we embrace this fact – the human component. We do not alienate or discriminate. WE TREAT PEOPLE THE WAY THEY SHOULD BE TREATED, LIKE PEOPLE, AND EMPOWER THEM TO TAKE CONTROL OF THAT WHICH THEY HAVE THE POWER TO CONTROL.

However, we realize that in order for the people we help to be able to regain control of their lives, we must take control of the criminal justice process. We work with the people we help to establish clearly defined objectives and implement a strategy to achieve the same.

Commenting on the War on Drugs, President Jimmy Carter once said:

“PENALTIES AGAINST DRUG POSSESSION SHOULD NOT BE MORE DAMAGING TO AN INDIVIDUAL THAN THE USE OF THE DRUG ITSELF.”

These sentiments are echoed in our strategy to attack any criminal accusation. With an individualized approach to each case, we focus on framing the context for the events or circumstances leading to the criminal charges. As a result, we place ourselves in a more credible position to more persuasively articulate an argument that the consequences, if any, should be consistent with the individualized circumstances of the case.

Like President Carter, we believe that THE CRIMINAL PENALTIES IMPOSED AGAINST THE INDIVIDUAL CHARGED SHOULD NOT BE MORE HARMFUL THAN THE CONSEQUENCES PRODUCED BY THEIR DECISIONS AND ACTIONS THAT PLACED THEM BEFORE THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

This logic requires a balancing of individual and societal interests. Whether prosecutor or defense, judge or juror, neighbor or stranger, this is a logic and result with which everyone should agree. And, at the end of the day, if it produces a result consistent with the personal objectives of the people we help and offers an opportunity to return another productive member to society, what more can you ask for?

If you have been accused of a crime, like the Cumberland County Treatment Court Program, OUR FOCUS IS YOUR LIFE AND YOUR FUTURE. THE CRIMINAL CHARGE IS SIMPLY THE VEHICLE THAT BRINGS YOU TO US. IT IS NOT YOUR DESTINATION. IT IS BUT A PIT STOP ON THE ROAD TO THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. WE JUST HELP PROVIDE YOU THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET THERE.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime resulting from drug or alcohol abuse or otherwise, please feel free to contact us. We offer a free initial phone consultation with experienced criminal defense counsel.

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