Most of us have found some lesson in our personal lives that we needed to learn more than once — sometimes over and over again. For 72-year-old Karren Erecius of Santa Rosa, the lesson was not to get behind the wheel when she’d been drinking. In March of this year, she was arrested for her sixth DUI in nine years.
Ms. Ericius’ drinking has become a problem. That’s not a medical opinion — I don’t even play a doctor on TV, let alone diagnose people over the Internet. Still, my professional opinion is that if your drinking leads you to hire an attorney more than once, your drinking is a problem. Repeat offenders need more than legal advice; a good lawyer can give you more.
Part of what a good lawyer should do is help you explore ways to avoid trouble. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not in jail for your sixth DUI. If your loved one is, though, you’re likely thinking that they need help. You’re right, too — they need help to resolve their legal issues, and help to stop getting into trouble in the future.
Legal help often focuses on ‘guilty/not guilty.’ The legal system is complicated, and there are loads of complex technical issues involved in DUI law. A good lawyer knows how to exploit those technicalities — how to find the holes in the prosecution’s case — and may be able to get you out of trouble. Whether someone made a mistake and caught a first DUI, or has a bad drinking problem and just got popped for the umpteenth time, they’ll want to stay out of jail. Everything is easier to deal with when you’re out of custody.
Sometimes people are demonstrably, provably, and undeniably guilty, and sometimes even a good lawyer can’t get or keep a guilty man out of jail. Jail may suck, but it doesn’t have to be a total waste of time. While someone’s in custody, they can use that time to address their underlying drinking problem. That may help with defending their case or reducing their sentence; it can also help them avoid getting in trouble in the future.
Sonoma County’s jail (a lovely facility, as far as jails go) has programs available to inmates that can help treat substance abuse problems and can help persuade the court to go easier on you. TASC (Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities) is part of Sonoma County’s criminal justice system — the part that provides treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems for eligible inmates. TASC can recommend that an inmate get alcohol and drug treatment, and a good lawyer can help get them in. With proper advocacy, jail time can be spent out of jail and in residential treatment — in Warren Zevon’s Rehab Mansion, not with Johnny Cash singing the Folsom Prison Blues.
If you get accepted to the treatment facility even before you’re convicted, the court is more likely allow you to serve your time there. Your lawyer can help you to get into that rehab facility. If you’re going to have to do time, do it in the most comfortable place, and the place where you’re going to get help so you won’t repeat the mistakes that got you there in the first place.
Even before your court date you can participate in programs that will put you in a good light in front of the judge. I’ve recommended that in-custody clients take the jail’s GED courses, parenting classes, substance abuse classes, and skill-building classes like creative conflict resolution. When we went to court, the judge was impressed. Using what the jail has to offer helped them look better in front of the judge. Going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can help persuade the judge to let someone — or leave someone — out on their own recognizance rather than leaving them in jail.
I have been helping my clients get out of trouble and stay out of trouble for years. If you or a loved one is facing a charge — repeat or first time — and you want to make sure it’s the LAST time, give me a call or send me an e-mail and let’s talk.
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