Anyone who has suffered an opiate addiction struggles every day to stay sober. No matter how long you have maintained your sobriety, every moment is a silent struggle. Addiction is not a choice, but rather a disease. No one chooses to become an addict and those that suffer this disease rely on their family and loved ones for support. Having lost my brother in law, AJ Butz, to a heroin overdose at the age of 21, I have witnessed first hand the strength of opiate addiction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are a number of resources available for support and education. For those suffering from opiate addiction, it is a matter of time before they will have contact with the criminal justice system. Understanding what you are going through, the struggles of maintaining sobriety and how the you are going to be treated by the criminal justice system allows me to better understand how to provide you with the best possible help.
-Daniel M. Rosenberg, Esquire
Opiate Addiction Growing in New Jersey
Opiate addiction in New Jersey and across the country is growing at an astounding rate. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide. An estimated 2.1 million people in the United States alone suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and an estimated 467,000 suffered from heroin addiction. And these numbers are climbing.
Adults and Juveniles are being prescribed opiates for common medical procedures and these prescriptions are rising at an alarming rate. The number of prescriptions for opioids (like hydrocodone and oxycodone medication) has escalated from approximately 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013, ultimately contributing to the increase rates of opiate addiction. According to NIDA, the United States accounts for almost 100 percent of the worldwide consumption for hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and 81 percent for oxycodone (e.g., Percocet).
What’s worse is that those who have been prescribed these narcotics are not always properly educated about the risks of long-term use. Patients are also not always properly monitored or weaned off of their medication regiment. As their prescriptions run out, these individuals turn to street drugs to satisfy their addiction. Addicts may buy prescription pills on the black market or escalate their substance abuse to powder or intravenous heroin use. The number of past-year heroin users in the United States nearly doubled between 2005 and 2012, from 380,000 to 670,000 according to NIDA.
Opiate Addiction in New Jersey – Potential Criminal Exposure
Possession of prescription medication (without a prescription) and/or possession of Heroin are Crimes of the Third Degree (Felony) in New Jersey. A Third Degree Drug Crime carries a potential sentence of Three (3) to Five (5) years in New Jersey State Prison. You are also subject to a criminal conviction and probation, which includes a drug abuse evaluation and drug monitoring.
Opiate Addiction in New Jersey – Diversionary Programs
Someone charged with a possession charge of Opiates (prescription drugs or Heroin) may be eligible for a diversionary program. In New Jersey, a person charged with a Third Degree Criminal charge is eligible for entry into the Pre-Trial Intervention (“PTI”) Program. This allows the individual to enter drug treatment and and maintain their sobriety for a period of six (6) months to three (3) years. This program does not require an admission of guilt and also allows for the dismissal of the charge once the individual completes the PTI program.
Opiate Addiction in New Jersey – Drug Court
New Jersey has implemented its own Drug Court Program. This is not a diversionary program, but rather a program that is sentenced as a condition of probation. Defendants are sentenced to a period of probation, typically Five (5) years. As a condition of probation, the defendant must attend and complete the drug court program. The drug court program consists of various phases, including weekly attendance in court (at the onset of the program), consistent and random drug testing/monitoring, mandatory in and outpatient drug treatment and drug education.
Defendants are also given an “alternative sentence.” If they do not successfully complete and graduate from the Drug Court Program, they are sentenced to their alternative sentence, which is typically a term of imprisonment in New Jersey State Prison.
Representation Beyond the Law
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and is facing criminal charges, addressing the criminal charges is mandatory. Having said that, addressing the underlying addiction is just as important, if not more important. If the substance abuse is not addressed, the struggles associated with addiction will continue and may lead to further criminal charges and/or incarceration.
As part of the representation of our clients who struggle with addiction, Rosenberg | Perry & Associates takes an active role in assisting with addiction recovery. This includes providing treatment resources, assisting family members and maintaining communication with clients throughout treatment.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction and has been charged criminally in New Jersey, please do not hesitate to call Rosenberg | Perry & Associates. We are here to help.