As a Portland Criminal Defense Lawyer, I see many people who come by their legal problems as a result of the drug addiction driven criminal behavior. I see many cases where a client has become addicted to opiates as a result of taking prescribed medication in the course of legitimate medical treatment.
Many criminal cases unfold like this. A person suffers an injury and is prescribed opiate based medications. The person uses these medications as prescribed and becomes addicted. They begin to use the medications to avoid withdrawal and use them to cope with life stress. Often their doctors cut people off suddenly or do not follow the proper medical protocols to titrate (gradually reduce dosage) a person off of the medications. Often people will try to get the drugs on their own. Prescription drugs are very expensive on the street and most people run out of money quickly. Some people acquire the money by theft, forging prescriptions, identity theft and even robbery. Some turn to heroin as a substitute.
Heroin is cheap and easy to obtain in Portland. We see people using this drug who one would never expect to see using heroin. We see people with no criminal history at all engaging in the purchase and sale of heroin in order to support their habit.
Many of our clients have no criminal history and are unaware of the serious punishments and consequences involved in criminal conduct. Forging prescriptions necessarily involves identity theft. Repeated acts of identity theft can be added together in a single charge (Aggravated Identity Theft) and lead to a prison sentence. A Robbery conviction can bring Measure 11 sentences of 70 to 90 months, with no time reduction.
We know how to help our clients access appropriate resources and get into treatment. We understand how to build a strong mitigation plan and explain exactly how Finally, we present our client’s cases to the district attorney and to the Court and almost none are convicted of Measure 11 crimes.
Consider the story of a hypothetical client named “John.” John became addicted to heroin and committed a robbery with a firearm to get money to support his heroin habit. He was facing a 90 month Measure 11 sentence that required that he serve every day, hour and minute of the sentence. We put together a sentencing mitigation plan. John’s plan involved treatment of the addiction and a psychological evaluation to show that John was not dangerous. We use these tools to persuade a district attorney that the focus of the sentence should be rehabilitation, rather than a strictly punitive Measure 11 sentence. The goal of John’s plan was to structure a sentence that had a short prison term and access to programs that would help him reduce his sentence even further by actively engaging in rehabilitation.
As a Portland Measure 11 Lawyer, I know how to develop mitigation plans based on honest addiction and present these facts to the district attorney. Just because you are charged with a Measure 11 offense does not mean that you will serve the mandatory minimum Measure 11 prison term. Strong advocacy in mitigation can sway a district attorney from a Measure 11 sentence.
In most cases, the district attorney decides if the case is subject to a Measure 11 sentence. My staff and I have worked very hard to develop respectful relationships with prosecutors who work on Measure 11 cases. Our decades of experience and hard work pay off for our clients. Almost none of our clients end up with Measure 11 sentences.
By James F. O’Rourke Jr.
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