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Criminalization of Addiction: Suffolk NY Drug Court Sentence Modified


Those addicted to drugs, such as Heroin, often steal to support their habits. Those more experienced will often ensure to steal small amounts to avoid a more serious allegation, a felony allegation, as opposed to the misdemeanor allegation of Petit Larceny. This Suffolk County Petit Larceny charge resulted in a plea arrangement based upon a contract to complete a drug treatment program. The case is on appeal because of the six month sentence, otherwise agreed upon by the Defendant, that was reduced to a four month prison sentence due to the hard work of the attorney and the discretion of the sitting judges.

The appeal was from a judgment of the District Court of Suffolk County, First District (William G. Ford, J.), rendered December 16, 2015. The judgment convicted defendant, upon her plea of guilty, of petit larceny, and sentenced her to six months' incarceration. The “Defendant subsequently pleaded guilty to the charge and negotiated a drug treatment court contract, the terms of which required defendant to successfully complete a drug treatment program, following which the guilty plea to petit larceny would be vacated and defendant would be permitted to plead guilty to disorderly conduct and be sentenced to a conditional discharge. In the event defendant violated the contract, the misdemeanor conviction would stand and she would be sentenced to four months' incarceration.” Often times, this is a great situation for someone who has a drug problem – the hope for a lesser sentence, here a violation (not a crime), in exchange for successful completion of treatment. Although it may seem odd, if one cannot or does not successfully complete treatment, that person being acknowledged as someone suffering from a substance use or substance abuse related crime, he or she will have to go to jail.

In this case, the treatment program (designated and approved by the state) found the defendant to be in breach of her “treatment contract.” Although the contract was reinstated, the defendant was again to be found in breach. Her defense attorney argued, unsuccessfully, at the lower court level. “After considering the parties' memoranda and declining defendant's request for further hearings, the District Court concluded that defendant had violated the treatment contract and again sentenced defendant to six months' incarceration.”

The appellate court is not very sympathetic, it would seem, at first: “ Defendant admitted her guilt of the underlying offense and, notwithstanding her flagrant violations of her drug treatment contract, she was afforded a further opportunity to avoid a criminal record and additional incarceration. She now asks this court to grant her relief from the criminal sanction and punishment; however, she previously had every opportunity to avoid that criminal sanction and punishment but forfeited that opportunity by her own misconduct. This case does not present the necessary extraordinary circumstances warranting the relief.”

The appellate court, however, notes that this is someone who is addicted, suffering from some form of a substance abuse disorder, in reducing her sentence: “considering all of the circumstances, including the prior periods of incarceration in relation to matters arising from her drug dependency, and her lengthy, if ultimately unsuccessful efforts in the drug treatment program, as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice, we modify the judgment by reducing the sentence imposed from six months' incarceration to four months' incarceration.”

The case is People v. Rousseau, 2018 NY Slip Op 51853, 2016-183 SCR, (Appellate Term, 2nd Dept. 2018).

Are you facing criminal charges or do you need representation because of a substance use or substance abuse related issue? Have you been charged with a crime or feel you are being discriminated against because of a disability? Call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris: 631-450-2515 (NY) | 954-998-2918 (FL).


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