Drug Use and Its Legal Implications

The Legal Implications Behind Drug Usage


Drug use is implicated in at least five types of drug-related offenses.

  • Offenses related to drug possession or sales
  • Offenses directly related to obtaining drugs (e.g., stealing to get money for drugs)
  • Offenses related to a lifestyle that includes association with other offenders or with illicit markets
  • Offenses related to abusive and violent behaviors, including domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Offenses related to driving while intoxicated (DWI) or under the influence (DUI), which can include property damage, accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
  • Incarceration

Treatment offers the best alternative for interrupting the drug use/criminal justice cycle for offenders with drug problems. Untreated substance using offenders are more likely to relapse into drug use and criminal behavior. Additionally, treatment consistently has been shown to reduce the costs associated with lost productivity, crime, and incarceration caused by drug use.

Scientific research shows that treatment can help many drug using offenders change their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors; avoid relapse; and successfully remove themselves from a life of substance use and crime. Treatment can cut drug use in half, decrease criminal activity, and reduce arrests. It is true that legal pressure might be needed to get a person into treatment and help them stay there. Once in a treatment program, however, even those who are not initially motivated to change can become engaged in a continuing treatment process. In fact, research suggests that mandated treatment can be just as effective as voluntary admission to rehab centers.

Drug abuse treatment can be incorporated into criminal justice settings in a variety of ways. These include:

  • Treatment as a condition of probation
  • Drug courts that blend judicial monitoring and sanctions with treatment
  • Treatment in prison followed by community-based treatment after discharge
  • Treatment under parole or probation supervision.

Drug use often leads to violence; separation of parents and children; loss of jobs; feelings of hopelessness; serious money problems; single parenthood and worry over childcare needs; harmful relationships; emotional and behavioral difficulties in children; and dangerous driving that can result in the death of the drug user, family members, or innocent travelers on the road.

Effective treatment decreases future drug use and drug-related criminal behavior, and can improve a person’s relationship with his or her family. In addition, the family needs tools and support to help deal with the offender’s incarceration, rehabilitation, and loss of income.

Coordination between criminal justice professionals, substance abuse treatment providers, and other social service agencies can improve outcomes for people with substance use problems. By working together, the criminal justice and treatment systems can optimize resources to benefit the health, safety, and well-being of these offenders, their families, and their communities.

If you are charged with a non-violent drug or alcohol related crime, there is a chance you can avoid prison by agreeing to get addiction treatment instead. If you, as the guilty party, are charged with a non-violent crime that occurred as a direct result of your intoxication, then a court may offer you an option: receive a reduced, lenient sentence (or avoid prison entirely) by agreeing to get addiction treatment for your alcohol or drug use.

Participating in a treatment program usually entails accepting legal culpability for any damages caused as a result of your intoxication. In return, attending the program will account for a certain part of your sentence.

As alcohol and drug addiction are classified as disorders, the legal system is more flexible to lean towards rehabilitation rather than incarceration. This means you can request to be admitted to an alcohol/drug treatment program instead of serving time in jail.

The better your case looks, the more likely you are to qualify for drug/alcohol treatment in place of jail time. Part of addiction treatment may involve a rigid schedule that includes rehabilitation treatment, 12-step program participation, and regular therapy sessions. In effect, the treatment process provides you with the structure and guidance needed to adapt and cope to live a normal, productive lifestyle.


Department of Transportation (DOT) Violations to the Drug and Alcohol Program Regulation


Premium Counseling Group’s substance abuse counselor, Mr. Felix Davila, is also certified as a Department of Transportation Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).


The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

The SAP represents the major decision point (and in some cases the only decision point) an employer may have in choosing whether or not to place an employee behind the steering wheel of a school bus or other vehicles, in the cockpit of a plane, at the helm of an oil tanker, at the throttle of a train, in the engineer compartment of a subway car, or at the emergency control valves of a natural gas pipeline.

The SAP does not advocate for the employer nor the employee. The SAP function is to protect the public interest in safety by professionally evaluating an employee, whose job is regulated by the Department of Transportation, and recommending appropriate substance abuse education and/or treatment, follow-up tests, and aftercare.

Since the primary safety objective of the DOT rules is to prevent, through deterrence and detection, alcohol and controlled substance users from performing transportation industry safety-sensitive functions, the SAP is responsible for several duties important to the evaluation, referral, and treatment of employees identified through breath and urinalysis testing as being positive for alcohol and controlled substance use, or who refuse to be tested, or who have violated other provisions of the DOT rules.

The responsibility of the SAP is to provide a comprehensive face-to-face assessment and clinical evaluation to determine what level of assistance the employee needs in resolving problems associated with alcohol use or prohibited drug use. Then, the SAP must recommend a course of education and/or treatment with which the employee must demonstrate successful compliance prior to returning to a DOT safety-sensitive duty. Treatment recommendations can include, but are not limited to: In-patient treatment, partial in-patient treatment, out-patient treatment, education programs, and aftercare.

Prior to the employee’s return to safety-sensitive duties, the SAP is required to provide a face-to-face follow-up evaluation with the employee to determine if the individual has demonstrated successful compliance with recommendations of the initial evaluation. The SAP will also develop and direct a follow-up testing plan for the employee returning to work following successful compliance. Follow-up

testing can last up to 60 months, but can be terminated by the SAP any time after one year (if all tests recommended up to that point are completed). This follow-up testing requirement is in addition to any tests accomplished through the employer’s random testing program.

There are times when an employee will need continuing assistance with an alcohol or drug problem even if the employee is ready to return to work. At these times, the SAP will provide the employee and employer with recommendations for “aftercare” – continuing education and/or treatment needed after return to safety-sensitive duties.


REFERENCES: Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs under the Department of Transportation rule, under Title 49 (Transportation) of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 40 (Procedures For Transportation Workplace Drug And Alcohol Testing Programs).

DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to substitute nor replace the advice of legal counsel. This is intended to provide you with information about how obtaining Substance Abuse Treatment may be able to help you reduce or avoid judicial charges but does not guarantee you will avoid civil and/or criminal charges in its entirety.

Talk to an expert to deal with counseling requirements now.