In Missouri, any felony arrest for a drug related crime can easily lead to prison if not handled correctly. The judge could send you to prison for a term of years or treatment program in the Department of Corrections. The best way to stay out of prison or a prison-based treatment program is to simply win your case, but that is sometimes easier said than done depending on the facts and circumstances of your case.
If your case can’t be won at trial or you don’t want to risk a lengthier sentence after a trial loss, it’s important to take steps to lessen the punishment before your case is even decided. Here’s the key: If at sentencing you haven’t taken steps to stay clean and fix your drug problem, the Judge will try to do it for you by ordering you into prison for a prison term or prison-based treatment programs.
Take These 5 Steps to Avoid Prison on Your Felony Drug Charge.
1. Complete Drug Treatment.
This is the most important advice I can give you if you have a pending drug charge. Treatment comes in many flavors. Typically, it is most beneficial for your criminal case if you attend and complete an inpatient residential treatment and follow that up with outpatient treatment services recommended by your inpatient professionals.
Most inpatient programs run anywhere from 28 to 45 days depending on where you go. The outpatient follow-up care can be intense with meetings taking place several nights a week. As you progress through the treatment, the intensity subsides a little bit. However, in a perfect world we would want to show the Judge that we are still actively and aggressively managing any drug addiction that remains. For some clients this means residing in a sober-living house after treatment. For all clients, it means attending AA or NA meetings several times per week and getting a sponsor who can go to bat for you when the time comes.
Ultimately, it does not matter which treatment you do or how long it lasts. The only important thing is that you compete treatment and continue a course of self-improvement that can be documented for the Judge to see.
2. Pass All Your Drug Tests.
While your case is pending, it is tremendously helpful in getting you a great result on your drug case. Getting clean and staying clean is the hardest thing to do, which is why it makes a great impression on the judge in your case when you can successfully do it.
Pre-trial drug testing usually comes in two forms: Hair follicle and urinalysis. A hair follicle test will go back as much as 90 days and are generally seen by prosecutors and judges as more trustworthy because they are less prone to tampering. A urinalysis only gives you a couple days of cover. So, if you don’t want to do a hair follicle and want to test by urinalysis, it is best if you commit to testing twice per week. This assures the court that you are clean, you haven’t just beaten the test, and you’ve gone through great expense and inconvenience to prove it to them.
When you get clean and stay that way during your case, you send several positive messages to the judge and prosecutor on your case. First, it lets them know that the treatment you have sought out for yourself is working. Secondly, it shows that you are taking this case seriously and you are committed to living a clean, crime-free life moving forward. Finally, it shows the judge that you are a person who has discipline and who can follow court rules. This means you are more likely to be successful on probation and therefore do not need a prison sentence of prison-based treatment program.
All these messages you are sending to the judge will help you stay out of the prison-based treatment programs. No judge wants to undo the progress of someone who is clean, been through treatment and has their life turned in a positive directly by placing them back in prison.
3. Stay Out Of Trouble.
While your case is pending, you absolutely cannot get into any more trouble. This means absolutely no violations of the law. Judges and prosecutors all believe that crime is often the result of a drug habit. So, even if you don’t directly get caught with drugs, other criminal activity will be roped into the drug case at hand. This is the single fastest way to undo any of the good you have done in treatment and by testing cleanly.
4. Get The Rest Of Your Life Together, Too.
When you have a drug problem, the other aspects of your life tend to fall apart, too. Your license gets suspended, your kids have been taken away, you lose your job, or become homeless. If this is where you are, don’t worry! You don’t have to fix all these things at once, you just have to take steps in the right direction.
When you fix your relationships and regain custody of your children, you show the court your priorities are back in order. When you are again employed full-time and living in a stable environment, you prove to the court that you are a productive member of society and can again taking responsibility for your own life. Most importantly, when you begin to fix all these things, you show the judge that you have dealt with your drug addiction and come out on the other side. Because if you haven’t, you could never have done these positive things in your life.
5. Tell Your Story.
People come to drugs in millions of ways. The death of a loved one. The breakup of a family through divorce. Pain from a knee injury sustained on the job. These stories are important because they are what makes you the person you are today.
Ultimately, the judge needs to see you and know you as a person. Not a statistic. A statistic is sent to prison, while a person gets the help they need. How did you end up with a drug addiction? How did that lead you to commit a crime? What have you done to fight the habit and get yourself back? How do you intend to get clean or stay clean moving forward? The right answers to these questions along with a compelling and personal story will put you in great shape to get a fair shake from the Court. You are not the habit that got you here.