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Can drug addiction be a defense against criminal charges?

Most drug addicts did not intend to be drug addicts. However, people do become drug addicts for various reasons and the effect on their lives can be devastating.

You have likely heard stories about people who never recovered from their addiction and whose lives were ultimately ruined. Perhaps you are struggling with a drug addiction yourself.

Drug addiction causes some people to make poor choices they would have otherwise not made. Sometimes these choices result in criminal charges.

The link between drugs and crime

Drugs alter your brain and impair judgment. Many drugs interact with brain receptors that control dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure. Dopamine causes the feelings we get when we are doing something we find enjoyable or exciting.

However, drugs cause a stronger amount of dopamine to be released, which means eventually your brain needs more dopamine to get the initial feeling of pleasure back. Since you are getting dopamine from the drugs, this naturally leads to craving more drugs and experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you do not take the drugs.

The more you crave drugs, the more likely you become to engage in whatever behavior is necessary to obtain the drugs. If you need money to buy drugs, you may steal, sell drugs or participate in other criminal behavior to get money.

Once you have the drugs, you have an increased likelihood of facing drug-related criminal charges, such as drug possession or distribution.

Whatever your criminal charges involve, if you knew you would have never engaged in criminal activity if you were not an addict, could this be used as a defense to your criminal charges?

Addiction is a factor but not a defense

The short answer is no. Generally, a drug addiction is not a complete defense to a criminal charge. However, it is sometimes a factor considered by courts or prosecutors when negotiating plea deals or deciding on sentencing.

A judge may accept and believe that your addiction led you to commit the crime. Although this will likely not cause them to dismiss the criminal charge entirely, they may sentence you to a pre-trial diversion program or a drug court.

Drug court in Georgia is a treatment program for substance abusers. The program lasts between 18 to 24 months and allows you to potentially have your criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

There are various requirements you must meet to be eligible for drug court. But if you are accepted, the benefits are well worth it.

Additional factors

Other factors that influence a court’s decision when addiction is involved are the type of crime involved, your prior criminal history and your attitude toward overcoming your addiction.

Typically, if a judge sees that you are truly remorseful for your actions and desire to get help for your addiction, you have a better chance of receiving a sentence involving some type of recovery program.

Overall, drug addiction is not an excuse for criminal behavior. However, recognizing that your addiction is causing you to make these choices and a legitimate desire to overcome it can go a long way in the outcome of your case.