The opioid crisis and its legal consequences

| May 18, 2020 | Firm News |

The United States is experiencing an opioid epidemic on a level the rest of the world has not encountered. The use of opioids can start innocently and legally, such as after a person endures a severe injury that necessitates strong painkillers during subsequent surgeries and healing. 

The health and fatality consequences of opioid addiction are certainly devastating. However, what began for a legitimate reason can inadvertently turn into an addiction, sometimes after only a matter of days, and this can segue into criminality under the current laws. 

The triggers of illegal drug use 

When legal prescriptions cease to be an option, a person may feel driven to pursue alternatives through less legal means. A now-addicted person may purchase or steal prescription drugs from others. Often, people turn to heroin to satisfy the irresistible urge to continue using. 

The legal penalties of drug convictions 

The penalties for drug convictions can be steep. In Massachusetts, they can result in a year or longer incarceration and hefty fines, depending on the type of drug the person has, the amount and other factors. For example, possession of a controlled substance may result in up to a year in prison, but someone possessing heroin may face up to two years in a house of correction. 

The collateral consequences of a drug conviction 

Collateral consequences occur once a person has completed a sentence and paid fines and is ready to re-enter society. Having a criminal record can cause numerous issues. Job prospects may become stifled; student loans may cease to be an option, limiting one’s access to education; and renting an apartment may prove difficult. 

These collateral consequences and other circumstances cause people experiencing opioid addiction to have a far higher chance of legal troubles than the general population. A good defense strategy may help to mitigate the risk of severe penalties and improve someone’s outlook in the short- and long-term.