Friday, January 28, 2011

Shelby Co. Drug Court Testing Parents of Enrolled Juveniles

I got an email from a parent in Shelby Co. last night who has a juvenile child enrolled in drug court. This parent informed me that the judge (Kramer) forced a drug test on the spouse under threat of arrest "to prove the parents are good role models" and that this is standard procedure in Shelby Co. drug court.

DO WHAT?!?!?!?

I couldn't believe it. Couldn't figure out how such a thing could be legal. It seems to violate the "innocent until proven guilty" tenet upon which our entire judicial system is founded. The parents of the juvenile haven't violated any laws, they are not under the rule of any courts, no custody battles, no DHR or anything like that. One of the parents is a teacher...so how can they be forced to submit to court ordered drug testing?

Hell, this case wasn't even about drugs to begin with. The kid in question shop lifted a pack of candy bars and got placed on probation. Later the kid tested positive for the fake marijuana that was outlawed last legislative session. I wasn't aware that a test had even been developed for the fake stuff. However, when I googled it I found that they have indeed developed a test to rapidly detect any fun one might possibly have.

Then the parent sent me the paperwork for enrollment and it was right there in black and white.

"Parents, Guardians, or Custodians is/are made party to herein shall"

X Submit to and pass drug and alcohol screens at the request of the drug
court team.


It also says that parents are not to have alcohol in the house and that they must allow entry to any drug court team member who just happens by. Alcohol is legal. This case has nothing to do with alcohol. How can it be legal for drug court to say that parents, who are of legal drinking age, are not allowed to drink alcohol in the privacy of their own home, when this case has nothing to do with alcohol?

Still, I thought this might be a case of some power tripping judge thinking he can get away with anything in his court room. So, I asked a couple of lawyers I know who sometimes have cases in Shelby Co. and they told me that this provision (make parents or guardian a party to case) is in the Alabama Juvenile Code. I looked it up this morning and Section 12-15-31(5) says;

"A PARENT OR GUARDIAN OF THE CHILD CAN BE MADE A PARTY TO THIS CASE PURSUANT
TO § 12-15-31(5), CODE OF ALABAMA 1975. A PERSON MADE A PARTY TO THIS CASE MAY BE
REQUIRED TO PAY ATTORNEY FEES, TO PAY FOR EVALUATION AND TREATMENT, TO PAY FINES,
COURT COSTS, AND RESTITUTION, AND TO PAY FOR CARE, SUPPORT, AND SUPERVISION OF THE
CHILD. A PERSON MADE A PARTY MAY BE SUBJECT TO OTHER THINGS ALSO. FAILURE TO
COMPLY WITH THE ORDERS OF THE COURT CAN RESULT IN CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS, AND FAILURE TO MAKE PAYMENTS ORDERED CAN RESULT IN A CIVIL JUDGMENT FOR THE COLLECTION OF PAYMENTS ORDERED."

Now, in 1975 when the code was written, there was no such thing as drug court in the State of Alabama. I'm not even sure drug testing existed in 1975. Problem is, the sentence above which says "A person made party may be subject to other things also." That is so broadly written that it can be made to fit anything a judge wants it to fit. It seems to me that the provision was mostly to make the parent responsible for paying the costs associated with juvenile court. It had absolutely nothing to do with drug testing the parents of a juvenile who is in trouble with the law. How can it apply to drug testing parents in 2011?

Also, the code says CAN be made a party...not WILL be made a party or HAS TO be made a party to. It also says persons made party to a case MAY be subject to other 'things'. It doesn't say WILL be subject to other things or what those other things might be.

So, what determines if a parent/guardian/custodian is made a party to a case? Are there any clear cut determining factors? Or is it, as I suspect, left up to the individual judge so that there are no clear guidelines?

I learned from one of the attorneys that I communicated with that if one of the parents fails a drug test they get sent directly to jail. How is putting the parent of a kid in trouble, in jail, supposed to help matters?

I've also asked a family court judge I know about all of this. I want to know is it standard procedure in all drug courts, or is it isolated to Shelby Co.?

All they are really doing is looking for more people to extort in drug court. I guess their reasoning is that if a kid does something wrong (and what kid hasn't shop lifted a piece of candy at least once?) then the parents must be doing things wrong, too. I always thought there had to be evidence of wrongdoing before prosecution could commence. Isn't that how our legal system is supposed to work?

I refuse to accept that this is legal. If it is legal then the only way to change it is through the legislature. I will keep researching it. I'd like to hear from any parents with a child in drug court anywhere in the state, and especially in Shelby Co., that this has happened to. Please email your story to me at lorettanall@gmail.com

In the meantime all parents in Shelby Co. should be aware that this can, and probably will happen to you, if your child somehow winds up in juvenile court.

Update: I spoke with both mom and dad yesterday via phone and got more astonishing details that I want to share.

Mom is a school teacher in an inner city school. She works 10 hours a day. At home she and dad also have a set of two year old twins, one of which is autistic. Dad stays home during the day to watch the kids and has a night job. If dad loses his job then mom will have to leave her job in order to provide child care for her small children. If that happens they will lose their home.

When I talked to dad he told me the whole story about what happened in court. He said the Judge James Kramer was talking about what happens in drug court and what to expect and all of a sudden he said, "Now parents I expect you to be good role models for your children and to prove that you are a good role model I expect each of you to provide me with a urine sample before you leave today."

Dad said he felt like he had been run over by a truck. He said the public defender, who should have been representing him, kept coming over to him and saying, "This is a really great program and you should sign on." Said he must have come over to him 5 or 6 times trying to cajole him into submission. What he didn't do was explain all the consequences for a dirty urine, offer him any advice on his rights. No, nothing like that. That makes me wonder if the Public Defenders office in Shelby Co. is getting some kind of kick back somewhere.

Dad said all the other new parents in drug court that day were practically running over each other to get in line....raising their hands and volunteering to piss in a cup. He said one lady got overlooked and she jumped up and said..."Y'all forgot me. I want to be drug tested too!" (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little)

Dad said he told the probation officer that he had already peed and that he would be unable to leave a sample. He said the PO told him that he would be detained until he complied. When dad asked the PO what would happen if he flat refused he was told that the judge would put him in jail until he changed his mind.

Dad asked the PO what happens if a parent comes up dirty and the PO said, "The Judge will talk to you when you come back on Monday, will probably send you to treatment for marijuana addiction. If you fail another one you will go to jail." And he will obviously be placed in the adult drug court in Shelby Co. which is something like $2500 - $3000 a lick plus the cost of drug testing and probation officer fees.

Dad said the Judge told everyone that the part about not having alcohol in the home didn't mean that the parents couldn't go out to a bar. (Which would mean they would likely have to drive home after drinking. (Yay safety!)

Dad also told me that while enrolled in drug court that parents were not allowed to give their children medication, of any kind, even that prescribed by a physician, until the drug court team approved it. Not kidding. Even doctor prescribed medication has to be approved by these yahoos. There is a case where this judge put a parent in jail for 30 days because she allegedly gave her child something over the counter while the child was enrolled in drug court.

Dad said the PO stood behind him in the bathroom and WATCHED him pee in a cup.

Dad noted that there are no black families in juvenile drug court. I told him that's because drug courts don't believe black people have money so black kids just get sent to jail. I think we have a clear case of unequal access here.

Dad said he asked the judge what if they didn't want their son to go through drug court. He said the judge told him that his son would then have a trial by jury, but with ONLY the juvenile probation officers giving testimony so as not to jeopardize the sanctity of the information, that his son would be found guilty (how the hell does he know that would be the verdict?) and that he would be sent to juvenile detention and then through drug court anyway.

I exchanged emails with Peter Wilkinson of Rolling Stone Magazine yesterday. He has asked for an exclusive print interview and is lobbying his higher ups to get permission to come back to Alabama and cover this story.

This unconstitutional BS will not stand!

There is case precedent. Commentor sixstring found a similar case in Idaho and the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that drug testing parents violates the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution.

25 comments:

sixstring said...

I agree that this language in the code is so vague(subject to other things also?), it might be unconstitutional. Has anyone had the balls and money to challenge this in court ( not just the juvi court)? They can do anything they want if it is never challenged.

Loretta Nall said...

I don't know six. I hope this family fights it. However, it would probably cost an astronomical amount of money unless we could find a non-profit legal center to take the case.

sixstring said...

And the part about allowing entry to the home at any time by a drug cort member definately is a violation of 4th amendtment. Reasonable suspicion is required to enter a home without a warrant even if you are on probation (U.S. v Knights)!
Are the parents require to sign this "paperwork"? Did they in this case (consent)?

Loretta Nall said...

The parents are forced to sign. The only way to avoid it is to hide out when they come to serve the papers. In this case the paperwork was done in court, while the parents were present.

The father signed. He also took and failed the drug test for marijuana. He is not in jail as of last night. I think since it was his first time the judge may have some "get clean in 30 days policy".

I've just emailed this story to Peter Wilkinson at Rolling Stone. He covered the Webster Alexander case. Let's hope he's interested.

Anonymous said...

The law that quote mentions was updated in 2009, according to ALIS. That section was replaced by section 12-15-116 which can be found here http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/CodeOfAlabama/1975/12-15-116.htm

Regardless of what year it was updated, it will be cited as being part of the "Alabama Code of 1975" which is a little misleading. That's the full name of the Alabama of laws, even though it's updated and changed every year.

I'm not a lawyer, paralegal, or any other kind of law professional. I just learned my way around ALIS and came up against the "1975" thing for a class once. Hope this helps!

sixstring said...

"Forced" to sign? How? Has anyone had the guts to say "I'm not agreeing to this"? I doubt it.I think once you sign, you are on shakier legal ground. It's hard to then say I was forced to sign.

Loretta Nall said...

Olivia Turner at Alabama ACLU emailed me back and they are going to take a look at the case. Said it is "very problematic".

sixstring said...

Ok, I see how he was forced now.
This cannot be constitutional. How can someone not even accused of a crime be detained and sent to jail?
Oh, I forgot, we are not living in the land of the free.
I suppose the judge would claim contempt of court, but that's B.S.
We all know about the uselessness of a P.D. They need a real lawyer.
"Very problematic" is a very mild characterization.

sixstring said...

So, the parents could refuse drug court and go to trial, notwithstanding the judge saying the child would be found guilty and sent to drug court anyway. Maybe this is the best course for someone who knows they will test positive. Depends on the seriouseness of the charge and the possible sentence. This program is operated under the guise of voluntariness. It sounds like the judge told the parents that they really had no option. Involuntary consent is no consent at all.

sixstring said...

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/jun/02/idaho-supreme-court-says-no-drug-testing-parents/

Anonymous said...

Interesting story. I'd also follow the money/funding on this one.

http://www.familyconnection-inc.org/coalition/?pageID=36

Anonymous said...

THEY TO START CHECKING ALL POWER TRIPPING JUDGES FOR WEAPONS...IM SERIOUS I CAN SEE IT NOW...PEE IN THE CUP OR GET SHOT. WHO CARES IF YOUR CHILD IS RUNNING FEVER AND NEEDS MOTRIN..GIVE TO HIM AND I KILL U...IM MAKING A JOKE BUT THIS IS SERIOUS..GETTEM LORETTA...

Jessica said...

Ms. Nall I have learned alot about you in my research. I, too, am fighting a case against the shelby Co. Drug Court. My case has now been moved to district court. I was arrested at a rock concert after someone passed me a joint, I'm not a smoker, so passed it on. Regardless, I was arressted along with the group around me. And although I haven't failed a drug test in Shelby Co. Pre-trial probation, and my arresting officers report says he saw me pass it, not smoke it, the DA refuses to drop my charges. At first the public defender tried to get me to make a deal. If I would just plead guilty, go through the drug treatment program, they would drop my charge. But I do not feel that I am guilty of anything,but being in the wrong place at the wrong time, so thats when I got a lawyer. In circuit court, they offered me to either go through the treatment program (without dropping charges now, b/c I won't admitt guilt)or 2 years unsupervised probation w/risk of 90 days in jail. I refused that as well, and now we are going to district court. I didn't mention, I live out of state, so I cannot tell what a hardship it is for me to drive 4 hours one way to take a drug test 3-4 times a week, b/c they refuse to transfer my probation, which I am sure is b/c they will lose my money. But they are about to lose a lot more than that, cause I am determined to fight for my innocence, and my rights as an ammerican. I have grown-up believing that you are innocent untill proven guilty, but not in Shelby Co. Alabama. I have had to do everything to defend my character, now the prosecutors are trying to prove that the music I listen to proves that I am a likely drug user, yet they have no evidence. They didn't find any drugs on me and I haven't failed a drug test. They are charging me with constructive Posession(which means I had knowledge of the drugs around me), which has the same punishment as if they found a pound of marijuana on me. I have done alot of research on the Shelby Co. drug task force and court system. There budget was cut in half at the begining of the 2011 fiscal year. There director stated that they would whatever possible to maintain their program. Well, I am the example of that. They will charge anyone for anything, because most people will crumble and take their deal, b/c believe me they make it sound like its your only option. The public defender also tried to sell me on what a good program this was, and if I did good in it, I get promoted more quickly. There is obviously a lot of unconstitutional practices going on in Shelby County. As well as some corrupt officials. And someone finally needs to challenge them. I can send you all information public records, and accounts I have found. I will be glad to share more details about my case as well. I want to get the word out about what is going on in Alabama.

sixstring said...

Jessica,

Sorry you got busted. A similar thing happened to me when I was a young man except it was just someone next to me smoking a joint at a concert, I never even touched it. The cops lied and said I did.

I never heard of pre trial probation. I assume you mean the drug testing is a condition of bail?


My two cents:

Technically, you were in possession of the joint when you accepted it. Constructive posession means the contraband was in an area under your control and you knew it was contraband. In this case, you were in actual possesion and if you knew it was contraband, you would be technically guilty of possession.
You might convince a jury to acquit if you can prove you are not a smoker and only passed the joint. But that's rolling the dice.

1 year unsupervised with the carges dismissed after probation would be a decent deal. You have already demonstrated to them your willingness to fight this, so you will get their best deal. I konw you didn't do anything wrong and don't even smoke, but that's how screwed up our system is.
What music you isten to is irrelevant and any mention of it in court should be objected to.
Most of them probably listen to Willie anyway...

Nickel Pickle said...

I was also arrested by Shelby county for passing a joint at a rock concert. So was everyone sitting next to me. I wanted to fight it, but my lawyer said I was technically guilty of possession & just to take their deferred drug court program because if I fought it & lost I would have a drug charge on my record, lose my DL, and have to do 1-2 years probation. I just could not take that risk. Yes you have to drug test pre-trial because its a condition of your bond..I live over an hour from Columbiania & driving back and forth several times a week was rough. I did the 6 months of drug court. It was hell. 6 months of my life I just want to forget all about. But I did every stupid thing they told me to do & I graduated from the program and my charges were dropped & I did not lose my licence. It sucks, sorry others have to deal with this crap.

Loretta Nall said...

The major issue that I have with them forcing Jessica into drug court is that there is no evidence of drug use

drug court is for folks who actually use drugs even though i disagree with it entirely

sixstring said...

The whole drug court thing is a bunch of B.S. Really? treatment for marijuana addiction?

Yep, like Pickle says, they make the risk too great to fight it. Even if you're innocent it takes guts.

Jessica, if you could prove you were drug free at the time of the incident and have been since with maybe a hair test or something(not sure how long it's been), the judge might drop the drug testing requirement.

Loretta Nall said...

drug court is a money racket nothing more

also unequal access is a huge issue
if you have cash and loads of it you can get in

for those that dont have cash its jail

as jessicas case clearly shows it is not about helping those with serious drug problems

Jessica said...

Sixstring I understand that under the technicality of the law, I am by all means guilty. I was aware of what was going on around me and that it was illegal. But I never thought that what others were doing around me would affect me. I don't know anyone who would think to themselves, even though I paid for these seats, maybe I sould leave my seat or venue to avoid breaking the law? As far as proof, I took my first drug test 6 days after my arrest, and the fact that on the date on my arrest I was 13 weeks and 6 days pregnant, which I also provided doctor documentation in court. It seems to me that there is no way in hell they are going to simply drop my charges. In the meantime, the judge has dropped the pre-trial probation testing, so I don't have to be back there till my district court date. And the only reason I want just take the drug court is because they refuse to transfer it. It sounds great to me to jump through hoops for 6 months to get rid of all this. But I live 4 hours away.It is a 9 hour round trip for me to wait an hour, pay $30, and piss in a cup. Not to mention I have made the drive twice to meet with my Pre-trial Prob. officer, for her not to show up, and the other time she had a sceduled holiday, yet she set these appointments, and I got fined for missing the appointments. I own a business. It is a mojor inconvience, (which is really all the program is designed to be)for me to leave my business unattended 3-4 days a week. It cost my company money, not just me, and we all know its near to impossible to keep a small business thriving these days. I have also used the business arguement. I am a thriving member of society; I have a college education (from the state of Alabama). I have hired 6 employees since the new year. I am providing jobs therefor boosting the economy. The more I see how people are treated in Shelby Co. drug court system and the more I hear their testimony, the more I am conveinced that there is something wrong with this. Not once have they ever asked me about my drug use or if I need help. They have never offered me a real treatment program. Its piss when your color is called, and pay $30 for your PO to ask you if you are still employed, have same address, or anymore charges. All they do is break people down by dehumanizing them. You need drugs after dealing with those people. I can go on and on about the people employee in the community corrections department. BTW, they don't take debit/credit cards, cash only. There is fine of $20 if you don't have correct change, nor are you allowed to leave to find some place to make change for you. Learned that the hard way my first visit. Its all about making a dollar by any means :)

Anonymous said...

I was also in the shelby county drug court for possession of marijuana(half a gram).After the initial appearance my lawyer had my case moved to the traffic and mistemeaner court signed by judge Jackson.What if any advantage is this to be out of drug court? Thanks

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous whose lawyer got got your case moved to traffic court--who was your lawyer please, he is needed. Loretta or anyone, can you recommend lawyer who will fight the Shelby County system?

Anonymous Dec. 2, 1011

Anonymous said...

Amazing information! All of which I have heard before. Lets not forget that this process starts at the city level. While I am fully aware and have personally witnessed what alcohol / drug abuse can do to a person and their families, this process in Shelby County has gotten out of control. Lets look at who is REALLY benefiting from the program. Who is looking at the statistics since this drug program has began? I am sure that monetarily those numbers would be available, but what about the "reform" of the juveniles / persons involved. Or does anyone really care since this is a "criminal process". I will be following this blog for more updates. Thanks to you guys for what seems like trusted and accurate information.

Anonymous said...

I went through and graduated the Shelby County Drug Court. I can say without a doubt that is is the most corrupt and poorly ran system I have ever seen. First of all I had never been in trouble in my life before that. The public defenders do everything but twist your arm to make you sign up. Furthermore you can babreky take take any over the counter medication if you are sick. To make matters worse if you have to go to the doctor you have to get the the doc to sign a paper saying that you are a drug addict whether its true or not. The public defenders are criminals and so is the judge I hope one day someone will look into that program and see it for what it really is. A money making scam. For god sakes they won't even let u take benadryll if you get stung by a wasp they will put you in jail. F shelby co and f there so called corrupt judicial system. They need to ne stopped

Anonymous said...

Well,the way you are forced to sign is the paperwork lets you know quick that the next step will be Dhr(another shelby co. Nightmare) trying to gain custody of your child,and make no mistake,they will take them from you,tie you up in court,damaging your childs life,head and heart,let alone security.

Anonymous said...

And,if you don't have the money for a drug test,you are considered dirty or positive for drugs.if you drink to much water,you considered diluted,which is positive for drugs, if you are positive for pot,you are considered a addict.my 15 years alcohol free meant nothing to these people