Hardly a week goes by that I don't get an email from some unfortunate person who has had a run-in with the law in Shelby County, and as a result, are being forced into the Shelby County Drug Court program. A few months ago it was the forced drug testing of parents with kids enrolled in the program. Today, it's something even more sinister.
Over the weekend I got an email from a woman in Atlanta about her current ordeal involving Shelby Co. Drug Court. Here is what she had to say;
Ms. Nall I have learned a lot 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 arrested 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 admit 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 American. I have grown-up believing that you are innocent until 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 Possession (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 a lot of research on the Shelby Co. drug task force and court system. There budget was cut in half at the beginning 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.
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 should 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 of 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 won't 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 scheduled holiday, yet she set these appointments, and I got fined for missing the appointments. I own a business. It is a major inconvenience, (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 argument. 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 therefore 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 convinced 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.
My husband got transferred back to drug court after circuit court, since our lawyer said he didn't have many alternatives left, which I don't think is true. She advised me to continue fighting since they don't have any evidence, but an officers account, but I am not happy with her results. She originally told us she could get my charge dropped, and my husband would just pay a fine, but obviously that's not the case in Shelby Co., and every week she sends us another bill for $500 and I'm not sure what I am even paying for anymore. Can you recommend a lawyer? Someone that may have a personal interest in fighting for a case involving a simple possession (.03 grams found on the ground in front of us), as well as someone who wants to stick to to Shelby Co. dehumanizing court system.
There are 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.
So, a patron from out of state wishing to spend money in Shelby County's economy instead gets arrested on a drug related charge, of which there is NO EVIDENCE, and is forced into drug court even though there again there's NO EVIDENCE that this person uses drugs? How about that? Oh, and the concert she was attending was "Widespread Panic". Seems like every time Widespread Panic comes to that area the cops bring out huge buses and about half the crowd are undercover pricks intent on filling those buses with people who spend money in their town. Brilliant!
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't drug court supposed to be for people who actually use drugs? I disagree with the drug court BS altogether. It is nothing but a money racket that mainly focuses its resources on cannabis consumers (because there are more of us than all other illicit substance users combined and therefore a larger pool of money for them to extort) as opposed to people who have actual drug addictions...say meth addicts for instance. And in this instance the person wasn't using drugs and has passed all drug testing, so there is no evidence of drug use of any kind. So, why is she being forced into drug court?
According to the Shelby Co. Drug Court website Drug Court is an alternative to the traditional court process. In Drug Court, intensive treatment, rather than incarceration, is used as the primary means of coping with drug use, abuse, and addiction. The Program is designed to keep qualified applicants as contributing members of society rather than requiring society to incur the costs of jailing or imprisoning these applicants. Through Drug Court you will receive treatment, specifically designed for you, intended to resolve the issues that brought you before the Court, as well as intensive supervision and interaction by the Court and Drug Court team.
Under those terms this lady does not qualify for drug court because she 1) Doesn't use drugs and therefore is not addicted or abusing drugs 2) She is already a contributing member of society because she is a business owner from out of state 3) Doesn't need treatment (which they don't offer anyway because there is a horrendous lack of treatment space available in Alabama)
By forcing her into this sham they will prevent her from being a contributing member of society by breaking her bank account, placing outrageous hardship on her business and taking money from her that she would likely use to care for her child. They want to make her become dependent on the state so they can turn around and say, "Look how drugs destroy your life....". In other words they make it a self-fulfilling prophecy like they always do.
Another thing that jumps out at me is the bit about being charged an extra $20 for not having correct change and not being allowed to run across the street and get it. I wonder if that is in any of the handbooks or paperwork they give those forced into participating, or if they just spring it on you once you are captive in their court? If I were a betting gal I'd put my money on the latter. Sounds to me like maybe someone in the drug court system has found a way to skim off the top.
As I said before I completely disagree with drug courts altogether. It is nothing but government sanctioned extortion. If you run out of money while in drug court you go to jail anyway. If you make mistakes in drug court you go to jail anyway (and true drug addicts will backslide....it's part of the process). If you don't have money then you never have the opportunity to participate in drug court and that right there is illegal. It is unequal access based on your bank account. Having said that it seems to me that if drug courts must exist then they should be used to address the most serious cases of addiction. Not cannabis consumers and certainly not business owning concert-goers who weren't using drugs at the time of arrest and for which there is no proof that they have ever used drugs. I think this lady is a target for drug court because Shelby County has decided that she has money and they want it.
I also think she can beat the charges. Generally, once they see that the person who they have targeted for their extortion practices intends to fight back the charges will disappear. I am trying to help her find a better lawyer. Stay tuned for developments. If you are in Shelby Co then write your representative and senator and demand that they put an end to this nonsense. Use this new report from the Drug Policy Alliance on the ineffectiveness of drug courts to make your argument.