The Tough Truth Surrounding Legal Issues and Addiction  

The Tough Truth Surrounding Legal Issues and Addiction  

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Most people have heard about the psychological, emotional, social, and physical effects of addiction, but what about the legal issues? During active addiction, a person is not thinking clearly, and often, they are suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder that complicates an already difficult disease. When this happens, anything from theft and physical violence to driving while intoxicated can occur – ending in disastrous results. If you know someone who is exhibiting signs of a substance use disorder or addiction problem, early intervention will not only save their life, but it may prevent a host of legal landmines, including jail time. To understand the severity of this potential issue, below we list some common legal issues and ramifications facing those in active addiction.

Driving under the influence (DUI)

Unfortunately, we either know someone or have seen someone arrested for a DUI on the news. Famous child actor, Henry Thomas, known for his role in the movie ‘E.T.’ was recently found

by police passed out in his car in Oregon. He was arrested for DUI, taken into police custody, and booked on a misdemeanor charge. This kind of news is seen far too often, but it highlights the legal ramifications often faced by those with an alcohol use disorder or who make poor choices when drinking. Every state has its own penalties and fines associated with DUI, but on the whole, being arrested for driving while intoxicated can cost you your license, your dignity, and incur numerous legal fees. Some states have strict laws and may even impose mandatory jail time for a first-time offense. For example, in California, penalties for a DUI offense may include:

  • Two days to 10 months in jail.
  • A first time DUI carries $390 to $1,000 in fines plus a number of penalties that can be several thousand dollars.
  • License suspension starts at 6 months. First-time offenders can apply for a restricted license for driving to and from necessary places like a job and school. The restricted license requires the use of an ignition interlock device but allows the motorist to drive.


It’s very common for a life of long-term addiction to lead to some form of theft or burglary. Addiction is a disease and those who are struggling often steal money, objects of value, or other things in order to support their drug or alcohol problem. In fact, stealing is a sign that someone has a substance use disorder. Burglary is considered a felony in most states and in California, the burglary law (Penal Code 459) is divided into first-degree and second-degree felonies. First-degree burglary is the robbing of a residence. Second-degree burglary is the burglary of any other type of structure such as a store and business. Potential consequences for the first-degree burglary in California can include a prison sentence of 2 to 6 years. Second-degree burglary can carry a sentence of 16 months to three years – depending on the case and whether or not the crime was a first-time offense. Fines, penalties and legal fees incurred during this process can also lead to staggering debt.

Possession or sale of drugs

A person addicted to drugs often finds it difficult to impossible to hold down a job and eventually, if they do not get the help they need – they lose it. This leads to a spiral of depression, fear, and desperation. In order to make money to support their habit, keep their home, and support their family – they may turn to selling drugs. If the person is eventually caught dealing illegal substances, including prescription drugs, the laws and penalties that follow can be devastating. Each state has its own penalties when dealing with drug dealers, but no matter the state or county – the outcomes typically involve jail time. 

Health and Safety Code 11351 governs drug sale offenses in California and makes it a felony to possess certain controlled substances for sale or distribution. Such substances include illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine, to prescription drugs like oxycodone and codeine. The conviction also varies, as the judge looks at all of the factors surrounding the crime as well as the number of prior offenses the person may have incurred. However, a conviction of the sale or possession of drugs often includes:

  • One to three years in jail and probation.
  • With a conviction of an intention to engage in multiple drug sales, additional penalties could be imposed in connection with each intended sale. 
  • Deportation if you are a legal immigrant or legal alien.
  • Heavy court and legal fees.

These are just some of the potential crimes and legal challenges facing a person during active addiction, however, the fall-out from these crimes can follow a person well into recovery. Moreover, having a legal record can also result in long-term ramifications such as difficulties obtaining employment, paying off the debt incurred by legal fees, and building credit. Additionally, these crimes and others also come with court-mandated treatment for substance use disorders – but seeking treatment before this happens can save you from a life of heartache and addiction that often leads to crime. Silver Lining Recovery

Don’t let these circumstances happen to you or someone you love battling addiction. There is hope and at Silver Lining Recovery, we are here to help. Entering a drug rehabilitation program can provide the necessary tools, skills, and treatment necessary to avoid potential legal issues, turn your life around, and start your road to recovery. Please reach out to Silver Lining Recovery at (866) 448-4563 today and get the help you need to treat an addiction, substance use disorder or co-occurring disorder.