When people meet me and find out what I do, that I’m a Criminal Defense attorney, and after asking me how I can possibly represent those people, they say well I hope I never need your services. And I reply: Are you a heavy drinker, if not, you’ll never need me. Why?
I’ve been doing this now for more than 25 years, I’ve prosecuted criminal matters, I’ve defended criminal defendants, and sat as a Judge Pro-Tem. My experience across the board is that the overwhelming number of criminal cases have at their root an alcohol issue. Obviously, the DUI cases involve alcohol, but so do the majority of cases of Domestic Violence, and much of the street behavior that attracts the attention of the police.
Ah, but what about drugs? Sure, drugs are a problem, methamphetamine destroys human beings and certainly contributes to violent, criminal conduct. But the insidious thing about alcohol is that it is cheap, easily available, and socially accepted. As a result, it is the quintessential gateway drug. A gateway to substance abuse in general and a gateway of reduced inhibition on any particular occasion. People who take drugs generally do so in a situation where some alcohol is also involved. Moreover, most recreational substances (meth, as noted above, specifically excluded) don’t tend to contribute as significantly to further criminal behavior that attracts the attention of the police. Illegal drugs exist in a bath of alcohol.
What about my glass of wine with dinner? My beer after my run? My cocktail after work? That’s not heavy drinking. It might be a health concern, depending on the individual, but it’s not getting anybody arrested.
Are crimes committed without alcohol? Sure. But the vast majority of the kind of crime that ends up in the State and County Courts of the United States of America involves drinking. Read between the lines of the local paper, look critically at the cases that you see on the local news, if you’re an attorney, listen carefully to what your clients are really saying.
I’m not advocating prohibition, that clearly does not work. I’m advocating education, understanding, treatment and a recognition that a great deal of criminal behavior takes place when individuals are under the influence of alcohol. I’m advocating for the alcohol industry to pay its fair share in helping to solve the problem and prevent some of it in the future. I’m advocating for taking a serious look at the consequences of the unfettered advertising of an addictive, potentially dangerous, and crime inducing substance that is available everywhere.
There’s a lot of talk about crime in this country. Of this I am certain, the country will not get its crime under control until it gets its drinking under control.