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Getting Sober Isn’t Enough – Resolve Your Legal Issues

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Getting Sober Isn’t Enough – Resolve Your Legal Issues

One of our alumni, we’ll call her Cynthia, was doing really well.  She had finished our 90 day program and gone to live in a local sober living.  When she was ready for another, I called Friendly House.  Founded in 1951, Friendly House is the oldest women’s recovery living home in the US, providing a safe harbor for women suffering from the destruction of alcoholism and drug abuse, and has earned a world renowned reputation as the model for sober living.  Every year Hollywood celebrities, in recovery and not, turn out to help raise money for this amazing non profit organization.friendly house.jpg  

I told Friendly House Cynthia’s story and asked them to accept her.  They agreed, pending an interview.  The day before the interview Cynthia went to apply for government relief.  The case worker offered her a free hotel room in South Central Los Angeles for the night.

And then, as Jeffrey Miles, our in-house legal counselor writes below, the nightmare began.  Kudos to Mr. Miles who worked really hard on this case.

By Jeffrey Miles, Esq.


Rehab is a difficult and daunting process for those who wish to get their lives back on track.  Which is why those who achieve success have every right to be relieved and proud of their achievement — but nothing spoils that success like an unfulfilled obligation to the legal system that comes rolling out of the lifted fog of addiction and tries to pull you back into the abyss.

Take the case in point of Cynthia, a 22-year-old formerly homeless heroin addict.    While on probation in the East Coast, she failed to complete drug ordered rehab, fell off the wagon and finally came to California to treatment.   Meanwhile the East Coast probation department became aware that Cynthia had failed to comply with her original court ordered rehab, notified the Court that Cynthia was in violation and issued a nation-wide bench warrant for her arrest.  Violation of probation is a serious matter.

While transitioning from one sober living to another, Cynthia was temporarily housed in a hotel which was subject of a police raid.  Cynthia has done nothing wrong but when the police checked the ID’s of the hotel’s occupants, the bench warrant showed up and Cynthia was arrested, held without bail and subject to extradition.

It took an extraordinary and unusual combined effort of public defender’s on both coasts to manage to avoid extradition and get the court to allow Cynthia to complete the recovery process in California instead of being extradited back east to spend possibly years in jail for violating probation.   But while that was going on, Cynthia spent 10 days in jail.  Not the best place for someone recently out of rehab.  You can imagine the effect of all this had on Cynthia who is still fragile and only a short while sober. 

The lesson, though, should not be missed.  If there are “loose ends” that need attention, don’t let them get overlooked while all the hard work is being done to get sober.   All of the above could likely have been avoided by proactive contact with the legal system back east while Cynthia was in rehab and before Cynthia got  arrested on the warrant.   An outstanding warrant can result in arrest, jail without bail and even extradition resulting from any contact with law enforcement, even a simple traffic stop.

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