After the Nave Team went through NARCAN training with ARC Health, our senior Paralegal, Jennifer Bisson wanted to do some more additional research into a specific court for opioid related offenses.

The nation is facing a serious crisis that affects public health, as well as economic and social welfare as every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. In 2017, the CDC estimates that 72,287 people died from overdoses and a majority of these deaths, nearly 49,000, were caused by opioids. These overdose numbers make the drug epidemic more deadly than car crashes, AIDS or gun violence, which have never killed as many people in a single year. In New York State alone, there were 3,224 opioid-involved overdose deaths in 2017.

The Unified Court System, however, has been taking steps to ensure they play a leading role in the battle against substance abuse. Over 140 drug treatment courts have been developed across the state since 1995, which offer court-supervised treatment and support services for individuals involved in the justice system. More recently, in 2016, the Unified Court System launched an opioid court in Buffalo, New York. This was the first court of its kind in the entire country. Since 2016, a number of other Opioid Treatment Courts variations have launched across the state.

Opioid treatment courts provide immediate intervention, treatment and supervision for defendants who are at high-risk of an opioid overdose. Additionally all court officers are trained to administer naloxone (NARCAN), a drug that reverses the effect of overdose from opioids. The Unified Court System has developed the following 10 essential elements that all local courts incorporate into their practices:

  1. Immediate Screening and Assessment – A trained member of the court staff will use court developed screening tools to assess all defendants of their risk for overdose. If an individual is found to be of high risk, they are flagged for opioid court and immediately receive a biophysical screening and transfer to treatment provider.
  2. Broad Legal Eligibility Criteria – Opioid courts accept both felony charges and misdemeanor charges. To achieve maximum impact it is believed that these courts should be open to as many participants as possible. It should be noted that court operating with federal grant funding are prohibited from use such funds to serve violent offenders.
  3. Universal Access and Transfer of Identified Cases – Defendants who are found eligible to participate should have access to the Opioid Court regardless of place of arrest or court where their charges have been filed. Transfer protocols should be developed to facilitate transfer of cases to opioid courts.
  4. Suspension of Prosecution During Stabilization – By having prosecutors agree to suspend prosecution of the case during participation in opioid court, the court and the defendant can focus on the defendant’s immediate need for stabilization through detoxification and treatment. However, if the defendant fails to comply with the terms of the program or after participation is complete, the prosecution of the case can resume.
  5. Rapid Engagement in Evidence Based Treatment – All treatment needs to be evidence based and should commence without delay. The treatment provider is to use a comprehensive clinical assessment to generate an individualized treatment plan, this should include an assessment of mental health, trauma and other issues.
  6. Utilize Recovery Advocates and Family Support Navigators – Opioids courts will partner with recovery advocates to help engage participants in the program. Recovery advocates significantly improve success and retention in treatment. Family support navigators serve the family members that have been impacted by substance use.
  7. Frequent Judicial Supervision – Opioid courts require defendants to make appearances in court frequently for supervision and monitoring. Participants in court, are drug tested at each appearance, as well as randomly by their treatment provider, and the judges will use motivational interviewing to engage participants in conversation about progress being made.
  8. Intensive Case Management – Case managers who are employed by the court or a partner agency are assigned to help ensure that defendants have all the necessary support systems during their stabilization period.
  9. Opportunities for Continuing Care – Participants in Opioid Treatment Courts typically will need ongoing care after they leave the program and are offered continuing care planning during the program and many times will be referred to a traditional drug court or mental health court for long-term treatment and supervision.
  10. Performance Evaluation and Program Improvements – Opioid courts collect data regarding participants and analyze it on a regular basis to identify gaps and make program improvements.

The hope and intent of the Opioid Treatment Court model is that by linking those impacted by opioid use disorder to immediate treatment, lives can be saved, families can be supported, and communities can be strengthened.


related articles

Nave Law wins suit against City of Albany to protect Reverend’s civil rights.


As part of Nave Law Firm’s efforts to give back to the communities we practice in, our own Derek Andrews took action after reading a Times Union article about a local woman’s plight against a local government who stonewalled her efforts to obtain body camera recordings of an incident that involved her.


In 2019, uniformed members of the Albany Police Department wearing body cameras forcibly removed Reverend Cheryl Hawkins, a street-reach minister in the New York Capital District, from a public park as she preached and sang Christian hymns, for which she had received a special event permit from the City of Albany. That removal violated her constitutionally-guaranteed rights to free expression. As part of a lawsuit, her civil rights attorney requested those body camera recordings from the city through New York’s Freedom of Information Law but was rebuffed, having been told that they were protected and confidential because of Civil Rights Law Section 50-a.


Mr. Andrews helped both Ms. Hawkins and her civil rights attorney by filing an Article 78 special proceeding, a type of lawsuit, against the City of Albany and the Albany Police Department, claiming that they violated Ms. Hawkins’ right to free access to body camera recordings of that incident.


Although the city produced those recordings before the conclusion of the lawsuit, Judge David Weinstein of the Albany County Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Andrews’ arguments when he issued a decision at the end of 2020 stating that Ms. Hawkins had substantially prevailed and that the city was unreasonable in originally denying her access. That last part meant that the city Times Union Article, which resulted in a five-figure settlement. Ms. Hawkins will now continue her lawsuit against Albany for violating her civil rights.


When asked for comment by Reverand Hawkins, she responded:

“Mr. Andrews saw the Times-Union Newspaper Front Page Huge Article (February 17, 2020). He then contacted my attorney and wanted to see how he could help.  He felt that I was facing an injustice.  I was already paying another lawyer big money to represent me, and I could not afford a second law firm.  Derek then spoke with the leadership team with Nave Law Firm, and the team decided to take the case at no cost to me.  

I was so grateful that he believed in me enough to advocate for me and cared enough to help me at no cost.

The best part is that he WON THE CASE; he even won the city’s and the cop’s appeal filed in Albany County after winning the case.”


Nave Law Firm is grateful for the opportunity to have assisted Ms. Hawkins in her pursuit of justice.



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Decriminalizing Possession of Hard Drugs

Oregon seems to be leading the way in the war . . . on the war on drugs while New York falls further behind. In a more sizable margin than either Biden or Trump would secure in this election, nearly 59% of citizens in Oregon voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine.

Their decision also supported greater access to treatment for those who need it, which is paid for by the tax proceeds from marijuana sales. New York took a step in the right direction when they decriminalized possession of marijuana last year, but they remain several steps behind a large swath of the country that has legalized marijuana possession outright, including our next-door neighbors. While legislators and Governor Cuomo are interested in legalization, it’s unlikely to happen in the next year or two. Here’s why the legalization of marijuana, and other drugs, is worthwhile: not only would it ameliorate years of disproportionate effects of criminal drug possession on communities of color but it would give those with addictions greater access to higher-quality treatment. It also wouldn’t hurt to make some money by taxing those “products,” which could prove to be cleaner and safer than those cut with harmful and toxic chemicals. By the way, we certainly don’t mean to imply that it should be legal to drive while impaired by a drug, whether it’s legal or illegal. Please don’t do that.

We’re only suggesting that the war on drugs was misguided and that Oregon, and other states who are following suit, are headed in the right direction. Let’s convince New York to do the same.

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New York State Driver’s License Issues

After receiving notice that your New York driver’s license has been revoked or suspended, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about how to respond. During this difficult time, it is important to remember that you have the opportunity to fight for your driving privileges. An experienced New York driver’s license attorney can support you during this process. It also helps to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible about suspended and revoked licenses in New York State.


Reasons People are Summoned to Hearings in New York

Various factors might lead a person to be summoned to appear before the New York Department of Motor Vehicles for a hearing, but some of the most common reasons include:


  • Alcohol-related offenses like drunk driving.
  • Involvement in a deadly accident or an accident that resulted in a serious injury.
  • Refusing to submit to a breath test.
  • The accumulation of too many points on a person’s driver’s license.
  • Traveling at high speed.
  • Medical review.
  • Failure to pay tolls.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol when under 21.

Suppose your license has been revoked or suspended. In that case, a skilled traffic attorney can help create a plan to get back to driving as soon as possible while also helping you address fines, points,and limiting how the event will impact your motor vehicle insurance moving forward.


Restricted/Conditional Licenses in New York


Even though license suspension is a common result of many driving-related offenses in New York, drivers are still sometimes able to obtain either conditional or restricted licenses for purposes like commuting to work or school, transporting children to daycare, attending court-required classes, and traveling to medical appointments.


One of New York’s driving law’s most confusing areas is the difference between conditional and restricted licenses. The Department of Motor Vehicle issues conditional licenses to qualified drivers whose New York driver’s license was suspended or revoked due to an alcohol or drug-related violation. The Department of Motor Vehicles can also issue a restricted use license to a driver who qualifies and whose license is either suspended or revoked due to violations or incidents that are not alcohol or drug-related.


Suppose a person in New York State has had a conditional or restricted license issued within the past five years. In that case, the Department of Motor Vehicles will sometimes issue a restricted license provided the individual’s license was not revoked for alcohol use, criminal violations, or drug use.


If a person has not had a conditional or restricted license issued within the last five years, the individual might be eligible to complete an Impaired Driver Program. On successful completion of this program, an individual will receive a “Notice of Completion,” which in some cases will result in a person’s license being automatically restored or a person becomes eligible to apply for a new license. Remember, however, that a person will be dropped from the program and unable to obtain a conditional license if he or she does not attend class, does not satisfactorily participate, or does not pay program fees.


Multiple Alcohol or Drug-Related Driving Convictions

If your license is revoked and you have three or more DWI/DWAI-Drugs/DWAI convictions on your license, the DMV may be denying your ability to get relicensed. There are specific rules about your ability to get relicensed when this occurs.


If you have three or four alcohol/drug-related convictions, the DMV will likely deny your ability to get relicensed for a minimum of 5 years. If you have a serious driving offense on top of the three or four alcohol-related offenses, the DMV will deny your ability to get relicensed FOR LIFE.


If you have five or more alcohol/drug-related convictions, the DMV will deny your ability to get relicensed FOR LIFE.


If your license has been revoked because of multiple convictions, a skilled traffic attorney can help create a plan so you can get back.


Numerous Suspensions on Your License

If your license is suspended because you failed to answer traffic infractions or pay a fine, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony the next time you get pulled over.


The reason for this is because every time you fail to answer a traffic infraction or fail to pay a fine, the Court will put a SCOFF, or a suspension, on your license.


You must speak to an attorney about your license status if you fall into this category. An experienced attorney will know how to handle and take care of the suspensions on your license so that you can drive free and clear.


How a New York Driver’s License Attorney can Help

Whether you need counsel at a DMV hearing, it is your first time DWI, you failed to answer a traffic infraction, or you have multiple convictions, an experienced attorney can help you get your license back.


Contact an Experienced Driver’s License Attorney

If you are convicted of a driver’s license offense in New York, you can end up facing some serious consequences. One of the best ways to handle these charges is to retain the assistance of an experienced attorney. Contact Nave Law Firm at 855-349-NAVE (6283) today.

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