The Court of Appeals in Paz Cruz v. United States, decided on August 3, 2017, analyzed and highlighted the DC Statute that provides a legal basis for seeking alcohol treatment in lieu of criminal prosecution.
Specifically, DC Code § 24-607 provides in pertinent sections that the Court may order a civil commitment for treatment up to a specified period of time a chronic alcoholic who is charged with any misdemeanor and prior to the trial voluntarily and via motion requests “treatment in lieu of criminal prosecution” for such misdemeanor.
The Court in such circumstances must determine in a civil hearing that:
1) the defendant is in fact a chronic alcoholic and medically diagnosed as such;
2) adequate and sufficient treatment is available; and
3) that the defendant remains to be danger to himself and others due to his chronic alcoholism.
The period of civil commitment for treatment cannot be longer than the period of statutory incarceration for the underlying misdemeanor offense.
In the case listed above, the defendant Paz Cruz had in fact filed a motion few days before the scheduled trial date for a misdemeanor assault offense for voluntary treatment/civil commitment in form of in patient treatment in lieu of criminal prosecution.
The trial court however denied the motion and proceeded to criminal trial, which resulted in a guilty verdict.
The Court of Appeals found the trial record insufficient for denial of the motion for treatment in lieu of criminal prosecution.
The trial record was devoid as to whether the trial Judge had denied the motion because there was no medical diagnosis of the defendant for chronic alcoholism — or whether the Pretrial Services’ Agency representation that the defendant did not want to attend an in patient treatment had any bearing on the Court’s decision to deny the motion.
The trial record was also unclear as to whether the late filing of the motion by the defense counsel was the contributing factor in denial of the motion on substance.
Specifically the Court of Appeals in rendering the decision expounded: “…the trial court failed to set forth sufficient reasons in support of its discretionary ruling denying Mr. Cruz‘s motion for treatment in lieu of prosecution. We lack the record necessary to determine whether the [court‘s] choice was both reasonable and proper in the specific factual context of this case”.
The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court to reconsider the motion and — if granting the motion in light of the ruling by the appellate court — to vacate the conviction.
The Statue allowing for treatment in lieu of criminal prosecution is a valuable legal tool to set aside criminal prosecution in favor of court ordered and monitored intensive alcohol treatment however the motion in support thereof has to be well substantiated and must comply with the specific requirements of the Statute.
Contact our DC Criminal Lawyers to schedule an initial consultation.