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2 Guest Appearances on the Addiction 911 Show

July 17, 2017
In May and June, I was honored to be invited to be a guest on the Addiction 911 Show with Christina Rowe. The May topic was Synthetic Deadly Opioid Drugs on the Rise and the June topic was Tough Love: Does it really help an addict? May 2017 June 2017

Judge Allows Mom To See Hospitalized, Jailed Daughter

July 10, 2017
CBS Miami interviewed me to learn what should have been done for this woman and her daughter.               The follow-up story from Fox News: Cleveland mom speaks out about fight to be by daughter’s side in the hospital  

It’s Not Just A Legal Problem, It’s A Personal Problem, Too

July 4, 2017
Happy 4th of July to everyone that reads our blog. As someone who came to this country from the United Kingdom just over thirty (30) years ago, it truly is an honor to share this national holiday with my fellow Americans. It was my father’s dream to live in America, raise his children here, and give us a better life. On January 15, 2017, one (1) week to the day after my fiftieth birthday, we lost my father. For the previous two (2) years he had been sick, suffering from repeated strokes and having to endure multiple surgeries. Wherever one goes after death, I truly believe that my father was ready to go to that place. During his time of sickness, when we thought he’d get better, I lost count of how many times we either dialed 911 or rushed him to the emergency room. I began to realize that as my father was lying in one of his many different hospital beds that we, as a family, were in emotional crisis. I cannot speak for my siblings or mother, but I know that I couldn’t sleep, I was having trouble focusing at work, I was depressed, and I am certain that my clients did not get 100% of my attention. My father’s illness was very much a personal problem for me, permeating my entire life. When a client comes to see us, very often their life is in turmoil, they cannot sleep at night, they cannot focus at work, their relationships are in shambles, and they may well be suffering from depression, too. As lawyers, we view the client as someone with a “legal problem” and we have the “legal solution” based on the number of issues we are able to spot and potentially solve. I am here to tell you that this is not just a legal problem. It’s a personal problem, too. One of the things I’ve learned since turning the focus of our practice to helping families and individuals dealing with addiction is that they, like my family was, are in emotional crisis. One of the cases I handled involved a young man who found himself in the criminal justice system because he had an “impulse control” issue. For over twenty (20) years he had suffered from a mental health disease that was poorly managed and misdiagnosed. As a result, he used, abused, and became addicted to anything he could either put in his mouth, in his veins, or up his nose. He did everything and anything he could to make himself “feel better”. While he fought to stay out of trouble, his family, in particular his mother and father, suffered terribly as they watched their son’s life going from bad to worse. The emotional toll his troubles took on his parents was there for all to see. The first time I met them, the look in their eyes was identical to the look I had seen in my own mother and sisters’ eyes as we sat in one of my father’s many hospital rooms. His parents were financially, spiritually, physically and emotionally spent. They needed options and answers, not a tour of the factory. They needed help with their personal problem. Addressing a client’s personal problem is not unique to the work our firm does. Just ask any

Let’s Fix The Marchman Act

June 20, 2017
At Drug And Alcohol Attorneys, our practice is exclusively focused on helping individuals and families who are in crisis because of drug and alcohol addiction. The Marchman Act is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to solving the issue of addiction. With that said, there are parts of the Marchman Act which need legislative attention, the most serious of which are addressed below.    The process must be faster (much faster)    Hypothetically speaking, if I receive a call from a distraught mom at 7:00 p.m. on a Thursday night, her daughter having come to Florida for treatment from another State, I can be retained, interview the client, and draft and file a Petition for Assessment, Stabilization and Detox before midnight. However, somewhere in the mix of the Clerk of Court, the Judicial System, and law enforcement, a Pick Up Order likely will not get executed when it is needed, the next day (Friday). By Monday morning, when law enforcement is ready, willing and able to execute the Pick Up Order, it’s too late. The daughter is nowhere to be found. This hypothetical is the type of scenario I experience all too often and is desperately frustrating for a parent who has been referred to me and I can’t get them the help they desperately need. The simple fact remains that we need more clerks and judges and law enforcement officers receiving, reviewing and executing Pickup Orders if we are to move rapidly and save lives. Same day turnaround should be the norm when an ex parte Petition for Assessment, Stabilization and Detox has been filed, not the exception.      The Enforcement Process is Too Cumbersome    When an individual (the Respondent) is ordered into treatment, unless he or she is ordered into a hospital setting, which tends to be more secure than a regular treatment center, they are free to walk out against medical advice. The appropriate legal remedy when that occurs is to petition the Court for a Rule to Show Cause which, before being heard by the Court, must be served on the Respondent … who just walked out of treatment and cannot be located. While we recommend the filing of a Missing Person’s Report, unless the location of the Respondent is known, law enforcement will not go looking for them unless foul play is suspected. They just don’t have the man power.   When a Defendant in a criminal case is arrested and goes before a judge to address the issue of pre-trial release, he or she can be ordered to wear an ankle monitor so that his or her location is known and can be restricted, usually to their home. If they leave or remove the device, law enforcement is immediately notified and can effectuate an arrest. Why is this or similar technology not being used in the Marchman Act process? When an individual leaves treatment, not only must law enforcement be notified immediately, they must also be able to track, locate, pick up that individual, and either take them into custody, or in the event they have used opioids, take them to a secure detox facility. Respondents who are ordered into treatment have been judicially determined to be incapable of making a rational decision to go into treatment. These

“In case of emergency, break glass.”

June 14, 2017
You may have heard the saying, “In case of emergency, break glass.” That’s typically the case when a family reaches out to attorney Mark Astor and they have a loved one who’s struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and they’ve run out of ideas and ways to help them. They’ve reached the point where they believe there’s no help in sight, they’re in emotional crisis, and that’s when they call Mark.   We have access to lots of resources and we also offer a free consultation. So if you sit down with me, I’ll give you some options and counsel you as to what I think is the best course of action that you can take to help the person get into recovery and get their life back on track. Whether it’s filing a Marchman Act petition, which will involuntarily compel the individual to get treatment, a guardianship, so you can make decisions for them while they’re incapacitated or in treatment, defending against criminal charges, access to the appropriate treatment center, or an interventionist, at Drug And Alcohol Attorneys we focus on helping those suffering from substance abuse and mental health disorders get back in the game of life. Combined, we’ve been working in the justice system for over fifty years, we understand the struggle you’re facing, we’ll work with your family to clean up the wreckage of the past so you and your loved one can build a better future. 

The Forgotten Twins Of The Marchman Act

June 1, 2017
While I’ve previously argued that the Marchman Act is the “best kept secret” in the midst of the opioid crisis, it’s the method of initiation that’s the topic of this blog post. The Marchman Act is a bifurcated process (there are two stages that must be completed for an individual to ultimately be ordered into treatment). The first stage is one of detox, stabilization and assessment, and comes in three flavors: 1) Petition, 2) Emergency, and 3) Protective Custody. Emergency Admission and Protective Custody do not require the filing of a petition and do not involve the judicial system. There is no review for legal sufficiency, unless a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is filed. PETITION The process of detox, stabilization and assessment may be initiated by the filing of a petition with the Court. The petition, in the case of an adult, can be filed by the respondent’s spouse or legal guardian, any relative, a service provider, or an adult who has direct personal knowledge of the respondent’s substance abuse impairment and his or her prior course of assessment and treatment. In the case of minor, it may be filed by a parent, legal guardian, or service provider. The petition, filed by either an attorney (the better way to proceed) or by a pro sepetitioner (not the better way to proceed), is reviewed by the Court for legal sufficiency. If legally sufficient, the Court can then issue a pick up order, essentially ordering law enforcement to seize the Respondent and take him or her to a designated facility for detox, stabilization and assessment. EMERGENCY Emergency admission, which does not involve the filing of a petition, can be initiated by any “professional” who issues a Professionals Certificate, the person’s spouse or legal guardian, any relative of the person, or any other responsible adult who has personal knowledge of the person’s substance abuse impairment. In the case of a minor, it’s the minor’s parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian. “Qualified professional” includes a physician or a physician’s assistant, a clinical psychologist, clinical social worker, mental health counselor, an advanced registered nurse practitioner, or a person who is certified through a department-recognized certification process for substance abuse treatment services and who holds, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree. The Certificate of Emergency Admission must be specific to substance abuse impairment and be accompanied with an application for emergency admission. The professional’s certificate must include the name of the person to be admitted, the relationship between the person and the professional executing the certificate, the relationship between the applicant and the professional, any relationship between the professional and the licensed service provider, a statement that the person has been examined and assessed within the preceding 5 days after the application date, and factual allegations with respect to the need for emergency admission. The professional’s certificate is valid for 7 days after issuance and authorizes a receiving facility to hold an adult or minor for 72 hours to conduct the assessment. PROTECTIVE CUSTODY Protective custody, like the Emergency process, does not involve the filing of a petition. It may be initiated by a law enforcement officer when a minor or an adult, who appears to meet the involuntary admission criteria, and: (1) the individual’s conduct is brought to the attention of law

The Opioid Crisis:
A Potential Solution

May 22, 2017
THE PRIVATE SECTOR ISN’T THE PROBLEM IN THE OPIOID CRISIS. IT MAY BE THE SOLUTION Palm Beach County is the drug treatment capital of America, if not the world. For the past several months, there have been daily reports of deaths and overdoses. Some argue that the threat posed by terrorism pales in comparison to the threat posed by the opioid crisis. That being said, Florida Governor, Rick Scott, has recently declared a State of Emergency, reportedly giving the State access to $27 million in Federal funds. Some have argued that we should use the money to make more “county” beds available to treat addicts. Perhaps we should consider re-opening facilities such as the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Drug Farm. While county facilities should be granted access to the funds, I submit that the private sector, despite arrests for insurance fraud and patient brokering, is the solution. There are beds available immediately, and the will and knowledge to treat patients. When it comes to the private sector successfully working in partnership with Government to solve a community issue, look no further than the pre-school industry. For close to 20 years my parents successfully owned and operated a chain of pre-schools, all regulated and licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF), which also regulates and licenses drug treatment facilities in Florida. My parents were responsible for educating thousands of children in Palm Beach County, but after the crash of 2008, they almost lost everything, many families finding themselves unable to afford pre-school. The business was saved when the State and County stepped in and subsidized tuition so children could go to school with their families paying the remaining balance based on income. While tuition payments were always one month in arrears, they were always paid. It takes seven to ten days to detox an individual who is addicted to drugs and alcohol before treatment can begin. Even when insurance coverage is available to pay for treatment, many treatment centers complain that insurance will only pay for 30 days of treatment, hardly enough to cure someone who’s been addicted to drugs and alcohol for many years, and who may also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. What happens when there is no insurance coverage or cash pay available? Treatment must be available to everyone, regardless of insurance and financial status. This is my plan to accomplish this goal: First, the emergency funds need to be made available to private “for profit” treatment centers. A list needs to be compiled of all treatment centers which would be good candidates to accept government subsidized patients. Centers with significant disciplinary issues, or where there has been insurance fraud, may not be good candidates. Second, of the eligible centers, a list needs to be compiled of those that will accept patients at a reduced payment rate, knowing that payment is guaranteed (which is better than having to fight with an insurance company and still having to take less money), should be an incentive.

Why You Need a Drug and Alcohol Attorney

May 15, 2017
America is fighting a war on drugs and if you are caught with an illegal substance, you can literally become a prisoner of war. Likewise, if you are pulled over for DUI and found to have a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, you may also be facing jail time and harsh penalties. If you are charged with any type of drug or alcohol related crime, you will need an attorney who will fearlessly defend you and fight for your freedom. “Drug and alcohol convictions in Florida, even minor ones, are serious business. The effects of the experience can change your life forever and derail you from your dreams. This is why it is essential you work with experienced attorneys who can help you navigate the complexities of the court system.” says Drug and Alcohol attorney, Mark Astor. If you are arrested for drugs or DUI, your driving privileges, job, voting rights and even custody of your children can be at stake.  Drug and Alcohol Attorneys have been helping Florida residents fight drug and alcohol charges for years.  They understand the court system and can protect your rights and help you avoid a lifetime of misery from one mistake

To blow or not to blow, that is the question

April 26, 2017
As a Drug and Alcohol attorney who helps individuals and families navigate the legal system to take advantage of the Marchman Act (Florida’s involuntary commitment statute for drug and alcohol disorders), I also represent people that have been arrested for drug or alcohol related offenses. One of the offenses that I most frequently get retained on is DUI.  As such, the question I get asked more often than any is whether or not the client should or should not have taken the breath test.  Based on my twenty-two (22) years of experience handling these cases, this is my personal opinion, other attorneys may have a different opinion.  This only applies to Florida DUI cases, the laws may be different in other states. Before I share my thoughts with you, let me say that you should never drink and drive, period.  There is no excuse for having a drink, even one drink, and getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.  With the advent of Uber and Lyft, a safe ride home is just a click away.  There is no excuse for endangering your life or the lives of others when you’ve had a drink and plan to get behind the wheel.  Ditto if you’re under the influence of drugs or medication that affect your ability to drive a motor vehicle (most prescription meds warn about the dangers of mixing meds and alcohol).  As someone who’s had a family member killed by a drunk driver, I say this in the strongest terms possible.  Nevertheless, I take my oath of attorney very seriously and we always do the best job possible for our clients. If you are stopped by the police, you have an absolute right to remain silent and not answer any questions about how much you’ve had to drink or where you’ve come from.  This applies even though the officer will likely not tell you that you have the right to remain silent (the US Supreme Court has ruled that a person stopped for an “ordinary” traffic stop is not in custody for purposes of Miranda).  So, be polite, tell the officer(s) you intend to remain silent on the advice of counsel and produce your documents when asked to do so. If the officer smells booze on your breath, I can pretty much guarantee that you’re taking a ride downtown to the local county jail (you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride).  As such, it is likely that you will be asked to perform roadside sobriety tasks/exercises as part of the officer’s evidence gathering process.  You have an absolute right to refuse to do the tasks, although you will not be told that is the case.  Do not perform the roadside tasks, ever.  You’re almost certainly being arrested anyway. Subsequent to your “lawful” arrest, you will be asked to submit to a breath test.  The sanction for either blowing over the legal limit or refusing to take the breath test is outlined below.  Keep in mind that this is purely an administrative sanction and is separate and apart from the criminal sanctions you face for
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