Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

How Long Does Drug Treatment Work In Okaloosa County?


Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Basically, we know the judges and the prosecutors, so we know the objections before they come, and it also helps to know the law. So we take a look at what types of government programs they do have in Okaloosa County. What we do then is we get that person a diagnostic evaluation as quickly as we can. We look for those red-flag indicators, and then we also want to know which judge is this case going to be in front of and what is that judge’s history on this particular type of subject matter.

We had a circuit judge recently say something I think that shocked everybody in the courtroom, prosecution and defense alike, when he said that although Florida still keeps marijuana illegal and subject to criminal penalties, he was going to factor into his decision-making the changing societal mores on the issue of recreational marijuana use. You could have heard a pin drop after he made that announcement. We factor in the personality of the individual judge, and it’s not a matter of trying to game the system; it’s a matter of trying to produce real, effective change. When you have somebody like the person I spoke to a couple of weeks ago who has been treated for anxiety and depression for 11 years yet, during that time, managed to get arrested on four separate occasions, you realize that the treatment that they’re getting is not working.

Treatment helps some people. We’re not interested in helping some; we’re interested in helping to the maximum level possible because that’s exactly what we need. We’re talking about people who commit crimes. In Okaloosa, because of the large prevalence of military service members, that is where we’re using crime and treatment the most. I am absolutely shocked and utterly stunned by the number of people who are going off to combat. We’re talking every branch of service, not just one or two. Okaloosa’s most known for Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt and Duke Field. Eglin is so big it spreads across three counties and cuts Okaloosa in half.

That’s why you have two courthouses. One of them has been torn down and is being rebuilt, so everything’s on the south end at the moment, but that big air force base in the middle is why. People from all branches of the service train at Hurlburt. As a result, I have a higher percentage of military clients than most people would have. Here’s the key difference too. The military does a much better job, now, of taking care of their soldiers, sailors, airmen and their mental health problems than the State of Florida is doing. The difference is night and day. This wasn’t always the case. After the first Gulf War in the ‘90s, we had a lot of people coming back complaining about Gulf War illness and Gulf War syndrome. We didn’t know, at the time, it was PTSD, and the government basically said shut up and go away. Now it’s not the case. They do a much better job.

Within the framework of Okaloosa County, a great deal of our work is with military veterans. And again, I’m stunned by the number of military veterans who come back from deployment and commit sex offenses. I just had no idea that there was a link of any kind. I haven’t really seen sufficient research to prove that there is, in fact, a link. I just know that I have many traveling to meet a minor for sexual purposes cases committed by people who have given no indication previously to an interest in 13- or 14-year-old girls; but after being exposed to military combat or similar types of trauma, they get involved in these cases. It’s quite stunning, and we find that in Okaloosa County, in particular, because of the large number of military people, these SPECT brain imaging portions of the diagnostic evaluations are critically important to disclose post-traumatic stress disorder with an injury to the temporal lobe.

In one such case, a soldier had an impact trauma on the left side of the head that affected the temporal lobe, and now he has an anger problem where the PTSD certainly can produce angry outbursts, but that person’s more compromised than someone who has PTSD alone because he has an additional problem with the temporal lobe dysfunction. If someone has an injury above or in between the eyes, in particular, which is the executive functioning part of the brain, we often find that that area has also been compromised when we perform brain imaging on our military clients. What we’re finding with all the patient defendants we’re working with and, in particular, those that have gone on military deployments, are four, five or six different brain problems, and this one’s a mind blower: traumatic brain injury only counts as one problem.

It’s not uncommon that someone will have three, four, five, six or more traumatic brain injuries, each one being separate and distinct. Individually, they may not be enough to affect that person’s behavior, or it may affect that person’s behavior occasionally. Think of it how you’re pushing the button on your remote for your television: sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. You think it’s the batteries, and you change them, but it’s not. It’s just sometimes you have a problem; sometimes you don’t. That happens with mental problems as well, and those are the most frustrating. In Okaloosa, we try to work within the system as much as we can, knowing the people, the players, their concerns and the politics.

Then we produce these treatment plans that will be part of negotiated dismissals, or they will be part of probationary sentences where we use the existing supervision system to make sure the treatment is followed. Basically, what we discovered in our Okaloosa County cases and a couple in Walton County is that you only need three things to be successful to stopping the problem of crime when it comes to people who’ve been arrested. Number one: you need an accurate diagnosis. That’s where the legal system has failed most spectacularly. The second thing you need is a customized treatment plan for that person that deals with all of the problems because, let’s face it: If you’ve got a vehicle with two tires instead of four, you’re going to have a very different ride and, probably, not a very long one.

We need to have a customized treatment plan that takes care of all the problems. And then, finally, you do need to have patient defendant accountability. Different people have different levels to which they can be accountable; the goal is to get that accountability to the highest level possible, and the legal system has a lot of experience with making people accountable. What we’ve done, and it took years to get this to actually happen, is to ask judges to incorporate, in a sentencing order, a probationary order. This way, somebody’s looking at prison, and they get probation and no prison or jail time. I walk a fine line, but I’d really want the judges to say, “As special conditions of probation, you will do A, B, C and on through the alphabet for the entire recommendation that has been made as a result of that diagnostic evaluation and customized treatment plan.”

Okaloosa County is where we’ve done most of the cases. So that’s how crime and treatment work in Okaloosa County, primarily with military individuals, but absolutely not exclusively.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on Drug Treatment In Okaloosa County, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 466-1522 today.

Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

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