Alabama Drug Court Testing Parents of Enrolled Juvenile
I got an email from a parent in Shelby Co. who has a juvenile child enrolled in drug court. This parent informed me that the judge (Kramer) forced a drug test on the spouse under threat of arrest "to prove the parents are good role models" and that this is standard procedure in Shelby Co. drug court.
I couldn't believe it. Couldn't figure out how such a thing could be legal. It seems to violate the "innocent until proven guilty" tenet upon which our entire judicial system is founded. The parents of the juvenile haven't violated any laws, they are not under the rule of any courts, no custody battles, no DHR or anything like that. One of the parents is a teacher...so how can they be forced to submit to court ordered drug testing?
Hell, this case wasn't even about drugs to begin with. The kid in question shop lifted a pack of candy bars and got placed on probation. Later the kid tested positive for the fake marijuana that was outlawed last legislative session. I wasn't aware that a test had even been developed for the fake stuff. However, when I googled it I found that they have indeed developed a test to rapidly detect any fun one might possibly have.
Then the parent sent me the paperwork for enrollment and it was right there in black and white.
"Parents, Guardians, or Custodians is/are made party to herein shall"
X Submit to and pass drug and alcohol screens at the request of the drug
It also says that parents are not to have alcohol in the house and that they must allow entry to any drug court team member who just happens by. Alcohol is legal. This case has nothing to do with alcohol. How can it be legal for drug court to say that parents, who are of legal drinking age, are not allowed to drink alcohol in the privacy of their own home, when this case has nothing to do with alcohol?
Still, I thought this might be a case of some power tripping judge thinking he can get away with anything in his court room. So, I asked a couple of lawyers I know who sometimes have cases in Shelby Co. and they told me that this provision (make parents or guardian a party to case) is in the Alabama Juvenile Code. I looked it up this morning and Section 12-15-31(5) says;
"A PARENT OR GUARDIAN OF THE CHILD CAN BE MADE A PARTY TO THIS CASE PURSUANT
TO § 12-15-31(5), CODE OF ALABAMA 1975. A PERSON MADE A PARTY TO THIS CASE MAY BE
REQUIRED TO PAY ATTORNEY FEES, TO PAY FOR EVALUATION AND TREATMENT, TO PAY FINES,
COURT COSTS, AND RESTITUTION, AND TO PAY FOR CARE, SUPPORT, AND SUPERVISION OF THE
CHILD. A PERSON MADE A PARTY MAY BE SUBJECT TO OTHER THINGS ALSO. FAILURE TO
COMPLY WITH THE ORDERS OF THE COURT CAN RESULT IN CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS, AND FAILURE TO MAKE PAYMENTS ORDERED CAN RESULT IN A CIVIL JUDGMENT FOR THE COLLECTION OF PAYMENTS ORDERED."
Now, in 1975 when the code was written, there was no such thing as drug court in the State of Alabama. I'm not even sure drug testing existed in 1975. Problem is, the sentence above which says "A person made party may be subject to other things also." That is so broadly written that it can be made to fit anything a judge wants it to fit. It seems to me that the provision was mostly to make the parent responsible for paying the costs associated with juvenile court. It had absolutely nothing to do with drug testing the parents of a juvenile who is in trouble with the law. How can it apply to drug testing parents in 2011?
Also, the code says CAN be made a party...not WILL be made a party or HAS TO be made a party to. It also says persons made party to a case MAY be subject to other 'things'. It doesn't say WILL be subject to other things or what those other things might be.
So, what determines if a parent/guardian/custodian is made a party to a case? Are there any clear cut determining factors? Or is it, as I suspect, left up to the individual judge so that there are no clear guidelines?
I learned from one of the attorneys that I communicated with that if one of the parents fails a drug test they get sent directly to jail. How is putting the parent of a kid in trouble, in jail, supposed to help matters?
I've also asked a family court judge I know about all of this. I want to know is it standard procedure in all drug courts, or is it isolated to Shelby Co.?
All they are really doing is looking for more people to extort in drug court. I guess their reasoning is that if a kid does something wrong (and what kid hasn't shop lifted a piece of candy at least once?) then the parents must be doing things wrong, too. I always thought there had to be evidence of wrongdoing before prosecution could commence. Isn't that how our legal system is supposed to work?
I refuse to accept that this is legal. If it is legal then the only way to change it is through the legislature. I will keep researching it. I'd like to hear from any parents with a child in drug court anywhere in the state, and especially in Shelby Co., that this has happened to. Please email your story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime all parents in Shelby Co. should be aware that this can, and probably will happen to you, if your child somehow winds up in juvenile court.
Update: I spoke with both mom and dad via phone and got more astonishing details that I want to share.
Mom is a school teacher in an inner city school. She works 10 hours a day. At home she and dad also have a set of two year old twins, one of which is autistic. Dad stays home during the day to watch the kids and has a night job. If dad loses his job then mom will have to leave her job in order to provide child care for her small children. If that happens they will lose their home.
When I talked to dad he told me the whole story about what happened in court. He said the Judge James Kramer was talking about what happens in drug court and what to expect and all of a sudden he said, "Now parents I expect you to be good role models for your children and to prove that you are a good role model I expect each of you to provide me with a urine sample before you leave today."
Dad said he felt like he had been run over by a truck. He said the public defender, who should have been representing him, kept coming over to him and saying, "This is a really great program and you should sign on." Said he must have come over to him 5 or 6 times trying to cajole him into submission. What he didn't do was explain all the consequences for a dirty urine, offer him any advice on his rights. No, nothing like that. That makes me wonder if the Public Defenders office in Shelby Co. is getting some kind of kick back somewhere.
Dad said all the other new parents in drug court that day were practically running over each other to get in line....raising their hands and volunteering to piss in a cup. He said one lady got overlooked and she jumped up and said..."Y'all forgot me. I want to be drug tested too!" (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little)
Dad said he told the probation officer that he had already peed and that he would be unable to leave a sample. He said the PO told him that he would be detained until he complied. When dad asked the PO what would happen if he flat refused he was told that the judge would put him in jail until he changed his mind.
Dad asked the PO what happens if a parent comes up dirty and the PO said, "The Judge will talk to you when you come back on Monday, will probably send you to treatment for marijuana addiction. If you fail another one you will go to jail." And he will obviously be placed in the adult drug court in Shelby Co. which is something like $2500 - $3000 a lick plus the cost of drug testing and probation officer fees.
Dad said the Judge told everyone that the part about not having alcohol in the home didn't mean that the parents couldn't go out to a bar. (Which would mean they would likely have to drive home after drinking. (Yay safety!)
Dad also told me that while enrolled in drug court that parents were not allowed to give their children medication, of any kind, even that prescribed by a physician, until the drug court team approved it. Not kidding. Even doctor prescribed medication has to be approved by these yahoos. There is a case where this judge put a parent in jail for 30 days because she allegedly gave her child something over the counter while the child was enrolled in drug court.
Dad said the PO stood behind him in the bathroom and WATCHED him pee in a cup.
Dad noted that there are no black families in juvenile drug court. I told him that's because drug courts don't believe black people have money so black kids just get sent to jail. I think we have a clear case of unequal access here.
Dad said he asked the judge what if they didn't want their son to go through drug court. He said the judge told him that his son would then have a trial by jury, but with ONLY the juvenile probation officers giving testimony so as not to jeopardize the sanctity of the information, that his son would be found guilty (how the hell does he know that would be the verdict?) and that he would be sent to juvenile detention and then through drug court anyway.
I exchanged emails with Peter Wilkinson of Rolling Stone Magazine yesterday. He has asked for an exclusive print interview and is lobbying his higher ups to get permission to come back to Alabama and cover this story.
I also exchanged emails with the head of the Alabama ACLU. She said this is very problematic and we have an appointment scheduled for Thursday.
This unconstitutional BS will not stand!