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Jul 22, 2019

Drug Store Theft in Portland Raises Addiction Defense Discussion

A man allegedly stole drugs from a pharmacy in Portland, reigniting the discussion about whether addiction should be treated as a defense or mitigating factor in a subsequent criminal case.

Man Steals Drugs from Portland Pharmacy

According to a story in the Portland Press Herald, a man entered the Rite Aid at 290 Congress Street at 4 pm on Sunday, July 14, 2019. He approached the counter in the pharmacy section of the store, handed the clerk a note demanding certain drugs. When he received them, he fled the store.

The store would not disclose the type of drugs the man received, or how much he took.

The Difference Between a Robbery and a Theft

A preliminary note to the story was that the Press Herald referred to the incident as a “robbery,” which does not seem to be accurate.

Robberies involve taking someone’s property through the use of force or the threat of force. A theft, on the other hand, only involves taking the property – there is no force involved.

Unless the note the man allegedly handed to the clerk had a threat – something to the effect of “give me the drugs, I have a gun” – this would be a theft, not a robbery.

The Movement Towards an Addiction Defense

We discussed the addiction defense long ago on our blog.

The gist of an addiction defense is that criminal conduct – like this alleged theft – should be punished less severely when the defendant did it because they were addicted. Legally speaking, the effects of the addiction prevent a defendant from having the necessarily culpable state of mind to commit a crime. For example, most theft crimes require an intent to steal. The coercive effects of the addiction can keep someone from forming that intent on his or her own.

The problem with the addiction defense in Maine is that it doesn’t exist.

Instead of recognizing that addiction undermines a person’s ability to think for themselves, the criminal law in Maine ignores the problems that addiction can cause and instead insists that addicts have to take responsibility for whatever they do because of their addiction. As a result, numerous people every year face serious criminal sanctions, including jail time, for doing something that they were powerless to avoid.

While there is a movement towards recognizing an “addiction defense” that would give some relief to addicts charged with a crime, that movement has not gone very far. Legal scholars began pushing for the defense as early as 1973 and are still urging courts to recognize it today.

Criminal Defense in Portland at Maine Criminal Defense Group

The criminal defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group serve the accused in Portland, Maine. Whether you have been accused of robbery, theft, or any other type of crime in the Portland area, we can invoke your rights and defend against the criminal allegations you face. While an addiction is not a concrete defense to a crime in Maine, presenting evidence that you were only acting because of your addiction can help mitigate a sentence by appealing to a judge’s compassion and sympathy.

Call Maine Criminal Defense Group in Portland at (207) 571-8146 or contact us online.

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