-By Douglas Crawford
In October 2008, I was appointed to the Subcommittee on Legal Issues of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Problem Gambling. Together, we drafted Assembly Bill 102, giving authority to any individual judge to create a tailored Gambling Diversion Program for problem gamblers who commit crime(s) in furtherance of their addiction. Myself and others testified for the passage of the bill in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, and in 2009 it was passed into law as NRS 458A.200.
Ironically, I was the first person in Southern Nevada to be granted diversion under the very statute I helped pass into law.
I report with great humility that on Feb. 1, 2017, the court found that I had successfully completed the program, and my felony case was dismissed. Additionally, full restitution in the amount of $304k was paid to the innocent persons I victimized while in the throes of gambling addiction. In my case, the diversion program functioned precisely as the legislature intended: victims received full restitution; and Nevada taxpayers did not pay a nickel for my treatment program (or alternatively, the extremely high cost of incarcerating me). The people of Nevada gave me a successful and just punishment, and I have kept my progressive, incurable and often deadly disease in remission for almost 10 years. The victims won, the state of Nevada won, and I won by achieving recovery from a horrible addiction.
The stated goals of the statute are:
• To assure that victims of criminal acts committed by a problem gambler are made whole through restitution;
• To avoid any burden on Nevada taxpayers;
• Preventing persons who are not problem gamblers from receiving the benefits of the statute;
• Assuring that only certain problem gamblers are qualified to receive diversion;
• Getting treatment for the problem gambler solely at his, her or their expense; and,
• To allow a problem gambler who successfully completes the program, and pays restitution to dismiss and seal the conviction so they can become a successful, tax-paying citizen without being a burden on the state.
NRS 458A.200 allows “a court” to “establish a program for the treatment of problem gambling.” Nothing in the law requires a “brick and mortar” gambling court, which would pass on costs to the taxpayer. It also requires the court to set forth “terms and conditions” for completion of the program, thus allowing the court to tailor the program to the specific offense or the specific needs of a particular problem gambler. The gambler must agree to pay restitution to victims; must present periodic reports of progress to the court; and must comply with terms of the program administered by a “qualified mental health professional” at his, her or their own expense. In the event the problem gambler does not have financial resources, the court is mandated—to the extent practicable—to refer to a treatment provider that receives federal or state funding to offset costs not born by the gambler.
NRS 458A.210 protects the public by making certain persons ineligible for diversion. If the problem gambler has previously committed a felony or gross misdemeanor against a vulnerable victim, a crime against a child, a sexual offense, an act constituting domestic violence, two or more prior felony convictions, or other felony criminal proceedings are pending, they do not qualify for diversion.
NRS 458A.220 and 230 mandate that a qualified mental health professional (appointed by the court, not selected by the defendant) must determine that the person seeking diversion is a problem gambler and that he, she or they committed the crime in furtherance of their addiction. This prevents defendants from “faking” gambling addiction to obtain benefits of diversion. It also assures that the crime committed by the gambler was related to the addiction and not just motivated by greed or intentional dishonesty.
NRS 458A.240 benefits defendants who successfully complete the program by mandating the court to “set aside” the conviction if the qualified mental health professional certifies to the court that the person has satisfactorily completed the program of treatment and the court determines that the terms of diversion have been satisfied. This benefits society by allowing the problem gambler to avoid the stigma of a felony conviction, thus encouraging gainful employment and payment of taxes. However, if the court determines that the gambler has not successfully completed the program, the court may sentence the person and give punishment up to and including prison time.
NRS 458A.260 clearly provides that the diversion program does “not require this State or any of its political subdivisions to establish or finance any program for the treatment of problem gambling.” Nevada taxpayers do not bear any financial burden for the diversion program.
This well-conceived diversion program benefits all parties involved. First and foremost, victims get paid! Second, justice is given to Nevada citizens. Finally, gambling addicts receive treatment that benefits society as a whole. Additionally, these benefits are provided at no cost to taxpayers…just one more reason that illuminates how well diversion programs work! And where the reasoning stated above also applies to drug and alcohol programs, in short, everybody wins!
Douglas C. Crawford, Esq., was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 1976 as a Vietnam-era veteran. He completed his undergraduate degree in political science from Southern Oregon State College (now Southern Oregon University) in 1981 and graduated from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1984. Crawford was admitted to the Nevada bar in Las Vegas in 1985 and started his own firm in 1989, practicing in criminal defense and family law. He is a founding member of the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the 2001 recipient of the Louis Wiener pro bono award for representing victims of domestic violence in family law matters.
In 2008, Crawford was appointed to the Subcommittee on Legal Issues of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Problem Gambling. He participated in the drafting of NRS 458A.200, which created diversion for gambling addicts who commit crimes in furtherance of their addiction, and testified for its passage in the Assembly Judiciary Committee of the Nevada State Legislature. The statute has saved lives and assured that victims of gambling addicts who commit crimes receive restitution.
On Feb. 1, 2017, the court ruled that Crawford had successfully completed the gambling diversion program and his case was dismissed. On June 19, 2017, Crawford will open his solo practice doing family law, criminal defense and personal injury cases. www.douglascrawfordlaw.com