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Case Asks If It's Constitutional To Require Someone On Probation To Remain Drug-Free (2017)

Massachusetts' highest court soon takes up a controversial case that raises provocative questions about the criminal justice system and addiction.

The case asks if it's constitutional to require someone on probation to remain drug-free. Some say it could be one of the most important cases before the state Supreme Judicial Court in the past decade.

The case involves 29-year-old Julie Eldred, who was put on probation for a year in 2016 for a larceny charge. Her probation conditions stipulated that she remain drug-free and submit to random drug tests. One of those tests - taken 12 days after Eldred was placed on probation -- came up positive for the opioid fentanyl. Because that was a violation of her probation, she was sent to jail.

"I was in the midst of active addiction, so I was actively using," Eldred said. "But you're forced to go into this saying, 'I'll be drug-free,' or you go to jail."

Eldred says she complied with all other probation conditions - she got into an outpatient addiction treatment program, found a therapist, and started medication-assisted treatment with the drug Suboxone.