In 1989, the first drug court was established in Miami-Dade County in an effort to reduce the number of cases on the court docket and to create a problem-solving court system to rehabilitate offenders. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, as of June 2010, there were approximately 2,559 drug courts operating in every U.S. state and territory. Drug courts provide both positive and negative implications to the judicial system, drug offenders and society as a whole.
In the late 1980s, the criminal judicial system in Miami-Dade County was overloaded with repeat drug offenders coming before the bench and clogging the court dockets. In an effort to reduce the number of cases, drug courts were set up to specifically deal with defendants charged with drug offenses. Moving drug offenders to drug courts has freed up the court to hear other types of criminal cases in a more efficient manner.
Accountability for Drug Offenders
As drug offenders enter the drug court system, they are held accountable for their treatment in a rehabilitative program. The drug offenders that come before the court are typically ordered into a drug treatment program and are required to provide status updates to the court and undergo mandatory drug testing.
Rules Can Vary
A negative implication of drug courts is the lack of consistency in their rules and operations within the same state and in some circumstances within the same jurisdiction. Attorneys representing their clients in the drug courts within their state or jurisdiction may find that a client in one part of the state is able to enter a drug court while a client with similar charges in another part of the state may not be eligible.
Loss of Rights
Drug courts typically require a guilty plea for admission, and according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, prosecutors in many cases require defendants to waive their rights to a speedy trial. Defense attorneys are not given ample time to gather and review evidence and properly advise their clients. Defendants may plead guilty without knowing their options or may be innocent of all charges.