Drug court is a voluntary program for defendants charged with, or convicted of, drug or drug-related crimes. A drug crime could be possession of an illegal substance, while a drug-related crime could be criminal trespass. Drug court offers a defendant the chance to get substance abuse treatment, reduce the severity of his crime and suspend probation.
A drug court requires a defendant to be tested for drug use and undergo substance abuse treatment and counseling. It is not the best choice for a defendant who is unwilling to admit he has a problem and does not want counseling.
How a Drug Court Works
Drug courts vary considerably among states and counties. Not every county has a drug court. Generally, a drug court consists of a team that has the goal of helping the offender avoid incarceration and keep his job. For example, in Arizona, the team consists of a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation officer and treatment provider.
All the parties work together to design an appropriate course of treatment, which usually involves counseling and participation in a recovery program. A drug court may charge a weekly fee. A defendant who is indigent or who does not have money to pay the fee, may perform community service or serve on a work crew in lieu of payment.
Read More: What Is Drug Court?
Drug Court’s Cons for Addicts
Drug court can last a long time, far longer than regular criminal court. In some counties, drug court can last a full year. A defendant may have to participate in drug court far longer than she would have in criminal court, especially if she tests positive for substance use. A defendant not ready to stop using drugs may be incarcerated if she tests positive for drug use.
A defendant may serve a shorter sentence overall if she pleads guilty in regular criminal court. Drug court can involve compliance with difficult orders, such as curfews, participation in daily recovery meetings and frequent drug tests.
Drug Court’s Pros for Recovering Addicts
Drug court offers long-term help for addicts in need of counseling and substance abuse treatment. If a defendant completes his program successfully, he may see his offense reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. He may also see the charges dismissed. In addition, his term of probation may be suspended. A drug court can help a defendant to avoid jail time, keep his job and remain united with his family.
Who Is Eligible for Drug Court?
A defendant with a drug addiction who has been charged with, or convicted of, a crime is eligible to participate in drug court. The offense for which the defendant has been arrested usually must not be violent or sexual. In addition, the defendant often cannot have committed a prior violent or sexual offense. In some counties, drug court is restricted to defendants alleged of committing low-level offenses.
Different Types of Drug Court
Some states, like Washington, have different drug courts for juveniles and adults. Other states, like New York, have misdemeanor treatment court and felony treatment court. A state may have a distinct veteran’s drug court for military veterans. This court, called a veteran’s treatment court, usually partners with local Bureau of Veteran’s Affairs offices.
What Is a DUI Court?
A DUI court is a specialized court for defendants with substance abuse issues who have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A DUI court may be distinct from a drug court. DUI courts monitor offenders with home and field visits and technologies, such as ignition interlock devices and the SCRAM transdermal alcohol detection device.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.