A drug court is a specialized court system where cases involving first offense drug possession charges are addressed, with the emphasis on treatment and education, instead of punishment. Depending on where you live, you may have heard of drug courts or you my be facing a case there now. While not all jurisdictions have them, they are growing in number. If you are facing nonviolent drug or alcohol related charges, your case may be eligible to be heard in a drug court.
Will my Drug Possession Case be Heard in a Drug Court?
Whether or not you will go to drug court depends both on your charges and where those charges originated from. Because drug courts aren’t located in every jurisdiction, not all qualifying cases will be seen in one. Consulting with a local attorney will help you determine if drug courts are available where you live.
Those cases heard in drug courts are always nonviolent criminal charges involving drugs or alcohol. If any aspect of the charges against you involves violence, your case will more likely be heard in the criminal courts.
What Makes Drug Courts Different?
Drug courts began when the crack epidemic of the 1990s was leading to increased crime and stress on the criminal courts. They were created to cater to the varied and specific needs of those accused of nonviolent drug crimes.
What makes these courts different from other criminal courts is their focus on treatment.
Instead of punishment being a number one concern, drug courts work towards getting accused offenders the help they need to get out of a life of drugs and crime.
The courts do this by a collaborative effort between numerous professionals and agencies. In drug courts across the country, you will see defense and prosecutorial attorneys working together in a way not commonly seen in criminal courts.
You will also see social workers, employment counselors, drug treatment professionals, and mental health workers.
All organizations working in the drug courts want one thing: the accused’s recovery and success in a drug-free and crime-free life.
How are the Penalties Different in Drug Court?
While there is a small chance you will have to serve jail time for your offense, more than likely, if your charge is nonviolent and especially if you are a first time offender, you will not.
Cases that go through a drug court are typically marked by a period of intensive supervision. This means you will be placed in programming similar to probation where you are monitored for progress consistently.
Supervision by drug courts may include:
- Random and frequent drug testing
- Home visits
- Maintenance of steady employment
- Participation in drug/alcohol treatment
- Participation in mental health programming
- Frequent check-ins with the court
Because drug courts have been shown to be effective in rehabilitating people and are more cost effective for local and state governments, officials would like to see your case resolved there if possible.
Is There a Downside to Drug Courts?
There can be. Generally, to be subject to the terms of a drug court, you must admit to sufficient facts against you to find you guilty of the charge. Then your case is handled through a probation like system, where your progress is monitored closely.
However, if you drop out of the program, fail a required drug test, or get in trouble with the law again, or otherwise don’t fulfill the terms of your agreement, you could face very harsh punishment.
For example, you could face jail time for a charge that, if you had plead guilty in the first place, you never would have received a penalty that harsh.
You also give up the chance to re-fight the facts of the case. You will be on record as essentially admitting guilt in your case.
So, if you or your attorney feel there is a reasonable chance you might not be able to complete the terms of the program, the drug court alternative may not be right for you.
Find Out if You are Eligible for A Drug Court
If you are facing charges involving drugs or alcohol and wondering about the drug courts in your area, contact our local attorneys today.
Even if there are no drug courts in your jurisdiction and you are charged with a drug offense, we may be able to help you get the assistance you need. Prosecutors in criminal courts are often willing to make plea deals involving drug treatment and if this is your first offense, you could qualify for deferred prosecution.
Contact us today to find out what options are available to you. Once we know some specifics about your case, we can give you some free legal advice and speak to you about how an aggressive defense attorney can impact your case.