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Drug Court

What is Drug Court?

Florida drug court diversion
Florida drug court diversion

The first ever Drug Court in the United States was established in Miami-Dade in 1989. The program was designed and evolved to reduce crime, provide better treatment outcomes, and produce better cost benefits than other criminal justice strategies.

Drug Court is a diversion program that requires its participant to complete certain criteria and in exchange for completing these requirements the criminal case is dropped. The Drug Court program was established by the Florida legislature that allows every jurisdiction in the state of Florida to help rehabilitate people charged with criminal offenses that have substance abuse issues.

How long does Drug Court last?

The duration of the Drug Court program varies on a case by case basis, but typically lasts anywhere from 18 to 24 months. The length of times of the Drug Court programs varies from person to person. The program is designed to understand that people with addiction issues often have slip ups and relapse. The Drug Court program takes this into consideration and does not automatically kick people out of the program the first time a person has a relapse. The Drug Court program will have a sanction for a relapse that can extend the time in the program. However long the Drug Court program lasts, upon successful completion of the Drug Court program, your case will be Nolle Prossed.

Who is eligible for Drug Court?

There are certain criteria to be eligible for Drug Court in Florida Statute 948.08(6)(b), which are:

  1. The person has a substance abuse problem and is amenable to treatment
  2. The person is charge with a nonviolent felony
  3. The person has never been charged with a crime of violence
  4. The person has two or fewer felony convictions, provided that the prior convictions are for nonviolent felonies

There are other Drug Court program requirements. For instance, you cannot be admitted into Drug Court if you have and take a prescription for certain drugs that can be abused.

How do you get into Drug Court?

First, you must be eligible for Drug Court under the statute as discussed above. Next, you must be offered Drug Court. This means that the prosecutor or judge must offer you Drug Court. If the prosecutor does offer you Drug Court, then you must accept it. If you previously rejected a Drug Court offer, then the Judge or the prosecutor may deny your entry into the Drug Court program.

What crimes are eligible for Drug Court?

The crimes that are eligible for drug court include all simple drug possession cases. There are several other charges that may be eligible including other drug related offenses. Talk to your lawyer to determine if the crime you are charges with is Drug Court eligible. 

There are crimes that may be drug related, but are specifically excluded from Drug Court. These include crimes of violence and crimes that indicate the sale of drugs

Should you do Drug Court?

This is a lengthy conversation that you should have with your lawyer. It depends on the facts of your case as well as your current life. For example, there may be legal or factual issues that a lawyer may advise you can lead to your acquittal. 

Your current life is another aspect that should be carefully analyzed when determining whether to enter the Drug Court program. Drug Court is designed for people with substance abuse issues. If you do not have a substance abuse issue, then Drug Court may not be for you. Additionally, you must analyze your work. If you do not have flexibility with your work, you may not be able to successfully complete Drug Court. Drug Court is an intensive program that requires more appearances, treatment, and drug tests than regular probation. If you cannot commit the time to complete these then Drug Court may not be four you. Have a detailed discussion with your lawyer to determine if Drug Court is right for you.

Can you do Drug Court if you take prescription medications?

It depends on the medications that you take. Drug Court can test participants for drugs, but they cannot determine if a participant is abusing a drug if they have a valid prescription for it. Medications that include opiates, barbiturates, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines are prohibited in Drug Court. If you have a prescription for any of these drug classifications, you will have to choose between taking your prescription or entering Drug Court. This is an important conversation that you must have with your lawyer and your medical treatment provider before this decision is made.

What prescription pills are prohibited in Drug Court?

Common prescription pills that Drug Court bans includes, Adderall, Dexedrine, Desoxyn, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Alprazolam, Ativan, Halcion, Klonopin, Restoril, Valium, Xanax, Phenobarbital, Seconal, Buprenorphine, Codeine, Concerta, Darvocet, Demerol, Dilaudid, Hydrocodone, Lortab/Lorcet, Methadone, Morphine, OxyContin/Oxycodone, Percocet, Suboxone, and Vicodine.

What are the benefits of Drug Court?

The ultimate benefit of drug court is that your criminal case will be dropped, or as the state of Florida refers to it as Nolle Prossed (Latin for abandoned prosecution). Once your case is dropped, you may, if otherwise eligible, have your case expunged from your record. 

There are other benefits of the Drug Court program aside from having your criminal case dropped. Drug addiction is an epidemic that does not discriminate. The Drug Court program takes the charge seriously to address and resolve the underlying substance abuse issues. Studies have indicated that people who successfully complete the Drug Court program are eighty (80) percent less likely to go to reoffend and be sentenced to prison.

Is Drug Court hard to complete?

In certain respects, Drug Court is tougher than probation. It is generally more intensive and has more requirements than regular probation. There are more drug tests and treatment than regular probation. Hence, it is more of a time commitment. However, it is again important to point out that the end result of Drug Court is better than the end result of probation.

Can the prosecutor prevent you from entering Drug Court?

Yes. The prosecutor can object to you entering Drug Court on the basis of the belief you were involved in dealing or selling drugs. When prosecutor makes this objection, the court will hold a pre-admission hearing to determine if you were involved in dealing or selling drugs by a preponderance of the evidence.  

Can you do Drug Court in a different state?

No. Unfortunately, not all states have Drug Court programs. The states that do have Drug Court programs do not follow the same course criteria that the uniform program that Drug Courts in Florida follow. As such, you cannot have Drug Court transferred if you live in another state. However, there may be an alternative diversionary program to Drug Court that you may be eligible for if you desire to enter into Drug Court, but live out of state.

Can you do Drug Court in a different county than you were arrested in?

Yes, if you live in a different county than you were arrested in, you can have Drug Court in the county where you live. Drug Court programs are in every county in Florida and cases are regularly transferred to the county where a person lives. However, if your case is removed from Drug Court, then your case will revert back to the county where you were arrested.

Can you do Drug Court in the county where you live?                                                                                            

Yes. Every county in the state of Florida has a Drug Court program. If you were arrested in another county and elect to participate in the Drug Court program you can have your case transferred to the county where you live. However, if there is an issue and you are kicked out of the program, your case will go back before the Judge in the county where you were arrested.

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