According to the National Institute of Justice, more than three thousand drug courts are currently operating in the United States. Drug courts are specialized court programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and sometimes parents involved in child welfare cases who have alcohol and/or other drug dependency problems.
Although drug courts vary, they are generally based around treatment and rehabilitation enhanced by monitoring and drug testing. In most cases and in most drug courts, an offender who successfully completes all stages of a drug court program can have the original charge dismissed.
Most drug courts in the United States are jointly managed and operated in a non-adversarial manner by judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, corrections officials, social workers, and drug counseling and treatment professionals. Additional support from law enforcement, the family, and others in the community is actively sought and fostered.
Almost every drug court program lasts at least a year, and some take longer. The Palm Beach County Drug Court program is a prosecutorial diversion program that withholds pending drug charges for one year.
WHAT MAKES PALM BEACH COUNTY’S DRUG COURT DISTINCT?
What makes the Palm Beach County Drug Court different is that unlike drug courts in many other jurisdictions, a defendant facing a drug charge does not necessarily have to be a first-time offender in order to qualify.
The program requires at least one year of participation, involves intensive addiction therapy and rehabilitation, and it is open to defendants facing a pending drug charge – that is, provided that the defendant is eligible for Drug Court, meaning that the defendant has no prior convictions for:
– crimes of violence
– misdemeanor domestic battery
– any type of trafficking in illegal drugs of any kind
Close supervision throughout the entire Palm Beach County Drug Court program is provided by the judge and the Drug Court staff. A defendant may remain in the program for longer than one year if the participant encounters problems with compliance at any stage of the program. Upon graduation from the Palm Beach County Drug Court program, a defendant’s pending drug charge or charges are dismissed.
At that time, the program graduate will have a full year of drug-free living (verified by frequent random drug testing) and the tools to remain free from drugs after graduating from the program. Defendants of all ages, ethnicities, and walks of life have successfully completed Palm Beach County’s Drug Court program.
Completion of the program and graduation are not easy; a participant must make a commitment to the program and exercise some genuine personal willpower. Addicts who have been actively addicted to alcohol or drugs for more than a decade have completed the program successfully.
WHAT IS THE INITIAL PROCEDURE FOR DRUG COURT?
To participate in the Palm Beach County Drug Court program, in most cases, a candidate must be facing one of these felony charges: possession of a controlled substance, sale of a controlled substance, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, attempted purchase of a controlled substance, or possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell.
The offender must be at least 18 years old. The Palm Beach County Drug Court Program will last for at least twelve months or longer depending on the individual’s personal compliance and progress.
Upon application for admission to the Palm Beach County Drug Court program, the applicant will undergo a comprehensive assessment to determine the applicant’s specific personal issues and needs. This allows a defendant’s entrance to the program to be personalized to address those issues and needs. The program is conducted in four phases that merge substance abuse treatment and sanctions and incentives with intensive personal case management and supervision.
Each of the four phases of the program consists of precise treatment objectives and rehabilitative activities, and each phase has its own requirements for moving to the next phase. While working with the Drug Court judge, the Drug Court staff assists the participant as needed with social service programs, appropriate educational programs, employment and vocational rehabilitation opportunities, and transportation if necessary. Participants are required to pay the Drug Court $20 a week to help with the costs of counseling and drug testing.
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF DRUG COURT FOR OFFENDERS?
Participants in the Palm Beach County Drug Court program may participate in counseling and treatment, avoid going to jail, and in many cases may keep their jobs or obtain employment. Participants also avoid having their driver’s licenses suspended and may additionally avoid in-patient treatment provided that their outpatient treatment continues to be successful. Graduates of the Palm Beach County Drug Court program will have the criminal charge or charges against them dismissed and all records of the arrest and charge may be expunged or sealed.
The Palm Beach County Drug Court program is for defendants charged with drug violations who are willing to admit their guilt and humble enough to ask for and accept help for their substance abuse dependency or addiction.
Anyone who is arrested and charged with a drug crime or a drug-related crime in South Florida should contact an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney at once to discuss your rights and your options. In most cases, Drug Court will be the option to choose if you are in fact guilty of the charge and need help with alcohol or drug dependency or addiction.
According to West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Rick Hutchinson, “Drug Court is an option that needs to be carefully considered in Palm Beach County whenever a person is charged with a drug crime. There are many requirements for successful completion and the decision should not be taken lightly without first seeking the advice of a criminal defense attorney familiar with Drug Court policies and procedures. There are also many upsides to Drug Court including having charges dropped upon successful completion, but one needs to understand the lengthy and time-consuming nature of the requirements before agreeing to the same.”
Of course, if you are not guilty of the charge against you, you should fight that charge with the help of a good West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney. A good defense lawyer will look at a variety of defense strategies, attempt to find a weakness in the state’s case against you, and aggressively advocate on your behalf for a dismissal of the charge, a reduction of the charge, or a not guilty verdict if your case goes to trial.
If you are accused of a drug crime in Palm Beach County, and if you are struggling with dependency or addiction, Drug Court may be the opportunity to get the help you need. When someone who is dealing with a substance abuse problem is willing to comply with some rules, follow some good advice, and exert some personal willpower, that person may later find that an arrest on a drug charge was a turning point and the start of a new, drug-free life.