What Are Drug Courts?
Drug courts are an innovative and practical way to deal with drug usage in the criminal justice system.
Drug courts, as the name suggests, are designed exclusively for those with substance use disorders. Either instead of serving a jail sentence, or as part of a reduced sentence, these court programs allow participants to enroll in long-term drug treatment and agree to court supervision.
Participants in the intensive program must continue their recovery, take on responsibilities, and work toward lifestyle improvements. Their progress is monitored under the supervision and authority of the court. The goal of drug courts is to result in decreased crime and positive changes in people’s lives.
How Does a Drug Court Work?
The exact workings of drug court vary by state or county. However, what they tend to have in common is that a judge supervises a group of court personnel, attorneys, probation officers, substance abuse experts, and treatment professionals who all work together to encourage and monitor a participant’s progress toward recovery. The group addresses the participant’s development and/or any issues that have arisen since their last meeting.
The judge is then given a chance to hear from each team member’s perspective and receive their recommendations before taking any further action.
Following the team meeting, the team members go to open court. Each participant then presents themselves to the judge and speaks with them directly about any new difficulties that have come up since the previous court appearance.
Family members might also use this time to talk about any recent issues. Parental and family input is strongly encouraged by drug court since this may be the best indicator of compliance at home.
If the program is completed successfully, the court may shorten a sentence, drop the original charge, impose a reduced punishment, or a combination of these.
Drug court participation is entirely up to the individual.
What Is Special About Drug Courts?
In some instances, participants who finish the drug court program successfully may have their underlying criminal charges dismissed, or they may receive a much lower sentence than they were otherwise facing. However, if the participant does not finish the program, their case will be handled as it typically would in the traditional criminal justice system.
Drug court programs frequently consist of:
- Establishing and maintaining long-term healing techniques through participation over the course of several months or years
- Random and ongoing drug testing
- Clinical care for drug and alcohol use disorders
- Personalized case management services that link individuals to job options, volunteer opportunities, pro-social activities, and educational opportunities
- Regular court appearances
- The drug court team’s encouragement and support
Advantages of Drug Court:
Participants in drug courts receive intensive treatment and other assistance, usually for about a year. Regular court hearings and random drug tests are conducted, and there are penalties and rewards to encourage compliance and completion.
After completing the program successfully, the charges may be dropped, the sentence can be reduced or set aside, the penalties can be reduced, or a combination of these may apply. Most importantly, participants who complete the treatment program acquire the skills they need to start over.
Drug courts rely on the daily communication and collaboration of judges, court officials, probation, treatment providers, and other social services since the problem of drugs and crime is just too complex for any single agency to address on its own.
Drug courts have been considered a success all around the country. They are successful in helping people enter treatment, which is a necessary step for long-term sobriety. Those who successfully complete drug court programs have a considerably lower chance of being arrested again than those who receive regular sanctions.
To be successful in a drug court program, you must demonstrate your willingness to give up drugs (apart from prescribed meds) and make positive adjustments in your life if you want to succeed. The drug court judge and team cooperate will help you stick to the program that is tailored to your needs. If you follow the program’s guidelines, there are incentives for good performance as well as a range of sanctions.
The most effective drug courts can cut recidivism by up to 40%. Drug courts save money as well. After studying a drug court for ten years, the National Institute of Justice came to the conclusion that “lower recidivism and other long-term program outcomes resulted in public savings of $6,744 on average per participant.”
If you need help with a criminal case or drug related charge and are interested in learning about whether drug court would be an option for you, contact us. Our New Hampshire criminal attorneys would be happy to discuss your case and advise you on the best course of action.