Drug Court is a court program which works with defendants in an attempt to improve their lives through counseling, with the goal of sobriety. People can enter Drug Court in two ways:
1. As a diversion. This means that once the defendant graduates from Drug Court, the criminal charges are dismissed. This option is only open to certain charges, and only for defendants who have no prior felony convictions. The diversion program will last at least a year for felony charges, and at least 6 months if the defendant is charged only with misdemeanors.
2. As a condition of probation. This option is available to anyone with non-violent charges and no history of violence. It is not open to people who sell drugs. In order to enter Drug Court as a condition of probation, the Judge must sentence the defendant to probation with the condition that he enter and complete Drug Court. If Drug Court is not completed, then the defendant will face a violation of probation.
Clients of Drug Court are required to do many things:
1. Random drug screens. The participants must call a hotline every day to determine if they must drug test. If their assigned number is called, they must go to the drug lab in their county and give an observed urine sample.
2. Court attendance. Court attendance is required more frequently in the beginning of the program (typically once a week). Once progress is made through the program, the Court attendance requirement will lessen to every other week or every month.
3. Therapy. Each client of Drug Court is expected to participate in some type of substance abuse treatment. This treatment may consist of individual sessions, group therapy, partial hospitalization program/intensive outpatient, inpatient treatment, modification of living environment (transitional homes), etc. The amount and type of treatment will be determined in a treatment plan. Typically each client begins Drug Court in an outpatient treatment program, which can be modified if necessary throughout the program.
4. Self-help meetings. The treatment provider and Court may order that a client participate in self-help meetings, such as AA or NA. The number and frequency is determined on a case by case basis according to the client’s needs.
Drug Court operates as a team. The team includes a Drug Court Judge, a representative from both the Public Defender’s and State Attorney’s Offices, a probation officer, a coordinator from court administration, and community treatment providers. Each week, the team meets prior to court and discusses each participant. During Court, the client is called in front of the Judge, and the Judge discusses the client’s accomplishments and stumbling blocks over the past several weeks. The Judge may give the client an incentive for doing well or a sanction if he or she is not doing well. The sanction can include jail or elimination from the program, depending on the severity of the infraction.
Juvenile and Felony Drug Courts are available in all four counties, Misdemeanor Drug Court is only available in St. Lucie and Okeechobee Counties. If you think you may qualify and are interested in participating in Drug Court, please speak to your attorney.