Drug Courts

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Should someone with a drug problem be sent to prison with murderers and rapists or should they receive alternative methods of combined punishment and treatment?  This is one of the many issues addressed by the use of a specialty court, called a Drug Court.  A specialty court is a court operating within the jurisdiction of another court.  However, the Drug Courts offer more than just a separate division to hear specific cases.  Drug Courts create an alternative form of adjudication for people involved in illegal drug activity.   These courts are a unique combination of the judicial system, social services, and drug treatment to create solutions for those with substance abuse and addiction.

Drug Courts are not available for all offenders with drug related crimes.  In most cases, Drug Court may only be used in cases with non-violent crimes.  The typical crimes heard by Drug Courts include drug possession and being under the influence.  In some cases however, an offender may still go through the Drug Court if their crime was not drug related, but they had a history of substance abuse.  Instead of pleading guilty to a crime and serving a jail sentence, through the Drug Court, an offender can agree to treatment plan which is monitored by a judge.

The exact process in which the Drug Court operates may vary from court to court.  However, the process generally takes between 12 to 18 months and can include weekly court sessions, regular drug screenings, requirements to maintain employment and/or housing, and counseling sessions.  After the successful completion of a program outlined by the Drug Court, the offender could see his charges dropped.

While Drug Courts exist in every state, they are run at a local level, so every county does not necessarily have a Drug Court. There are over 2000 Drug Courts in the United States, and there are many groups who are actively pushing to expand this number.  There are many arguments for using Drug Courts, such as a reduced recidivism rate, lower cost to courts, and breaking the cycle of addition.  Yet, one interesting and controversial aspect about Drug Courts is that they require special screening.  Simply because an offender was engaged in a non-violent drug related crime does not guarantee that their case will be hear in a Drug Court.   Drug Court judges review the cases and ultimately make the decision of whether an offender is right for a Drug Court process.  Thus, many would argue that it is difficult to assess the actual success of the Drug Courts if judges are allowed to pick and choose the cases they will hear.

To learn more about Drug Courts or find out the possible location of Drug Courts in your area, visit www.Courtreference.com.  There you will find a directory of courts, by state and county, where you link directly to court websites, find contact information, and even find online search resources.

2 thoughts on “Drug Courts

  1. jerry nay

    Where does the drug court fit on the organization chart of the Virginia court system, i.e., under circuit, general districe, J&DR ?
    If it doesn’t fit into the court system, how does it relate to it, i.e., what’s the line of authority.

  2. VanB

    Drug courts aren’t on the organization chart because they’re not a separate court. They’re a program run by a court, and it’s not always the same level court. I.e. a Drug Court can be a program of a Circuit Court, a District Court, or a J&DR Court (mainly for Juvenile Drug Court). The line of authority is to the court that set up the program, not to the court system as a whole. There’s more info here: http://www.vdca.net/


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