An epidemic of drug crimes has swept the nation in the last few decades. States have come to realize that repeated prosecution and incarceration is not the answer to their burgeoning drug crime rates, and Florida is no exception. To address the underlying cause of chronic recidivism, drug courts were created in 1989, offering an alternative to incarceration by creating treatment-based programs that break the cycle of addiction.
How does drug court work?
A person who qualifies for drug court can participate either through a pretrial diversion program or post-plea condition of probation. Usually one qualifies for drug court if the state’s attorney finds that an accused is:
Involved in selling small amounts of drugs to support a drug habit
Involved in property crimes or other low-level felonies motivated by a need to purchase drugs or while under the influence of drugs
Charged with drug possession not amounting to trafficking
Engaged in drug purchases
Facing a violation of probation for a crime that otherwise qualifies for Drug Court
Once enrolled in the drug court program, participants receive treatment plans designed for each individual’s needs. The treatment plan is based on a multidisciplinary assessment of what each person needs to fully recover from drug addiction.
The program is supervised by a drug court judge, the treatment team members and the local prosecutor, probation officer and the participant’s defense attorney. The participant’s progress and slips are monitored, and the treatment program is modified accordingly. Participants can be sanctioned or even terminated from the program for noncompliance or for committing new crimes.
The goal, however, is to break the addiction and set the participant on the road to full recovery and a successful, drug-free life. Those who succeed in the program may have their criminal charges dismissed, adjudication withheld, or sentences shortened.