What Is Drug Court?
Adult drug courts are evidence-based court programs that take a less adversarial approach to criminal justice. Rather than sending people with substance use disorders to prison, drug courts combine close judicial monitoring with intensive supervision and substance abuse treatment services to:
- Reduce recidivism and substance abuse in substance-abusing offenders
- Increase the offender's likelihood of successful rehabilitation by addressing substance abuse or other underlying issues that may have contributed to their criminal justice involvement
Drug courts operate depending on the jurisdiction, but generally, eligible defendants who enter a guilty plea will go to adult drug court and be required to complete drug court programs tailored to their specific needs. If done successfully, a person’s criminal charges may get reduced or dismissed altogether.
However, not all offenders with drug abuse problems are eligible for drug court in California. Only high-risk/high need individuals with substance use disorders are evaluated for eligibility. The district attorney is in charge of determining who is eligible. From there, an assigned drug court judge will order eligible individuals to report for assessment and treatment supervision within 5 days of their first court appearance.
With that being said, our attorneys strongly support drug court programs for several reasons. Being among the most researched court programs, drug courts are backed by strong evidence that affirms their effectiveness. Studies have overwhelmingly revealed that drug courts have the following benefits:
- Lower rates of recidivism: Several studies reveal that drug courts reduced recidivism among program participants in contrast to comparable probationers who did not go through drug court programs. Data from a primarily pre-plea adult drug court in Portland tracked 6,500 offenders who participated in the Multnomah County Drug Court between 1991 and 2001 and found that re-arrests were lower 5 years or more later compared to re-arrests for similar drug offenders within the same county.
- Lower costs: Compared to traditional criminal justice system processing, treatment, and other investment costs averaged $1,392 lower per drug court participant. Reduced recidivism and other long-term program outcomes resulted in public savings of $6,744 on average per participant (or $12,218 if victimization costs are included).
As you can see, drug courts are effective. But they don’t just transform participants overnight. Despite research pointing to the fact that rug courts can reduce recidivism and lower costs, other factors influence the success of a drug court program, such as
- Proper assessment and treatment.
- The role assumed by the judge and the nature of offender interactions with the judge.
- Other variable influences such as drug use trends, staff turnover, and resource allocation.
Common Types of Drug Courts
Drug courts aren’t just for adults. Juveniles may go to drug court, too. So, if you are an adult entering a guilty plea to a criminal charge or are a juvenile suspected of substance abuse, you could experience one of three common drug court models if you’re eligible:
- Pre-plea models: Give drug possession offenders a stay of prosecution if they participate in court-supervised treatment. Upon successful completion of the drug court program, the participant is discharged without a criminal record, while failure to complete the program leads to the filing of charges and adjudication.
- Post-plea models: Require a defendant to enter a guilty plea before entering treatment, which can last from 9 months to 3 years. Upon successful completion of the drug court program, the criminal charges are dismissed, although, failure to complete the program leads to the sentencing phase of adjudication.
- Post-adjudication models: Allow repeat drug offenders to enter treatment after their conviction, but prior to serving their sentence. Successful completion of the drug court program allows these offenders to serve their sentence in treatment instead of custody, but failure to complete the program directly activates their sentence.
Adult drug courts and juvenile drug courts ultimately have the same goal, the difference being how they’re executed. As you can understand, there are several distinctions between adult and juvenile offenders, which is why adult and juvenile drug courts operate differently but with the same purpose: Treatment over punishment.
Eligible convicted felons or misdemeanants go to adult drug court, which treats these substance-abusing offenders while minimizing incarceration rates. This is achieved through a structure that links supervision and treatment with consistent judicial oversight and team management. The majority of adult drug courts include initial intensive treatment services, ongoing monitoring, and continuing care for 12 months or more.
Juvenile drug courts concern delinquency matters involving substance-using juveniles. Juvenile drug court programs provide immediate and intensive intervention with continuous court supervision, requiring juveniles and their families to do the following:
- Participate in treatment
- Submit to frequent drug testing
- Appear regularly at frequent court status hearings
- Comply with other court conditions geared toward accountability, rehabilitation, long-term sobriety, and cessation of criminal activity
Key Components of Adult Drug Courts
If you are eligible for diversion drug court programs in California, you should keep some important elements in mind. Drug court is not just like any other rehabilitation program, as it requires intense monitoring and strict compliance. To give you a better idea, we list some information about what to expect from drug court below:
- Participants can access a variety of treatment and rehabilitative services
- Participants will be monitored for abstinence and use of drugs by frequent drug testing
- Participants will undergo early and frequent judicial supervision
- Participants will be incentivized as such:
- Advancement to next treatment phase
- Reduction in diversion program fees (other than state-mandated fees)
- Completion of treatment and required court appearances and shortening of the term of diversion
- Other incentives the court may deem necessary or appropriate
- Participants will be sanctioned as such:
- Demotion to an earlier treatment phase
- Increased frequency of testing, supervision, or treatment requirements
- Graduated length of incarceration for violating diversion order to abstain from the use of illegal drugs and for nonparticipation in treatment
- Reinstatement of criminal proceedings
- A participant will be terminated from the pre-plea diversion drug court and get their criminal proceedings reinstated if the judge determines that the participant has:
- Not performed satisfactorily in treatment
- Failed to benefit from education, treatment, or rehabilitation
- Been convicted of a misdemeanor that reflects the participant's propensity for violence
- Engaged in criminal conduct rendering him or her unsuitable for continued treatment
Working Towards the Best Possible Outcome in Your Case
As former prosecutors, our defense attorneys have seen firsthand how effective and transformative drug courts can be when completed successfully. We go above and beyond to help clients by leveraging our close ties with Santa Barbara prosecutors, advocating our clients’ eligibility for these life-changing drug court programs. If you are approved for diversion into drug court, you could experience some significant changes and live a happier, healthier life free of crime.
Allow us to help you get there.
To learn more, please give us a call at (805) 467-6060. While we can’t guarantee a favorable outcome in your case, we can guarantee that our lawyers will work tirelessly to help resolve your charges!