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drug court

What Is Drug Court in California?

Drug Court: An Alternative to Incarceration in CA

Drug users are more likely to commit crimes than nonusers, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. These substances inhibit and alter users’ state of mind, and accordingly, cause them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do if they were sober. Those “things” often refer to crimes.

However, instead of punishing drug users through the traditional criminal justice process, Adult Drug Courts in California aim to help high-risk/high-need individuals with substance use disorders. The state recognizes the fact that drug abuse and crime go hand-in-hand, which is why officials aim to fix the root of the problem by providing an alternative to incarceration.

What Are Adults Drug Courts?

Adults drug courts are evidence-based court programs that model collaborative justice. Rather than sending offenders with substance use disorders to prison, drug courts take a less adversarial approach by combining close judicial monitoring with intensive supervision and substance abuse treatment services. These programs intend 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 are among the most researched court programs, with evidence pointing to the idea that they are not only cost-effective but also effective at reducing repeat offenders through rehabilitation. As such, drug courts are reliable because they work.

Eligibility for Drug Court in California

Who is eligible for drug court? As much as we want to give you a simple and straightforward answer, the answer is it depends. The district attorney will determine who is eligible and those who are eligible will be ordered by the assigned drug court judge to report for assessment and treatment supervision within 5 days of their first court appearance.

How Drug Court Works

Although drug courts operate differently depending on the jurisdiction, the bottom line is that most people go to adult drug court after entering a guilty plea. If they successfully complete drug court programs, their criminal charges may get reduced or dismissed altogether.

Common Types of Drug Courts

Drug courts aren’t just for adults. Juveniles may go to drug court, too. So, if an eligible adult enters a guilty plea to a criminal charge or a juvenile is suspected of substance abuse, they could experience one of three models:

  • 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.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at adult and juvenile drug courts:

Adult drug courts consist of convicted felons or misdemeanants and aim to provide treatment for substance-abusing offenders while minimizing incarceration rates. This is accomplished by providing structure, linking 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.

Similarly, juvenile drug courts focus on delinquency matters involving substance-using juveniles. These programs provide immediate and intensive intervention with continuous court supervision. This requires juveniles and their families to:

  • 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

Guidelines for California Drug Court Programs: What to Expect

Now that you have a better grasp of adult and juvenile drug courts in California, we highlight some key guidelines for drug courts that you should be aware of. If you’re eligible for drug court, the following guidelines very well impact you:

  • Participants will have access to 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:
    • Encouragement
    • 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

Fighting for Alternatives to Incarceration on Your Behalf

As an advocate for rehabilitation over punishment, our defense attorney fights tooth and nail to get clients diverted to drug court programs rather than prison. We value the tremendous, life-changing impacts drug court can have on participants, which is why we will work tirelessly to help clients experience the difference that drug court programs can make in their lives.

To learn more, please get in touch with us online or at (707) 418-5352!

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