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How drug courts work

Drug addiction can stem from a variety of causes, including mental or physical illness, psychological trauma and more. Whatever the reason for their drug addiction, people with substance abuse generally need treatment for their addiction, not punishment. For this reason, Florida, along with many other states, has a system of drug courts geared to handle drug-related crime from the point of view of addressing the problems that led to drug addiction, rather than just handing out retribution.

Who is eligible?

Screening for drug court eligibility typically happens shortly after arrest, in the course of the booking process. Not everyone who is arrested for a drug crime is eligible for drug court participation. The point of the program is to accept and rehabilitate people who are most likely to benefit from treatment. For this reason, someone who is accused of drug trafficking, for example, will not be accepted. A typical drug court participant is arrested for buying or possessing drugs. In Florida, more than two prior felony convictions or drug sale convictions are likely to eliminate you from consideration for drug court. The court may also consider additional factors bearing on your willingness to participate in treatment when determining your eligibility.

What are the benefits?

Successful completion of a court-mandated treatment program, along with compliance with the court's other requirements, means that the charges against you will be dropped and you will not have to face a trial or attempt to negotiate a plea bargain.

What do you have to do?

The typical conditions for drug court include a period of participation in a treatment program for at least one year. Depending on circumstances, some people have to stay in a program for longer. The court will examine your particular circumstances and come up with a plan that addresses them specifically. You can also expect to be tested for drugs regularly and to report back to the court at regular intervals concerning your progress. In some cases, the court may also want you to get additional treatment such as counseling. Dropping out of treatment before completing the mandated program will result in your original charges being resurrected and prosecuted through the regular court system.

If you have been arrested on drug charges, you may be eligible for drug court, especially if you have a legitimate substance abuse problem. There are many factors that affect your chances of getting accepted into this program and avoiding having to go through a criminal trial. It is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible after the arrest in order to have a full range of options available. Consult an experienced lawyer to learn more about whether drug court could be a viable option for you.

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