Being charged with drug possession is scary; a conviction can result in jail or prison time. If the evidence against you is overwhelming, you may be wondering whether you can have a criminal defense attorney negotiate a plea bargain for you so you can avoid incarceration. When you talk with attorneys and consider who to hire, ask these lawyers about the possibility of drug court as an alternative to incarceration. All 50 states offer this alternative for eligible individuals. This article will tell you more about this option.
An Overview of Drug Court Programs
These are specialized programs primarily for people who have been arrested for a criminal offense and are dependent on alcohol or other drugs. Parents who have had their children removed from the home because of child welfare issues also participate in these programs. Some drug courts focus on juvenile offenders, some on military veterans and some on individuals with repeated convictions of driving under the influence.
The goal is to help the person overcome his or her problems with substance abuse so there's no legal trouble in the future.
What Drug Court Involves
If you are accepted into this type of arrangement, you must complete a drug treatment program after psychological screening and evaluation. You would be supervised by a judge for a specified length of time, such as six months to a year. Regular drug testing is required. You may need to find full-time employment and secure housing as part of the program.
The arrangement is typically not considered a punitive sentence, but rather an alternative to sentencing. Depending on your jurisdiction and your particular circumstances, you might be required to plead guilty and have a conviction on your record, or you might have your charges dismissed altogether after you graduate from the program.
If you must plead guilty, you may be able to have the conviction expunged from your record after you complete the program. However, failure to complete any of the requirements, including regular drug testing for a certain length of time after treatment ends, leads to further prosecution and sentencing.
Each jurisdiction has its own eligibility guidelines. For example, if your current arrest was for drug trafficking or a violent offense, or if you have a sex-related conviction on your record, you probably are not eligible. However, many of the criteria for exclusion are subject to review, and your defense lawyer will advocate for you. For instance, guidelines may exclude persons charged with nonviolent robbery or burglary, but a judge might be allowed to override these exclusions.
In addition, members of the judicial system and psychological professionals assess risk before deciding whether someone is a good candidate. If you show a positive attitude and are responsive to the idea of this program, you're more likely to be offered the option.
Success of the Programs
The National Association of Drug Court Professionals has published a list of statistics verifying how successful drug courts have been since the first one was developed in 1989 in Florida's Miami-Dade County. The success has led to an expansion since that time to more than 2,700 programs throughout the country. Every state and U.S. territory has these programs in place.
This type of sentence is more effective than incarceration and also more effective than a sentence of probation with treatment. Research has shown that drug courts:
- motivate offenders to stay in treatment longer and not drop out early
- are effective at helping people overcome addiction to methamphetamine
- save taxpayers money because offenders spend less time in the criminal justice system
- significantly reduce crime rates
Drug courts are also good for families, as parents are much more likely to complete treatment and children spend much less time in the foster care system.
Be Your Own Success Story
Talk with the defense lawyers you call about your interest in drug court and your willingness to participate in a program. Learn whether you are eligible or potentially eligible. This option can be an excellent opportunity for you to turn your life around and progress toward a rewarding future.
To learn more about how a criminal lawyer can help you, visit http://druyonlaw.com.