Background and History of Florida’s Drug Court
In 1989 Florida spearheaded the nation’s drug court movement by establishing the country’s first drug court in Miami-Dade County. With the explosion of drug-related crimes in the 1980’s, officials in Miami-Dade County decided to create a new type of court system designed to better handle the sharp rise in drug cases in their community. In 2001, the Florida Legislature followed in their footsteps and declared its intent to create drug courts in all judicial districts throughout the state.
According to the Florida Courts, there are now more than 2,600 drug courts located in every state and territory in the U.S., with 101 drug courts operating throughout Florida. Drug courts in Florida exist in every judicial district and operate in the felony, misdemeanor, juvenile delinquency and family dependency divisions of the court. The Florida Courts report that in 2012 alone, the state’s Drug Courts experienced nearly 8,000 admissions and more than 260 children were reunited with their parents through the state’s dependency drug courts.
Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorneys Explain Participation
The Florida Drug Court program operates as a judicially supervised drug and alcohol treatment program for criminal defendants dealing with substance abuse problems and addiction. The Drug Court program is completely voluntary and participants are regarded as “clients” not criminals. Moreover, participants are not prosecuted or punished and if they successfully complete the program they will generally avoid having a conviction placed on their records.
If you have been charged with a drug-related offense you may be eligible to participate in a Drug Court program. In many instances, eligibility and entry for these types of programs takes place through a county level pre-trial screening and intervention program. When an individual is charged with possessing or purchasing drugs, the Florida State Attorney’s Office must agree to divert the individual from prosecution into a Drug Court program. If you have been arrested for drug sale or trafficking, have a history of violent crime, or have been convicted of more than two nondrug felony convictions, you typically will not be eligible to participate in this type of program.
When you are selected for Drug Court, you will have the option to decide whether or not you want to participate. Should you decline participation, your case will proceed through the traditional criminal court system. A Drug Court program lasts for a minimum of 12 months; however clients may need to remain in the program longer in order to complete all program requirements. There are many critical factors to consider when you are recommended for participation in a Drug Court Program. You should carefully discuss your situation with an experienced group of Sarasota criminal defense attorneys before making any decisions.
Drug Court Program Requirements
Participants in the Drug Court program receive substance abuse treatment based on their individual needs, which can include residential and outpatient treatment, counseling, education, and group therapy. They are also required to make regular court appearances before the drug court judge who reviews their participation in the program along with urinalysis results. If the urinalysis results reveal that a client has been using drugs and/or the drug court judge finds the client is not adequately participating in the program, he or she can impose a variety of sanctions. Moreover, a client who repeatedly fails to meet the program’s requirements can be removed from the program and prosecuted in criminal court.
If you have been charged with a drug-related crime and have questions about the Florida Drug Courts, you should consult with a team of experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorneys to determine whether a Drug Court program may be right for you.