Drug Court is a diversion program offered to drug possession offenders in Miami-Dade and Broward County. Drug Court is a one-year program, usually reserved for first-time offenders, or offenders with very few prior arrests.
The participants must be charged with possession-level offenses for felony-level drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, oxycodone (OxyContin), alprazolam (Xanax), marijuana (over 20 grams), and hydrocodone (Vicodin).
Usually, trafficking or possession with intent to sell offenses are not referred to Drug Court.
Drug Court participants must attend AA/NA meetings, go to group and individual counseling, and submit to regular drug-testing. Participants must also pay monthly fees.
Drug Court participants have regularly-scheduled court dates where they must appear before a judge or magistrate. Participants with criminal defense attorneys attend court along with their lawyers. During these court sessions, the judge or magistrate will review reports from each participant's counselor. The judge will track the participant's progress as that person works toward graduation.
If the participant has no prior arrests, their drug charge will be dismissed upon completion of drug court. Then the participant may be eligible to have his or her arrest expunged.
However, like any diversion program, a participant may face violation if they do not comply with their program requirements.
Typically, a Drug Court participant cannot:
- Test positive for drugs
- Fail to report for any meeting or counseling session
- Move or change their address without notifying their program supervisor
- Travel out of the county without notifying their program supervisor
- Fail to report for a drug test (failing to report or refusing to take a drug test will always be treated as a "positive" drug test)
- Fail to pay fees on time
- Get arrested for a new charge
If a Drug Court participant violates in any of these ways, there are a number of sanctions. The least severe sanction is that a Drug Court participant may be forced to attend court sessions more regularly. That means, instead of every 45 days, they may have to come to court every 30 days.
The participant may have extra conditions placed upon them.
The participant may be required to remain in the program longer than originally planned. Therefore, their criminal case will remain open longer.
The most severe sanction is being kicked out of Drug Court. If that happens, your case will get sent back to a regular felony trial division where the case will be set for trial. You will likely not receive another chance at Drug Court.
Violations are not uncommon. As many of us know, relapse is a part of recovery. Positive drug tests are some of the most common violations. Knowing this, the Drug Court judges and magistrates are compassionate, and usually willing to give the participant another chance. However, if the participant has too many positive drug tests, they will be kicked out.
Drug Court must be taken seriously. A good criminal defense lawyer can help a client get into Drug Court, but the client must take on the challenge of getting sober on their own. Drug Court is good in that it permits a first-time, non-violent drug user to avoid becoming a "criminal." It also helps the drug user kick the habit and get clean.
I have helped clients get into Drug Court, and I continue to represent them while they work through the program. Every single month, I proudly accompany my Drug Court clients as they go before the judge and explain the progress they are making. And when they graduate, I help them to clean their criminal records.
I represent clients in Miami-Dade and Broward charged with a variety of drug crimes. I fully support Drug Court and always work to get my first-time offender clients into the program should that be their best option.
Call me today if you or someone you know has been charged with a drug possession crime in Miami-Dade or Broward.