With statistical data showing staggering numbers of people serving time in state prisons for drug possession, many states have adopted the idea of Drug Court. In Miami and Broward, Drug Courts are in full swing. Miami's Drug Court is presided over by The Honorable Deborah White-Labora, and Broward's Drug Court is presided over by The Honorable Marcia Beach. Both are fantastic judges with one goal in mind: helping drug possession offenders overcome both their drug habits and criminal records.
Posted By Eric Matheny
Drug Court is offered by the State Attorney's Office to people accused of felony-level drug possession. These drugs include cocaine, marijuana (20 grams or more), heroin, MDMD (ecstacy), alprazolam (Xanax), oxycodone (OxyContin), and many others. Remember - Drug Court is for possession-level offenses, and some purchase-level offenses. Possession with Intent to Sell and Trafficking almost never qualify for Drug Court.
Drug Court is a 1-year program where prosecution is deferred so that the accused can seek treatment through this court-operated program. In Drug Court, the accused person's case will remain open. However, successful completion of the program will result in a dismissal of the charge, or charges, for first-time offenders, and a withhold of adjudication (not a conviction) for people with prior felony records.
Drug Court is not easy. It requires time and effort. The accused person must go to court every 30-45 days. At those court appearances, representatives from the program will have informed the Judge of the accused person's progress. Participants in Drug Court are regularly drug tested, and must attend weekly counseling sessions and group therapy. If the participant tests positive for drugs, they may be removed from the program. Also, if the participant is arrested for a new offense, they may also be removed from the program as well.
As I mentioned earlier, the accused person's case remains open while they are participating in Drug Court. This is because Drug Court is not a form of probation or any type of sentence. A participant does not plead guilty or no contest. A participant can maintain their plea of "not guilty" and agree to fulfill the conditions of the program, with the understanding that the State will drop their charges once the program is successfully completed.
Drug Court gives first-time offenders a chance to avoid a criminal record. I always agree to expunge the records of my clients that participate in Drug Court. That way, once their case is dismissed, I begin the process of eliminating the arrest itself from the client's record. That way, they can literally be given a second chance.
Drug Court, however, does not always come easy. A good defense attorney may have to negotiate for it. As well, once the accused person is in Drug Court, the felony case remains open. That means, if the accused person is removed from Drug Court, they must still contend with pending felony charges.
I represent people accused of drug possession all the time. In many cases, I am able to get them into Drug Court, should that be the client's desire. Once they are in, I attend EVERY court appearance, closely monitor their progress, and work toward their ultimate dismissal of the charges. Some lawyers are able to get their clients into Drug Court, but once there, they are no longer involved in the case. Getting a client into Drug Court is only half the battle. The real legal work remains, and a good criminal defense attorney will always be an active participant in the program alongside their client.
If you or someone you know have been arrested for drug possession, call my office so we can discuss the possibility of Drug Court.