When you are facing a drug possession charge, you may qualify for Drug Court. All Florida courts have some form of the Drug Court Program. Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach are no exception.
Drug Court is typically reserved for possession-level offenders. Sales, possession with intent, and trafficking are ordinarily prohibited offenses.
So if you are facing a drug possession charge, you have to ask...is Drug Court the right choice for you?
The answer isn't so simple. It depends on a number of factors.
The first factor you should consider is will a guilty or no contest plea to the charge result in your deportation? There are immigration consequences for non-citizens who get arrested. Even if adjudication is withheld, the federal government considers that to be a conviction, and you can be deported for a simple drug possession charge. If you cannot afford the risk of a trial or you cannot plead guilty or no contest, you may want to consider Drug Court as the outcome of Drug Court is the dismissal of your charges.
Can you fight your case? Are there suppression issues or is there evidence of blatant police misconduct? If so, you may want to consider litigating your case instead of accepting the Drug Court Program. Drug Court can take up to 18 months, you will be drug tested regularly (at your expense), you will be asked to attend counseling sessions and possibly extended treatment. It can be time-consuming and expensive. And if you are not a drug addict, it's a waste of time and resources. If your case has legal merit - and only an experienced criminal defense attorney can tell you this - you may want to consider fighting the charges and avoiding Drug Court.
Another question - and answering this honestly - are you a drug addict?
Was your arrest the result of a one-time thing? Are you not a regular cocaine user but you just happened to have some on you the night you were arrested? Or do you have a legitimate problem.
Now you may think that if you are a drug addict, Drug Court would be perfect for you. While I encourage all addicts to seek treatment, I don't necessarily think that court-mandated treatment is the best option. Why? Because if you use drugs while in Drug Court, you can end up in custody. Addicts commonly relapse, and if you do so while in Drug Court, you can find yourself sitting in jail for a long time. It may not be worth it.
Drug Court has its benefits, the greatest of which is the dismissal of your drug charges. But it's a serious commitment, and failure to successfully complete the rigorous conditions can result in your incarceration.
Before you decide to enter into the Drug Court program, consult a criminal lawyer.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney who assists clients facing drug charges in Miami, Broward, and Palm Beach.