Review of How California Drug Courts Work
California drug courts offer a defendant charged with a nonviolent drug offense a chance to resolve their case without going through normal criminal justice system.
In other words, these courts focus on defendants who can benefit from drug rehabilitation. If a drug offender successfully completes a drug treatment program, they can typically get their criminal charges dismissed.
Drug Court programs are an alternative for people who are struggling with substance abuse.
They are a less adversarial approach that combines monitoring with close supervision and substance abuse treatment, rather than incarceration. The primary goals of a drug court program are:
- to increase the chances a drug offender will benefit from rehabilitation dealing with their substance abuse that could have been a factor in committing a crime;
- to reduce the chances of recidivism and defendant's substance abuse.
Drug courts sound ominous, but they are not. California and many other states have established drug-court programs as highly attractive alternatives to traditional courts, where harsh and insensitive treatment of drug crime offenders far too often fails to rehabilitate.
To give readers a better understanding of how California drug courts work, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a review below.
Why a Drug Court?
A federal study shows that drug courts integrate alcohol-and-drug treatment into court procedures in a cooperative rather than adversarial approach.
Police, prosecutors, courts, and nonprofit agencies work together to support the charged defendant with education, treatment, and other services.
Frequent testing proves the participant's drug-free and alcohol-free compliance to a judge who treats the defendant with special interest. Research shows that drug courts work.
Indeed, federally funded research has shown that California's drug courts lead to:
- more treatment completions,
- fewer repeat offenses, and
- lower costs.
Avoiding a Drug Conviction and Incarceration in California
Another hugely practical benefit is that drug courts also offer dismissal of criminal charges, rather than conviction with the job loss, family burden, loss of freedom, and other losses conviction entails.
Drug crime charges frighten offenders for precisely those reasons.
Jail or prison time dehumanizes the convicted while undermining everything on which their recovery depends: family relationships, finances, job income, reputations, and careers.
Drug court keeps the offender's world from crashing down around conviction, imprisonment, and they can lead to a new lease on an improved life.
Dismissal of Criminal Charges
Drug courts across California offer, pursue, and accomplish dismissal of criminal charges following these different models:
- pre-plea programs stay prosecution while the offender pursues court-supervised treatment, discharging the offender without conviction on successful program completion but filing and adjudicating charges if the offender fails to satisfy program terms;
- post-plea programs require a guilty plea to charges before beginning nine months to three years of treatment, dismissing the charges on successful completion but sentencing on conviction if the offender fails to satisfy program terms;
- post-adjudication programs permit repeat offenders to enter treatment after conviction but before serving a sentence, allowing compliant offenders to substitute treatment for jail or prison but committing non-compliant offenders to jail, prison, or other sentence terms; and
- civil programs permitting substance abusers involved in parental-rights, child-custody, or similar civil actions to accept treatment to retain children, where failing to complete treatment leads to permanent loss of children.
Common Types of California Drug Courts
California's numerous drug courts around the state also focus on different populations according to local needs. The main types include:
- adult drug courts emphasizing intensive, supervised, team-managed treatment for offenders struggling with deep substance-abuse issues, monitored by the drug-court judge and followed by a year or more of continuing care;
- dependency drug courts for parent offenders trying to preserve parental or custody rights, with services focusing on improving parenting skills and keeping children safe while treating the offender for substance abuse; and
- juvenile drug courts handling delinquency cases for juveniles abusing substances, supplying prompt intensive intervention under close court supervision, with family participation.
Eligibility for a California Drug Court
As stated, a drug court is primarily designed to help an offender with their drug addiction.
Drug courts are generally available only to nonviolent offenders whose are facing drug crime possession charges, such as:
- Health and Safety Code 11350 HS – drug possession,
- Health and Safety Code 11550 HS – under the influence,
- Health and Safety Code 11357 HS – marijuana possession,
However, yet even those whom prosecutors charge with a disqualifying sale or transportation offense could still be eligible for a drug court. These charges include:
- Health and Safety Code 11351 HS – drug possession for sales,
- Health and Safety Code 11352 HS – sale or transportation of drugs,
- Health and Safety Code 113560 HS – sale or transportation of marijuana.
If you are charged with selling a controlled substance that would typically make you ineligible for a drug court, our criminal defense lawyers might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges reduced to personal use, which would then make you qualified for a drug court.
Entering a Plea Before Participation in Drug Court
In order to determine whether you will have to enter a plea in court before participating in a drug court, the prosecutor will review your specific drug charge and criminal history.
If you don't have a criminal history, you will not typically be required to enter a guilty plea in court.
However, if your record includes a criminal history, then you will normally be required to enter a guilty plea before a drug court will accept you into the program. If you are required to plead guilty, you will be:
- placed on probation, normally for a period of 36 months;
- required to participate in a drug treatment program, which is a condition of probation.
If you successfully complete your program, then your criminal charges will be dismissed and probation will be terminated.
Requirements for Drug Court Participation
After you have been accepted into a California drug court, you will have certain conditions to follow, including:
- submit to drug testing,
- participate in drug education and counseling,
- regular monthly meetings with a probation officer,
- seek and/or maintain employment,
- attend school,
- complete any other programs ordered by the court.
It should be noted that all the California drug courts set their own rules and requirements.
And it bears repeating that each drug court basically runs itself, which means that each establishes its own protocols and requirements.
Other California drug diversion programs include:
Criminal Defense Lawyers for California Drug Courts
If you were charged with a California drug crime, our experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can play an important role on how your case is resolved.
California criminal procedures are complex, especially so with specialty courts like drug courts.
We can first determine whether you qualify for a drug court or another diversion program.
We can also provide you with support in order to successfully the program in order to get your criminal charges dismissed.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm that represents clients throughout Southern California courts, including Los Angeles County, Orange County, Ventura County, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
We are located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Our main office is located in the San Fernando Valley next to the Van Nuys Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Call our office for an initial consultation at (310) 328-3776.