4.15: Drug Courts
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Drug courts are a special branch of courts created within already-existing court systems. Drug courts provide court-supervised drug treatment and community supervision to offenders with substance abuse problems. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have at least a few drug court programs. There are no drug courts in the federal system. Some states have drug courts for adults and for juveniles, as well as family treatment or family dependency treatment courts that treat parents so that they might remain or reunite with their children.
Drug court eligibility requirements and program components vary from one locality to another, but they typically require some or all of the following:
- Require offenders to complete random urine tests, attend drug treatment counseling or Narcotics Anonymous/Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, meet with a probation officer, and report to the court regularly on their progress;
- Give the court authority to praise and reward the offender for successes and discipline the offender for failures (including sending the offender to jail or prison);
- Are available to non-violent, substance-abusing offenders who meet specific eligibility requirements (e.g., no history of violence, few or no prior convictions);
- Are not available on demand – usually, either the prosecutor or the judge handling the case must refer the offender to drug court; sometimes, this referral can only be made after the offender pleads guilty to the offense; and
- Allow offenders who successfully complete the program to avoid pleading guilty, having a conviction placed on their record, or serving some or all of their prison or jail time; some programs also allow successful participants who have already pled guilty to have their drug conviction removed from their record.