How California Drug Courts Work
In California, drug courts give a defendant charged with a nonviolent drug crime an opportunity to resolve their case without processing through the criminal justice system.
Drug courts are different because their primary focus is on the well-being of a defendant who could benefit from drug rehabilitation.
If a defendant completes the drug treatment program successfully, the judge could dismiss their criminal charges.
In other words, these programs are an alternative for someone struggling with drug addiction.
Drug courts combine monitoring, supervision, and substance abuse treatment rather than sending a defendant to jail.
The ultimate goals of a California drug court program are to:
- increase a defendant's chances that they will receive some benefit from rehabilitation that directly deals with their substance abuse issue that might have been the primary factor in committing a crime;
- reduce a defendant's chances of becoming a repeat violator (recidivism) and continued substance abuse.
Drug courts integrate alcohol-and-drug treatment into criminal court procedures in a cooperative approach.
Police, prosecutors, and the courts work together to support a drug offender with education, treatment, and other related services.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will provide a review below for more information.
Avoiding a California Drug Conviction and Incarceration
One of the other primary benefits of a drug court is that they offer a defendant a chance to have their criminal charges dismissed rather than have a conviction on their record, resulting in many collateral consequences.
Many drug crime charges could result in jail time that would undermine just about everything they need to recover from an addiction, such as:
- close support from family relationships,
- income from employment,
- financial situation,
- pursuing a career.
In other words, a drug court could potentially prevent a defendant from the most severe consequences of being convicted and sent to prison. It allows them to refocus and get their priorities for a much-improved life.
Getting Criminal Charges Dismissed Through Drug Courts
California drug courts offer defendants a chance to get their criminal charges dismissed through different methods below.
Pre-plea programs will suspend prosecution while the defendant seeks treatment that the court supervises. If they complete the program, their charges will be dismissed. If they fail, the formal criminal charges on their original case will be filed.
Post-plea programs will mandate that defendants plead guilty to their charges before starting a treatment program that will last anywhere between nine months and three years. Again, if they are successful, their charges will be dismissed, but failure means getting sentenced on their original charges.
Post-adjudication programs allow repeat offenders to start treatment after being convicted but before serving a sentence. This means offenders can replace jail or prison with getting treatment. Once again, if a defendant fails to complete their program, they will start serving their sentence.
Civil programs allow drug abusers who are currently involved in cases dealing with child custody or parental rights to get treatment to retain their children. If they fail to complete a treatment program, it could result in the permanent loss of their children.
Types of California Drug Courts
California has different types of drug courts throughout the state that target defendants based on their needs, such as:
- adult drug courts that focus on intensive treatments for defendants who are struggling with serious addictions and they are closely monitored by the drug court judge for at least one year;
- dependency drug courts are designed for defendants who are for parents attempting to maintain their child custody rights. These courts focus on improving parenting skills and keeping them from substance abuse;
- juvenile drug courts that handle delinquency cases for juveniles who abuse substances. They provide intensive intervention, close court supervision, and participation from their family.
Who is Eligible for a California Drug Court?
However, not every defendant charged with a California drug crime will be eligible for a drug court program.
They usually are only available for nonviolent offenders who have been charged with certain low-level drug crimes, 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,
It should be noted. However, defendants could still be eligible if they are charged with other more severe types of drug crimes, such as:
- Health and Safety Code 11351 HS – drug possession with intent to sell,
- Health and Safety Code 11352 HS – transportation or sale of drugs,
If charged with sales of an illegal controlled substance that usually makes you ineligible for a drug court, we might negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges that would make you qualify for a drug court.
The prosecutor will review your case to determine whether you will have to enter a plea in court first.
If you don't have a criminal history, then you won't usually have to enter a plea to participate in a drug court, but if you have a record, then you must enter a guilty plea in court, and you will be:
- put on probation by the judge for about 36 months;
- ordered to participate in a drug treatment program as a condition of probation.
Once you complete the program successfully, your criminal charges will be dropped and probation terminated.
What are the Requirements to Participate in a Drug Court?
Once you are accepted into a California drug court, there are conditions you will have to follow, such as:
- submit to regular drug testing,
- monthly meetings with an assigned probation officer,
- go to drug counseling classes,
- maintain employment and attend school,
California drug courts typically set their own rules and requirements. Other drug diversion programs in the state of California include:
- Penal Code 1000 PC – deferred entry of judgment,
- California Proposition 36.
If you have been charged with a California drug crime, our criminal defense lawyers can play a vital role in getting the case resolved.
We will review the case to determine if you are eligible for a drug court or other diversion program. If not, we might negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charge reduced or dismissed.
Further, we might persuade the prosecution not to file formal charges before court through prefiling intervention.
Cron, Israels & Stark is based in Los Angeles County at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. We offer a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.