Many people don’t have a good understanding of the criminal justice system and how it works. Drug courts are no exception. All states now have some form of what is called drug court. This is an opportunity for the arrested person to clear their charges and get help at the same time. These programs are intended to reduce jail and prison populations and the high recidivism rate commonly seen with drug offenders. Unfortunately, misunderstandings are common. Arrested people think that drug court is an easy way out because it doesn’t involve incarceration. It’s not. In fact, if the person fails to follow the drug court’s requirements, they could find themselves once again facing their original charges. This may involve significant jail or prison time, possibly far more than if the person had just pled guilty in a ple bargain in the first place. This article will now discuss some frequently asked questions about Florida’s drug court.
Q; Who qualifies for drug court?
A: Charges of drug trafficking, manufacturing, large-scale possession for sales or cultivation will likely disqualify you from drug court. In addition:
- The person cannot have any violent priors and previous felony arrests must be two or less
- The person admits they have a drug problem and is amenable to treatment
- Is currently charged with a non-violent felony
Q: What about drug testing?
A: All participants will be required to submit to random urinalysis. If a test is positive, the person will receive more intensified rehab treatment. Repeated dirty tests may result in a return to custody.
Q: What happens after completion of the program?
A: All current felony charges will be dismissed upon satisfactory completion of the program. However, this applies only to the charges that resulted in the drug court program, not prior ones unrelated to that. Note that your arrest record will still show the arrest, but no conviction. This is how it differs from an expungement.
Q: What if I miss a court date?
A: You don’t want to do this. It’s imperative that you show up for all hearings. If you do not, the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest. Although this is unlikely for missing just one hearing, it could happen. If you’re struggling with the program or your addiction, it’s best to just show up in court and say so. In this case, the judge would be much more likely to adjust your treatment requirements than to arrest you. Failing to appear in court is never the answer.
Q: What are the program requirements?
A: Drug court is not a get out of jail free card. It has strict requirements that will mandate large amounts of your time and effort. Length of treatment typically lasts at least a year, even with full compliance on your part. Any deviations from this will likely result in more Drug Court time. Expect to devote at least nine hours per week to this program, which generally includes:
- Group and individual counseling
- Continuous drug testing with little notice
- Meetings with your probation officer and case reviews with the judge
- Other court hearings as directed
If you’re not committed totally to sobriety, then drug court is not for you. Don’t try to play the system unless you know you can stay clean and complete the requirements. Even then, subsequent drug activity will probably result in a future arrest. If you’ve already completed drug court, dropped out of it or refused to attend it in the past after you agreed to, you will be disqualified from further participation.
Be aware that your arrest record, especially for a felony, will follow you for the rest of your life. It may easily prevent you from doing something in the future that is very important to you. For example, most states refuse a professional license to nurses, accountants, lawyers, opticians, real estate agents, teachers, pharmacists and pharmacy techs, registered dental hygienists and assistants, property appraisers and many, many more. As many property management companies become more concerned about their clients’ properties, they routinely perform criminal background checks for all prospective tenants. Think twice and then again before giving up the chance to clear your criminal charges. It’s well worth the year of your time.
For More Information
If you’d like to know more about drug courts, we’re here to help. Let us instill some hope for the future in you. Our professional counselors will be able to answer your questions and provide you with some real solutions. Call us anytime at 833-497-3808.