Drug Treatment Courts

The traditional adversarial system of justice, designed to resolve legal disputes, has been determined not to be highly effective at addressing alcohol or drug abuse. Indeed, many features of the court system and the roles the justice system professionals play might actually contribute to alcohol or drug abuse instead of curbing it: traditional defense counsel and prosecutor functions and court procedures often reinforce the offender's denial of an alcohol or drug abuse problem. The offender may not be clinically assessed until months after arrest, if at all. Moreover, the criminal justice system is often an unwitting enabler of continuing drug use because few immediate consequences for continued drug use are imposed. When referrals to treatment are made, they can occur months or years after the offense and there is little or no inducement to complete the program from a legal standpoint.


The mission of Drug Court is to stop the abuse of alcohol and other drugs and related criminal activity. Drug Court offer a compelling choice for individuals whose criminal justice involvement stems from drug use: participation in treatment. In exchange for successful completion of the treatment program, the court may dismiss the original charge, reduce or set aside a sentence, offer some lesser penalty, or offer a combination of these.

How Drug Court Works

Drug Courts transform the roles of both criminal justice practitioners and drug treatment providers. The judge is the central figure in a team effort that focuses on sobriety and accountability as the primary goals. Because the judge takes on the role of trying to keep participants engaged in treatment, providers can effectively focus on developing a therapeutic relationship with the participant. In turn, treatment providers keep the court informed of each participant's progress so that rewards and sanctions can be provided. Drug Courts create an environment with clear and certain rules. The rules are definite, easy to understand, and most important, compliance is within the individual's control. The rules are based on the participant's performance and are measurable. For example, the participant either appears in court or does not, attends treatment sessions or does not; the drug tests reveal drug use or abstinence. The participant's performance is immediately and directly communicated to the judge by the treatment provider, who rewards progress or penalizes noncompliance. A Drug Court establishes an environment that the participant can understand - a system in which clear choices are presented and individuals are encouraged to take control of their own recovery.

Drug Court Eligibility

Cases involving defendants charged with cases involving drugs who are potentially eligible for Drug Court treatment are identified by the District Attorney's Office, by the Probation Department, or by the attorney assigned to the case. Some candidates are excluded form participation in Drug Court based upon their prior record or the nature of their current offense. If a person is interested in Drug Court, the attorney advises the client of regarding the availability of such a program as well as other treatment options available. If the client decides to participate in our Drug Court, they must fill out a participation agreement and other documents prior to being accepted into the program.

The treatment provider's court liaison will conduct a thorough interview of the client to determine the client's suitability for treatment as well as to identify any special needs this particular client might present. The focus of this case processing is to provide early intervention during this window of opportunity that the shock of arrest and incarceration creates. In an ideal case, a defendant can be participating in treatment within a week of his or her arrest.