There are many different court systems in California that deal with different types of cases. Sometimes they work together and sometimes they defer cases to another court system that can more appropriately deal with the case. Drug courts, a type of collaborative court, are one such kind of system. Most drug offenders will first encounter the California criminal justice system. This will begin with their arrest and then their first court hearing, or arraignment. However, depending on the crime and its circumstances, they may be recommended or transferred to a drug court, where they will face alternative punishment and treatment but will not be criminally prosecuted at that point. Drug courts seek to rehabilitate minor drug offenders considered to have substance abuse problems, rather than simply punish them, like the criminal justice system does. This rehab process through the drug court can decrease significantly the risk the defendant will become a repeat offender. This is due to the approach to "punishment". Drug court programs seek to educate offenders on drug and alcohol problems, provide therapy and counseling support and provide a structural system that encourages and rewards those who stay clean. Criminal courts, however, hand down punishments in the form of fines, jail and probation time and a criminal record. None of these punishments actually help people overcome substance abuse problems, however. Some of them may even make these problems worse, which is why recidivism rates for drug offenders is particularly high. Drug courts have offenders enter a special drug treatment program, also called a pre-plea or diversion program. These programs allow a defendant to suspend the formal entry of their plea while they complete the drug treatment diversion program. Upon successful completion of this program, the plea is removed and the charges are dismissed. In the criminal justice system, minor drug offenders are usually charged with a misdemeanor or felony and given some combination of jail time, probation and fines and penalties. Not all drug offenders will be passed off to the drug courts. These are usually for only non-violent drug offenders who are facing simple possession for personal use charges. Drug offenders facing charges of possession with intent to sell, drug manufacturing or trafficking will generally be facing felony charges which come with prison time, however these offenders are not eligible for drug treatment diversion programs. In the drug court system, drug offenders are "sentenced" to a different type of punishment process. The specific course of rehabilitation and treatment will vary from court to court and from offender to offender, however they all make use of traditional substance abuse treatments, like therapy and education, close monitoring by the judicial system, drug testing and a structure of punishments and rewards that encourage successful progress through the program. The duration of the program is also a probationary period and so violating the terms of the probation can result in being dismissed from the program. Once dismissed, offenders return to the criminal justice system for sentencing. It is important to note that following the successful completion of the program through a drug court; you are not considered guilty of a crime and will not have a criminal charge on your record. However, the initial arrest will still be on your record and you may still have to disclose having participated in the program to certain employers, usually governmental. Non-governmental California employers cannot ask about the arrest nor can they use it against you if considering you for employment. For this reason, participation in a drug court diversion program is certainly better than being a convicted drug offender so it is worth fighting for this opportunity. Consult with a criminal defense attorney experienced in drug offender defense to discuss the drug court system and whether or not it is an option for you. There are many obvious benefits to being referred to a drug court program that will allow your charge to be deferred then dismissed. Drug court programs are intensive, however, and will require a lot from you as the offender. Speaking to an attorney about these programs is the best way to know if this is a feasible option for your case. You can also look up your local drug courts to obtain information about entry into their programs.
If you or a loved one has recently been arrested and are being charged with a drug related charge in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, our skilled legal team can fight aggressively for your case, potentially helping you enter into a drug court program. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.