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Choosing Drug Court Instead of Jail Time

Many people struggling with substance abuse find themselves entangled in the legal system for crimes related to their addiction. Perhaps they were slapped with a minor possession charge or convicted of something more serious like a DUI. Whatever the circumstances may be, state courts have developed niche drug court programs that aim to treat the real problem in lieu of punishing the crime. So how does court-ordered rehab work, exactly?

Most People Don’t Take Advantage of Drug Court

There are more than 2,400 drug courts across all 50 states in the US. About 120,000 people are processed through these annually, but an estimated 1.5 million fit the criteria for drug court programs.

That means only about 8% of people eligible for drug court actually get in.

When drug court means the possibility of getting treatment rather than jail time, why not take advantage of the opportunity? Many defendants and their families are simply not aware of their options. It is wise for defendants to ask their counsel about pursuing drug court rather than possibly ending up with a jail sentence. This is most often something arranged with the judge rather than offered freely.

How to Get into Drug Court

Defendants must meet several criteria to be offered a court-ordered rehab program rather than jail time. The defendant must be:

  • Experiencing serious substance use disorder(s).
  • Facing criminal charges.
  • Considered likely to reoffend.

If all of these qualifiers are met, the person is likely a good candidate for drug court. But most often, judges won’t offer these programs as an option by default. It’s up to the defendant and their counsel to seek the opportunity themselves. The logistics vary by circumstance, but there are two basic paths that can lead to court-ordered rehab.

Pre-Trial Rehab

Also known as deferred prosecution. This happens when defendants are sent to drug court prior to pleading to a charge.

Post-Adjudication Rehab

In this model, defendants plead guilty and have their sentences deferred or suspended while they participate in drug court.

The Process

Judges and drug court coordinators will determine the exact terms of the order. This will clarify the details of how long treatment must ensue, how much must be inpatient vs outpatient, the level of staffing required of the facility, and so on.

With these details, counsel can seek rehabs in the area that meet the requirements set forth by court orders. If you or your counsel is seeking alcohol or drug treatment, you can call our counselors 24/7 at 855-997-4702.

Promoting Recovery Over Punitive Measures

You may wonder, “Why is this an option rather than jail? Just going to treatment seems like getting away with a crime.” And while it is true that drug-related offenses are criminal charges, in the case of addiction, there are more complex forces at work. Addiction has increasingly become accepted as a disease among mental health experts. Behavioral psychologists stress that treatment is a more effective way to prevent recriminalization than jail. Addicts go to drug court to address their problematic way of living, which ideally lightens the load on courts (and the justice system) in the future.

If you or someone you know could benefit from rehab, our counselors are available 24/7 to help: 855-997-4702

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