The Pennsylvania Drug Court system was set up to help individuals who have committed crimes deal with any underlying substance abuse issues in order to reduce the chance of repeat offenses in the future. In addition to providing qualified evaluations, counseling, and other necessary treatment for offenders, drug court is known as a diversion program, which means that it is an alternative resolution to conviction. This means that if an individual successfully completes drug court, their charges will be dismissed and they will technically have no conviction on their record.
While avoiding conviction and trial sounds like a favorable option to most people, drug court is far from an easy process and may not be the right solution for everyone facing criminal charges. Additionally, only certain offenders may qualify for the program. It is important that anyone facing a criminal charge have their case evaluated by an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney to learn about and weigh all of their options.
Who can qualify?
Though every county has a different specific set of requirements, the following are some examples of general qualifications necessary to be accepted into a drug court program:
- You must be 18 years of age or older
- You must reside legally in the United States
- You must have a diagnosable and verifiable substance abuse history
- Have no prior convictions of violent offenses on your criminal record (such as assault, robbery, manslaughter, or some sexual offenses)
- Be facing charges other than an alcohol-related DUI, as those cases are generally referred to Pennsylvania’s DUI Court programs
Many people mistakenly believe that your charges at issue must be drug-related in order to qualify for drug court. However, many offenders facing other types of non-violent charges who have underlying substance abuse may be accepted.
Conditions and requirements of the program
Though drug court can be a great opportunity for many individuals to avoid conviction, the courts take the program very seriously and expect all participants to abide by numerous strict conditions and requirements. Some of these requirements include the following:
- Obey the law and avoid any subsequent arrests during the drug court program.
- Do not use any illegal drugs.
- Submit to both regular and random drug testing.
- Regularly report to a probation officer and provide updates on change of residence, employment status, and more.
- Attend all drug court-related appointments including therapy sessions, treatment groups, evaluations, court sessions, evaluations, and more.
- Obtain a high school diploma or GED/Certificate of High School Equivalency4 if not already obtained.
What happens if you violate the conditions?
Drug court is supervised by judges, district attorneys, probation officers, counselors, and other similar individuals who work to hold participants accountable for any violations of the conditions of the program. If you violate a condition, you may face the following consequences:
- Stricter requirements for more frequent meetings or more supervision
- “Shock” time in jail for a couple of days
- Community service
- Additional drug testing
- Electronic monitoring
Additionally, you may not be able to move on to the next phase of the drug court program as quickly or may even move back a phase for a violation. Though the rules may seem, harsh, drug court is a good option for many people with criminal cases in Philadelphia.
Discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Zeiger Firm today
Individuals facing drug-related or other nonviolent charges may want to explore drug court as a strong option in their case. An experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney will know how to negotiate with prosecutors and judges to make diversion programs such as drug court available so that you can avoid a conviction on you record. If, for some reason, you are not immediately accepted into the drug court program, an attorney can help you fill out and file a request for reconsideration of admittance with the court. It is imperative that you have the assistance of a lawyer who understands the drug court programs and qualification requirements throughout this process so that you do not make an error that prevents you from being accepted.
Brian Zeiger of the Zeiger Firm in Philadelphia will always evaluate your individual case and explore every option to determine whether a program such as drug court is right for you. If you have been arrested or are facing criminal charges, call today at 215-546-0340 to discuss your situation.