Robin Fuson
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Alternatives To Jail When You Have A Drug Charge In Hillsborough County

Criminal Defense

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals, based in Arlington, Virginia, says that drug courts are the most effective type of judicial intervention for treating drug-addicted individuals. Over 3,000 drug courts are currently in operation across the U.S., according to a report from the National Institute of Justice.

Drug courts are special legal programs aimed at criminal offenders and defendants in cases that involve drug and/or alcohol dependency or addiction. Some drug courts are narrowly specialized, focusing, for example, strictly on parents and caregivers with dependency issues, juveniles, or DUI offenders.

Although drug courts across the United States operate differently in different legal jurisdictions, almost all drug courts are focused on drug and alcohol rehabilitation and treatment combined with frequent drug testing and counseling. Participants in drug court programs are closely monitored.

In most of the nation’s drug courts, in most cases, a participant who successfully completes each stage in the drug court program will then become eligible to have the criminal charge entirely dismissed.

Most U.S. drug courts are operated and conducted cooperatively by prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, state corrections officials, and drug rehab professionals. Most of the nation’s drug courts actively seek and foster the cooperation and support of community groups, law enforcement agencies, educators, a defendant’s family members, and others with an interest in drug-free schools, workplaces, and communities.

WHERE SHOULD YOU TURN IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH A DRUG CRIME?

If you are charged with a drug crime in Hillsborough County, you may qualify for drug court. If you do, and if you complete the program successfully, all charges against you will be dropped, but first, you’ll have to qualify, and you’ll need to consult an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney.

Of course, if you are wrongly arrested and you are innocent of any drug crime, you should fight the charge, and a Tampa criminal defense attorney can help. But if you are clearly guilty – or if you choose to plead guilty – you’ll still need a defense attorney’s advocacy on your behalf.

Entry into Hillsborough County’s adult drug court – the “Pretrial Intervention Drug Court” – is at the prosecutor’s discretion, but if you qualify, your defense attorney can request to have you admitted. A drug court program takes work – a defendant must make a commitment to the program and take personal responsibility for succeeding – but if you are the person accused of a drug crime, Hillsborough County’s Pretrial Intervention Drug Court gives first-time drug offenders the chance to avoid a felony conviction and a term in a Florida state prison.

To qualify for Hillsborough County’s Pretrial Intervention Drug Court, defendants must:

  • be 18 or more years old
  • have no previous felony conviction
  • have no previous participation in the program
  • waive the right to a speedy trial
  • admit to a drug or alcohol dependency or addiction problem
  • express a desire for treatment and rehabilitation

WHAT DOES DRUG COURT IN HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY INCLUDE?

Once a defendant’s eligibility for the Pretrial Intervention Drug Court program has been confirmed, the defendant signs a contract agreeing to complete a drug treatment program, and the defendant undergoes a comprehensive personal assessment to identify his or her specific issues and needs. This allows the program to be personalized for each participant. Treatment usually lasts for one year and is provided by the Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office (DACCO) based in Tampa. The State Attorney’s Office then drops the criminal charge when the program has been successfully completed.

The program may include:

  • individual and group counseling and support groups
  • urine screenings and other drug testing and monitoring
  • acupuncture treatment for some individuals
  • regular case reviews in front of a judge
  • frequent meetings with a probation officer with the Florida Department of Corrections

At the beginning, a participant typically will need about ten hours a week to meet the program’s requirements, but over time, as treatment progresses and as an individual successfully moves through the program, that amount of time will decrease.

Close supervision throughout the entire program is a key component. If the services and treatment provided by DACCO turn out to be inadequate to address a defendant’s dependency or addiction issues, other programs, therapies, and approaches are available to the court.

Participants in the Hillsborough County Pretrial Intervention Drug Court program obtain treatment and counseling, avoid jail, and in many cases, they retain their jobs or find employment. Upon completion, graduates of the program will have lived drug-free for an entire year (as confirmed by random and frequent drug tests) and will possess the tools to stay free of drugs after graduation.

Successful completion of the Pretrial Intervention Drug Court program is not easy; participants must fully commit to the program and exercise real personal willpower. Nevertheless, drug offenders of all ages and backgrounds – even defendants with long-term alcohol and drug addictions – have completed Hillsborough County’s Pretrial Intervention Drug Court program successfully.

HAS THE HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY DRUG COURT BEEN SUCCESSFUL?

Has the Pretrial Intervention Drug Court program been a success? According to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, which serves Hillsborough County, the Pretrial Intervention Drug Court program has in fact been surprisingly successful for a number of years.

The program has helped scores of persons to overcome drug addiction and avoid felony convictions. The program has reduced recidivism, thus reducing costs to the taxpayers, and it helps many of those who face drug charges in Hillsborough County return to being positive and productive members of their communities.

Hillsborough County courts additionally offer a juvenile drug court program that allows students to continue in school and to have a drug charge dismissed upon successful completion of the program. Hillsborough County conducts a Family Dependency Treatment Court that provides substance abuse treatment to parents and caregivers. That program aims to reunite parents and caregivers with their children after successful treatment and rehabilitation.

If you’re charged with a drug offense in Hillsborough County, contact an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney at once for the legal help you’ll need and to learn more about Hillsborough County’s Pretrial Intervention Drug Court program.

If you are accused of a drug crime and you are innocent, a good defense attorney will fight for justice on your behalf. But if you need help battling drug or alcohol dependency or addiction, the Pretrial Intervention Drug Court may be your chance to obtain the help and treatment you need.

Robin Fuson
By Robin Fuson