What is Drug Court?
Drug court is a specialized term of probation offered to individuals who are exposed to Prison, but whose crimes were motivated by drug addiction. Drug Court exists in New Jersey to offer an alternative to prison for people who have been charged with a crime and struggle with alcohol or drug dependency. Developed to help people with substance issues break the cycle of involvement in the legal system, Drug Court is a probation program focused on treatment.
Instead of serving jail time, a person convicted of a crime motivated by drugs or alcohol can enter a supervised probation program that helps people recover from substance addiction. A person is required to enter a plea of guilty and receive an “alternative” prison sentence. They are then sentenced to probation with the special condition of completing the drug court program of treatment. If the individual does not successfully graduate the drug court program they are then sentenced to their alternative sentence of prison.
Who is Eligible for Drug Court?
There are many factors that go into determining Drug Court eligibility in New Jersey. The three primary factors are as follows:
- The candidate must be an adult (age 18 or older).
- The candidate must suffer from substance abuse.
- The candidate must be facing charges from a non-violent crime. (Drug Court is unavailable to people who have a previous conviction or pending charges for violent crimes such as murder, aggravated manslaughter, manslaughter, kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, and sexual assault.)
Drug Court eligibility is ultimately determined through clinical assessment and legal review. The program’s goal is to focus on those individuals who can most likely benefit from the program.
What Happens in Drug Court?
If you are accepted, you will begin an individually structured treatment program — under Drug Court rules and regulations — that can include:
- Regular court appearances
- Regular meetings with a probation officer
- Random drug testing
- Detoxification, if needed
- Residential programs, if needed
- Intensive outpatient programs
- Counseling, individual and group
- 12-step, self-help groups
- Relapse prevention
- Incentives and sanctions
- Community service
Participants do not get to choose their level of treatment or treatment provider. Violating drug court rules by failing a drug test or committing a new crime can result in sanctions, which includes jail time. If you successfully complete the program, you will be released from probation and avoid prison.
Individuals who have successfully completed a New Jersey Drug Court program may be able to have their entire criminal records expunged. The person’s age or number of convictions on the criminal record is not a factor.
Since Drug Court graduates are considered rehabilitated, the intent of the expungement law — N.J.S.A 2C:35-14(m) — is to give them the opportunity to clear their criminal record and enable them to become productive members of society.
Are Drug Courts Effective?
With over 4,700 graduates since 2002, the New Jersey Judiciary supports Drug Courts as being effective at reducing crime and drug use while saving tax dollars that would have been spend on incarceration. A study funded by the Department of Justice found, nationally, 84 percent of drug court graduates have not been re-arrested and charged with a serious crime in the first year after graduation, and 72.5 percent have no arrests two years after graduation.
Is Drug Court the Right Choice for You?
An experienced attorney can help you develop a strategy to guide you to the best possible outcome of your legal situation. The team at Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates can provide the expert guidance and counsel you need to make an informed decision about Drug Court and other aspects of your case. Call us today at (609) 216-7400 to get a free consultation on your case.