What is “Drug Court?”
I often am asked by clients, “What is drug court, what do I have to do, and how do I qualify?” Drug court is an alternative sentencing alternative that works to help those with drug or drug-related problems to stay out of future trouble. Cherokee and Dekalb County are two of the most progressive counties when it comes to drug court and alternative sentencing. One reason is that District Attorney Mike O’Dell and his staff, along with law enforcement, judges, and other court officials, are concerned not only with enforcing drug laws, but also helping those with drug problems. It’s kind of like the “teach a man to fish” philosophy – send a person to prison for a drug crime, they are likely to get out and commit more, teach a person that he or she can live a productive, happy, drug free life and they won’t commit crimes in the future. Deputy District Attorney Bob Johnston recently circulated among local lawyers the following breakdowns of each type of available drug court program in this jurisdiction.
Track One (Drug Court): This option may be available to first time offenders who struggle with addiction who have committed a simple possession case or non-violent property felony. They have the opportunity to complete the drug court program and have their plea set aside and their cases dismissed.
Track Two (Alternative Sentencing Court): This option may be available to drug or property offenders who have some non-violent criminal history or have a manufacturing case where it has been determined that the manufacture was for a predominately personal use. These cases are only admitted with the consent of the drug task force agent and where evidence indicated the offender is non-violent. These individuals have the opportunity to have their probation application granted and terminated in the same proceeding upon graduation.
Track Three (Community Corrections Court): This option is for drug or property offenders who have proved to be non-violent but continue to struggle with repeated criminal activity and drug addiction. These offenders have proved unsuccessful with less restrictive measures. Many have been revoked from probation and placed in the community corrections program. Those persons in Track Three have a schedule of sanctions that are different than those afforded to Track One and Two participants. Their reward is to remain at liberty so long as they remain compliant, while getting credit on their sentence as if they were an actual inmate in prison.
Basic Drug Court requirements include attending AA or NA meetings, submitting to random drug testing, abiding by all court orders, paying all drug court fees, and attending drug treatment sessions, among others. Further, a participant in any track has to go through “Phases” of completion. There are 5 phases a drug court participant has to go through. Each “Phase-up” works to reward the participant by not requiring as much work as the last phase.
If you are interested in learning more about drug court, contact an attorney, or call Terry Patty, Cherokee County’s Court Referral Director and Drug Court supervisor at 256-927-3111.
This column is intended for general information purposes only. It is not intended, nor should it be construed as personal legal advice. The answers to most legal problems rely on the specific facts of your situation; therefore, it is very important that you personally see a lawyer when these situations arise.