Florida currently has 95 drug courts, 56 of which are for adults. Here’s more on what a drug court is, and what you can do if you are currently facing a drug crime in Florida.
Qualifying For Drug Court in Florida
State law authorizes each Florida county to set up and fund a drug court. Going into drug court is voluntary if you qualify. If you qualify and want to enter a program, you will then go before a judge and agree to waive or give up your right to a speedy trial. Normally, the state has a limited amount of time to start your trial after you have been charged, and you have the right to demand trial in an even shorter time. You must agree to give up these rights to go into drug court. You also have to sign a written agreement affirming that you want to enter the program.
To qualify, the court system first has to ensure you qualify by meeting all of the following criteria:
- You must identify you as having a substance abuse problem.
- You can enter the program only if you are a first-time offender or have only one or two prior convictions that are only for nonviolent misdemeanors or felonies.
- The case that you are trying to go to drug court for must be a misdemeanor or nonviolent third-degree felony. Fourth, if there is a victim in your current case, the victim or the victim’s family has to consent to your entering the program, and neither you nor your family can contact the victim or victim’s family to try to get that consent.
- You can’t have a prior charge – regardless of whether it resulted in a conviction – for a crime of violence such as robbery, burglary, or assault.
- You cannot enter drug court if you were dealing drugs. If you are not charged with drug dealing but the prosecuting attorney believes that you were involved in the trade, they can ask for a hearing before you are admitted into the program. If the prosecutor convinces the court that it’s more likely than not that you were dealing drugs, you will not be allowed into the program.
When Can I Get into Drug Court?
Depending on the county, drug court may be offered as a diversion program before going to trial, as a program after conviction where participation is a condition of probation, or both. But if you are offered pretrial drug court and turn it down, you will not be allowed into a postconviction drug court program.
What Happens in Drug Court?
Because drug courts are organized on the local level, each one can be slightly different. All drug courts, however, include certain components that have been identified nationally as best practices and are required by state law.
First, you will likely be in substance abuse treatment as part of the program. Exactly what kind of treatment program you will be in will vary depending on what is available in that county and what you and the professionals in the program agree is best for you.
Second, the prosecutor, your defense attorney, and the judge will be working together to help you get through the program. This is called a non-adversarial approach – the prosecutor is no longer trying to get you convicted or thrown in jail.
Third, you will be frequently tested to make sure that you are staying off of drugs and alcohol. If you make a mistake like using again, everyone will work with you to try and get you back with the program, but you will face some consequence for messing up. Depending on how badly you mess up, it may be more frequent meetings, a longer time in the program, or, for serious violations, some time in jail. You will be told ahead of time what consequences you will face for various kinds of mistakes.
Fourth, you will be meeting regularly with the judge to verify that you are complying with program rules and that you are getting what you need to make it through the program.
Finally, you will be in the program for at least a year.
What Happens After Drug Court?
Drug court ends in one of two ways: Either you make a mistake that washes you out of the program, or you complete the program. If you wash out and you went into a pretrial program, the state can start the criminal case against you again. That means that you can be tried and convicted and subject to the usual punishments. If you are in postconviction drug court, washing out will be treated as a probation violation. If you finish in the time allotted, the court will decide if you have successfully completed the program. If not, you will be treated as if you washed out. If you successfully complete a pretrial program, the court will decide if you are ready to have the charges against you dismissed or if you need more supervision. For a postconviction program, it will be treated as completing one of your conditions for probation.
Facing a Drug Charge in Florida? Contact Our Drug Court Lawyer.
You already know that serious consequences could await you for drug charges in Florida. One way of potentially avoiding harsh consequences is through your completion of drug court. To better understand your charges and drug court, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. The Watson Firm, PLLC is comprised of skilled defense lawyers who are dedicated to helping clients get the best resolutions to their criminal charges. We will take the time to evaluate your circumstances and carefully advise you on the best way to proceed.
Reach out to a criminal defense attorney at The Watson Firm by calling (850) 607-2929 or by contacting us online.