Drug Court can be a Blessing or a Curse

Drug Court in New Jersey

Drug courts are judicially supervised court dockets that handle the cases of non-violent substance-abusing offenders.  The first drug court was established in Florida in 1984.  The first New Jersey Drug Court was established in 1996 in Essex and Camden Counties. There are currently Drug Courts operating in all 50 States.

In New Jersey, the mission of Drug Court is to stop the abuse of alcohol and other drugs and related criminal activity.   Drug Courts are administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).  All Drug Court substance abuse treatment funds are allocated to the Department of Human Services, Division of Addiction Services (DAS).  DAS contracts with third parties to execute service contracts with DAS licensed treatment providers in New Jersey to provide the Drug Courts with the full continuum of care.  The drug court program is rigorous.  It requires intensive supervision based on frequent drug testing and court appearances, along with tightly structured regimens of treatment and recovery services. The emphasis is on recovery and swift intervention when needed.  Defendants who have a drug addiction or drug problem and have been charged with non-violent crimes are eligible for drug court.

Beware of Drug Court

Drug court can be a blessing to some defendants.  Individuals who are ready for treatment or “hit bottom” are ideal candidates.  Defendants who want treatment, but cannot afford it or cannot find support, succeed in drug court.

On the other hand, defendants who do not want treatment, but want to avoid jail time, are horrible candidates.  Yet, they enter the program regularly.  Before defendants enter drug court, they must enter a plea that requires a term of probation and an alternative sentence.  If the defendant fails out of the drug court program, they are automatically sentenced to the alternative sentence.  If an individual is not ready for treatment, its is a practical fait accompli that they will fail out of the program and be sentenced to the alternative sentence, which is likely State Prison.  In addition, drug court requires defendants to appear in court on a weekly basis.  This requirement makes it extremely difficult for individuals to maintain employment when they are required to appear in Court in the middle of the day once a week.

This is not to say that drug court does not have success stories.  It provides significant drug treatment and rehabilitation to individuals who could not afford or obtain it on their own.  If you or a friend or family member have been charged with a crime in Burlington County and Drug Court is an option, you should speak with a Burlington County Criminal Lawyer to discuss the pros and cons of participating in Drug Court. It could be a blessing or a curse.