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What is drug court and how does it help New York defendants?

Facing a drug crime usually means facing serious penalties and consequences. But an offender convicted of a serious drug charge may not always face a prison sentence. The details of the crime and the criminal background of the accused are put into consideration when placing offenders into a detention alternative program such as drug court.

What is drug court in New York? In 1998, the New York City Criminal Court Drug Court Initiative was implemented. It was developed for non-violent, substance-abusing offenders as a means for treatment and as an alternative to incarceration. The ultimate goal was to reduce the criminal behavior of the offender and improve public safety.

How does drug court help New York defendants? A comprehensive screening evaluates offenders and determines if they are appropriate for the court-monitored substance abuse treatment. If it is determined that they are appropriate for the program and the offender completes the treatment program successfully, this could result in a non-jail disposition. This often also involves the withdrawal of the guilty plea and the dismissal of the charges.

What happens if an offender fails to complete the program? If they break probation, miss a hearing or fail a drug test, this could result in a jail or prison sentence. This is why it is important that defendants deciding to enter this program as a detention alternative understand the details of the treatment and rehabilitation program.

While drug court could keep a defendant out of jail or prison, it does mean making a guilty plea. Defendants facing drug charges should understand their options and possible defense strategies. This could help them determine what is in their best interests and if alternatives such as drug court are right for them.

Source: Nycourts.gov, "Drug Court Initiative Annual Report 2013," accessed March 30, 2015

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