California’s focus on drug users through its collaborative court system began almost thirty years ago as an alternative approach to the traditional prosecution of minor drug offenses. There are over 200 California drug courts currently in operation throughout California’s 58 counties.
The underlying focus of drug courts prefers rehabilitation of those who abuse drugs instead of incarceration, especially of nonviolent drug offenders. California drug courts aim to reduce drug use and recidivism, integrate treatment with other rehabilitation services for long-term recovery, and save taxpayer dollars. The latter is significant from an economic perspective since the average per person treatment cost ranges from $900 to $1,600 compared to an average per-person cost of $5,000 for a person incarcerated for a minimum sentence.
California drug courts are much more loosely structured and less formal than their traditional counterparts, which is conducive to flexibility in each court choosing how to operate. Judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, and defendant interact in a nonadversarial, cooperative manner.
Since they began in the early 1990s, California drug courts have established programs in adult courts, dependency courts, and juvenile courts. The State of California uses the following four models within each of these judicial subsystems:
- The pre-plea model also referred to as a “pre-guilty plea” model, allows defendants to participate in court-supervised drug treatment without having to enter a guilty plea to any charge.
- The post-plea model, probably the most common, requires defendants to enter a guilty plea before entering treatment, which may last from nine months to three years.
- The post-adjudication model specifically applies to repeat drug offenders, allowing them to enter treatment in lieu of incarceration following a conviction for a drug offense. If the defendant fails to complete the treatment program successfully, then the court will impose the sentence of jail or prison time.
- The civil model provides treatment for parties to civil actions, such as child custody. A party may be permitted to enter treatment as a condition of retaining or regaining custody of a child. If the treatment program is not completed successfully, the party will be deprived of custody.
Successful completion of a program under either the pre-plea or post-plea models entitles defendants to the dismissal of any related charges.
If you are experiencing problems with substance abuse and have been charged with a crime, the resolution of your matter through the Riverside County Drug Court may be an option. John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law, the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. Call today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.