Coates & Davenport, P.C.

Drug treatment courts offer alternative to criminal trials

People in Virginia who have been charged with a drug crime may think that they have no other choice but to go through the traditional criminal trial process. However, what they may not know is that Virginia offers drug treatment courts to qualifying individuals that could help them regain sobriety

Drug treatment courts provide those charged with drug crimes with an alternative to the traditional court system. Traditionally, a criminal case is adversarial -- pitting the commonwealth of Virginia against the defendant -- and will result in a person being found either "guilty" or "not guilty." Courts do not follow up on a defendant's progress once the defendant's case has been adjudicated. Any attempts to prevent further criminal activity or provide drug treatment programs are overseen by entities that are not connected to one another. The type of treatment a defendant may be eligible for varies, and any relapse on the part of the defendant will result in new drug charges or be considered a violation of the terms of the person's probation.

Drug courts are very different from traditional courts. First, the case is overseen by a multidisciplinary drug court team who collaborate and cooperate with one another. This could include the judge, prosecutors, probation officers and those who provide sobriety treatment. This can help a defendant return to a productive life where they no longer break the law. Drug courts actively keep tabs on the defendant's progress and can penalize the defendant if the defendant fails to follow the program. The program is uniform in its intensity, quality and structure. The program mandates that the defendant undergo frequent drug testing and the defendant's probation will be carefully monitored. Finally, a relapse on the part of the defendant is considered part of recovery and, while the defendant will be sanctioned, a relapse will not result in new drug charges.

Drug courts have been shown to be an effective solution to helping those charged with drug crimes rehabilitate, rather than simply incarcerating them. This can reduce the number of relapses and subsequent criminal charges. The court involvement in drug treatment can help people take sobriety more seriously, and thus protects the public safety as well.

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Richmond, VA 23230

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