Florida Drug Court & Diversion Attorney
Of the more than 2 million people currently incarcerated in local jails and state and federal prisons in America, over 450,000 are in for drug offenses, including tens of thousands simply for possession. Decades ago, a voice began to grow in the criminal justice system that perhaps simply locking up low-level drug offenders is not the best way to deal with the problem. The first drug court in the United States was started in Florida in 1989 as a way to reduce crime, provide better treatment outcomes for the individual, and produce better cost benefits to society. For many people struggling with drug dependency or other issues, having their drug arrest diverted to drug court is an excellent outcome in their case. See below to learn more about Florida drug court and pretrial intervention, and contact the Florida drug court & diversion attorneys at FL Drug Defense Group to find out whether drug court and diversion is an appropriate option in your drug arrest.
Persons charged with second or third-degree felony possession or certain other drug crimes may be eligible for pretrial intervention under Florida Statutes 948.08. The pretrial intervention program provides counseling, education, supervision, and medical and psychological treatment instead of incarceration or other criminal penalties. Pretrial intervention may be available if you are a first offender or haven’t been previously convicted of more than one nonviolent misdemeanor. Other conditions apply as well. Drug sales and trafficking offenses are not eligible for pretrial intervention.
Acceptance into a pretrial intervention program requires the approval of the judge and the prosecutor handling your case. As the defendant, you’ll need to voluntarily agree to enter the program. This step requires that you consult with an attorney, as pretrial intervention requires you to knowingly and intelligently waive your constitutional right to a speedy trial. Also, criminal proceedings can be resumed if at any time you do not fulfill your requirements under the program. If the program requirements are fulfilled, however, you may be able to have the criminal charges against you dismissed.
Treatment-based drug court programs are covered in Florida Statutes 397.334. Studies show that people who participate in post-adjudicatory drug courts are 80% less likely to go to prison. Drug courts are non-adversarial proceedings that integrate treatment into your case processing and provide a continuum of services focused on treatment, not punishment. Ongoing judicial interaction and periodic drug testing are part of the drug court process. Orange County operates an Adult Drug Court as well as juvenile delinquency drug court and family dependency drug court programs.
Are there downsides to drug court?
Drug court is sometimes referred to as diversion since your case is diverted away from criminal court and handled instead in the drug court, where the focus is on treatment rather than punishment. However, a condition of diversion often requires you to enter a guilty plea or no contest to the charges against you. Prosecution is deferred while you are participating in the drug court program, and if you complete the program, your plea is withdrawn and the charges are dismissed. If you fail to complete the program, however, the criminal court can proceed to sentencing you according to your no contest or guilty plea.
Diversion can require you to give up your right to plead not guilty and defend yourself against the charges. Normally, the state bears the burden of proving its case against you, and you are entitled to raise all applicable drug crime defenses or violations of search and seizure rules that may have occurred. Depending upon the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case and your available defenses, as well as your need for treatment or ability to complete a treatment program, you may be better off pleading not guilty than requesting diversion. These matters should be thoroughly discussed with a knowledgeable and experienced drug crimes defense attorney before making decisions on how to plead.
Discuss Orange County Drug Court with an Experienced Florida Drug Court Attorney
In Orlando and central Florida, call FL Drug Defense Group at 407-775-9052 for a free case evaluation and advice on whether drug court and diversion are an option in your case. When it comes to understanding Florida drug cases from all angles, our firm has a background and experience like no other.