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Philadelphia Drug Court Program


10/21/2020

As the war on drugs commenced in the 1980s and the criminal justice system began to clog with low-level drug cases, significant court delays and other problems developed. Philadelphia was home to one of the early drug court programs that reduced the days required for processing a case and increased annual case dispositions.

Drug courts are grounded in the concept that not all criminal cases are alike or require the same investment of court resources or time. They are an ideal alternative to a jail sentence for many offenders and also save the courts time and money. If you are interested in pursuing admission into a drug court program in Philadelphia, talk to a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney today. Your attorney can provide you with more information and discuss your eligibility status. If you are eligible, your lawyer can advocate for drug court sentencing on your behalf.

What is Drug Court?

Drug courts are special court docket programs designed to help those who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems. Advocates of drug courts argue that when someone faces a drug charge but doesn’t receive the treatment and help they need, they are much more likely to use drugs again and commit another crime when they are released from jail. Drug courts address the root of the problem by blending comprehensive treatment plans and justice.

Eligible participants include:

  • Criminal defendants and offenders
  • Juvenile offenders
  • Parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems

Drug courts give participants an opportunity to obtain treatment and education while at the same time lifting some of the burden from the court system. Drug courts are designed to help individuals recover from substance abuse disorders and to reduce their risk of criminal activity in the future. When you meet with a knowledgeable Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer, they can explain more about how drug court works and why you might be an eligible candidate.

Each Pennsylvania county that offers a drug court program with its own set of application procedures, participation rules, violation penalties, and other program specifics.

Eligibility for Philadelphia’s Drug Court Program

To be eligible for a drug court program in Philadelphia, you must meet certain criteria and obey the terms of the drug court. You must be a non-violent drug or drug-related offender, with no more than two:

  • Previous non-violent adult convictions
  • Cases resolved through Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)
  • Juvenile adjudications/admissions/consent decrees
  • “No contest” pleas

The typical participant faces a charge of Possession with Intent to Deliver (PWID). Those with arrests involving guns and mandatory sentences based upon drug weight are not eligible.  However, school zone case eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Defendants plead no contest and have this plea suspended until completion of the program. Your Philadelphia criminal defense attorney should speak to you about how crucial it is to obey the drug court’s regulations. If you commit a program infraction, you will receive a graduated sanction. These include:

  • Increased reporting
  • Short jail stays
  • Writing essays
  • Increased supervision
  • An extension of the term of your program

The Four Phases of Philadelphia’s Drug Court Program

The drug court program in Philadelphia has four phases that are divided over 12 months. Every phase marks another step in the recovery processes and sobriety. Each phase also includes:

  • Mandatory drug and alcohol treatment
  • Regular urine screening (UDS)
  • Meetings with case managers
  • Mandatory attendance at monthly progress listings in court before the supervising judge

The duration of phase one is one month. It centers around non-medical detoxification and assessment. Their assessment will determine how severe the defendant’s substance abuse issues are and if they will need treatment or have a dual diagnosis (simultaneous treatment for both drugs and mental health). During this phase, a housing assessment will determine if the defendant will need an alternative living situation.

The second phase lasts three months. It is the most treatment-intensive phase of the drug program. While still receiving the treatment that started in phase one, participants will also receive counseling and life skill training.

Phase three lasts four months. It is centered around relapse prevention and planning for what happens upon the defendant’s completion of the program. An aftercare program is tailored to the needs of the defendant. It focuses on their transition from the drug program to sober living with relapse prevention tools. During this time, many defendants are encouraged to go to 12-step meetings, get a sponsor, and continue working towards building a sober network.

Finally, phase four also lasts four months. This phase is the most challenging for some as they are required to abstain from drug and alcohol use of any kind at all times. Drug treatment courts can last for more than 12 months if the participant misses treatment sessions or has a relapse.

Completion of a Drug Court Program

Once the defendant completes the entire drug court program, the court withdraws their no-contest plea. Their charges are dismissed without prejudice, and their case is marked as closed. If they remain crime, drug, and alcohol free for 12 months following the program’s completion, their entire case will be expunged from the record. A Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer can help ensure that this happens once their client meets the criteria.

Interested in Drug Court? Call a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been charged with drug possession, possession of paraphernalia, or other drug crimes in Philadelphia, you face harsh criminal penalties. You need help from a knowledgeable Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney can study the facts of your case and help you explore your options and alternatives, including the Philadelphia drug court.

A drug court program is a good option for many who are charged with various crimes. Not only can you avoid having a permanent criminal record and going to jail, but you can also help take steps to sobriety and have a fresh start in life. 

Call 215-712-1212 or use our online contact form to get your free legal case consultation at Wimmer Criminal Defense.