Pills spilling out of bottle

Legal System Adapts to Combat Rampant Drug Abuse

Dealing with substance abuse is not only difficult for the user, but for the user’s family and friends as well. Fortunately, the legal system has taken aim at assisting people with substance abuse problems.

Pretrial diversion programs offer a unique legal solution to dealing with substance abuse issues. Instead of seeking to punish through the usual prosecutorial means of the court, the pretrial diversion (PTD) program offers a second chance for a path to recovery. It allows the user to keep any offense off his criminal record, in hopes that the user will be encouraged to stay clean and become a productive member of society.

Another avenue to help those struggling with substance abuse is drug court, which allows a person avoid the consequences of criminal prosecution by undergoing rigorous program requirements.

ELIGIBILITY FOR PTD

PTD is only offered to first time offenders over the age of 18, because the purpose of the program is to lower recidivism rates. It is required that the user admits his guilt, and signs an agreement accepting the terms of the program. The person entering the program will not be accepted if he was involved with a burglary, sale of drug, or other charges that are excluded in the Pre-trial Diversion law.[1]

There are also fees that the person seeking eligibility must pay. First, the person must agree to pay the court fees and any attorney fees prior to completing the program. Second, the person is responsible for any expenses that the district attorney incurs while pursuing the case, such as extraordinary investigative expenses.

The program will admit those eligible so long as long the state believes justice will be served by their admittance. In other words, admittance turns on whether the person is willing to admit their wrong and are willing and ready to make a change. The program also takes into account whether the person’s needs can be met by the program and that they pose no threat to the community. Once the program is completed, the charges are dismissed.

ELIGIBILITY FOR DRUG COURT

Eligibility requirements for drug court are similar to those of PTD. A person must be facing narcotic charges such as possession of marijuana or cocaine. However, the charge cannot be for distribution or manufacturing. A person that has been convicted of a violent felony such as rape, murder, or robbery is not eligible either. Similar to PTD, a guilty plea must be entered before being accepted into the program, which will last anywhere from 6 to 18 months. [2]

Once enrolled, the person will be required to take random drug tests, meet weekly with a case manager, and make frequent court appearances for updates. In Alabama, you must call in to find out the date of your next drug test. Weekly meetings with the case manager allow the judge overseeing the case to have consistent updates on the user’s progress.

Once a person completes the program, charges are dismissed. If a person doesn’t finish the program, they will face criminal charges for the original crime.

REPEAT OFFENDERS

While PTD is a saving grace for first time offenders and drug court offers a great alternative to criminal prosecution, repeat DUI offenders face harsh penalties with the new bill introduced by Rep. Jones and Sen. Jim Holley. Previously, the court was only able to look back five years to determine if a person is a repeat offender. Senate Bill 90 will double that, allowing the court to look back ten years to determine if the person is a repeat offender.

ASK AN ATTORNEY

Both PTD and drug court are great alternatives for those charged with drug possession or a DUI. However, the process of getting into these programs can be tiresome. Filing proper paperwork is required and knowledge of the law is helpful in ensuring that a person is admitted to a program. With the new proposed bill lengthening the look back period for DUIs, having an attorney is essential to help lessen the blow of facing those charges and give yourself the best chance at a bright future.

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