Former State Prosecutor
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Florida has over the years taken a tough approach on drug crimes. A drug offense in Florida usually carries heavy penalties which include jail or prison time. These consequences that were created to hinder drug offenders has actually caused arrests and controlled substance-related convictions to increase. To combat this issue, Pinellas County decided to create a program that would rehabilitate drug offenders rather than incarcerate them.
Adult drug court is a county-run program that aids non-violent offenders charged with a drug crime. The program focuses on therapy and recovery instead of punishing the offender. It can include counseling, drug screening, rehabilitation treatment and completion of substance abuse courses. Once the program is finished in its entirety, the offender will either have their case dismissed or have their adjudication withheld. In either scenario, the offender will not have a conviction on their record and may even be able to seal it from the public in the future.
Pinellas County’s drug court program can be a valuable opportunity if you’re charged with a drug crime. The program itself has much lighter consequences than Florida’s statutory penalties. It also has a much better outcome where you can either have your adjudication withheld or your entire case could be dismissed. To learn more, we recommend you contact Morris Law Firm, P.A..
If you want to enter drug court, you will need experienced legal representation. The attorneys at Morris Law Firm, P.A. have years of experiencing helping people qualify for drug court. We want to exhaust all possible resources, so you don’t have to spend any time in jail or prison. Let us help you today by calling (727) 388-4736. We represent people throughout the Pinellas County area including St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Oldsmar, Largo, Belleair and Palm Harbor.
Overview of Pinellas County Drug Court
Drug court is a voluntary program run by the Sixth Judicial Circuit that is an alternative to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders. It provides counseling, treatment and courses so the offender can address and rehabilitate their chemical dependency. The purpose of drug court is to break the cycle of drug or alcohol abuse linked to criminal behavior.
The first drug court program was in 1989 by the Miami-Dade County Eleventh Judicial Circuit. It proved to be a massive success with significant decrease in both re-arrest and conviction rates for controlled substances. Since then, there have been more than 2,000 county drug courts established across Florida.
Pinellas County drug court is reserved for controlled substance crimes including first-time offenders, non-violent and third-degree felony offenders. It can be offered as a pre-trial intervention diversion program (PTI), which means you will complete the program instead of going forward with trial. If you successfully finish the program, the judge will either reduce or dismiss your charges.
Drug court can also be utilized as a condition of probation. Completion of the program will result in your adjudication of guilt being withheld or your probation being reduced. In some cases, both your probation will end early and your adjudication will be withheld as a result of drug court.
Not everyone is eligible for drug court. As the name implies, the program is normally reserved for drug offenders with no history of violence. You cannot simply enter drug court, but instead you have to apply and see if you’re eligible. To participate, the state attorney’s office must approve your application as well as the judge for your case. These are for drug court cases that are handled as a pre-trial intervention program (PTI).
If the state attorney denies your drug court PTI application, then you may qualify for drug court as a condition of your probation. It’s important to note that drug court may reject your application entirely if you don’t meet the requirements. The court only admits offenders who were convicted of:
Drug court will not allow anyone who has:
If you’re attending drug court, you should expect a combination of judicial supervision, treatment and conditions you must complete. Drug court participants who are admitted into the program must first undergo a substance abuse evaluation. The evaluation is conducted by a licensed rehabilitation professional who will chart out what’s needed in your treatment plan.
Drug courts utilize multiple treatment providers who can provide both residential and outpatient treatment for drug offenders. Some treatment providers are solely for services such mental health or counseling. These providers exchange information on a regular basis through written reports and verbal communication to develop an individualized treatment plan.
As a drug court participant, you will also be court ordered to appear every 30 to 45 days for a status hearing. The hearing will be set forth in front of a judge who will review your progress in the program and provide any feedback. The judge may also address possible violations or missed deadlines if you’re having issues finishing the program.
During the hearing, the judge may provide incentives or sanctions to help you progress as a participant. Following the rules and protocol of the program may cause the judge to impose positive incentives on you such as:
However, if you’re violating the rules of the program the judge may impose sanctions as a consequence. These sanctions include:
Once you finish the program, you will either have your adjudication withheld or your charges dismissed completely. People who participate in drug court as a PTI program normally have their charges reduced or dismissed. Others who use it as a condition of probation usually have their adjudication withheld as a result.
You can be asked expelled from the drug court program at the discretion of a judge or the state attorney’s office. You could be forced to leave the program if you:
The state attorney’s office can terminate your drug court participation if you’re charged with any of the following crimes:
You can be defined as a violent offender if you were charged or convicted of a crime where:
The court will also name you as a violent offender if you have one or more prior convictions for a felony-level violent crime involving use of force with the intent to cause death or serious bodily harm onto another person.
Pinellas County Drug Court – Visit the official website for the Sixth Judicial Circuit to learn more about their adult drug court services. Access the site to learn what drug court entails and important contact information you may need.
Florida’s Laws for Drug Court Programs – Visit the official website for Online Sunshine, a collection of state laws and legislation. Access their site to learn the 10 key components of drug courts, what the Florida Association of Drug Court Professionals is and more.
If you or someone you know may benefit from drug court, then it’s imperative you seek legal representation. The court doesn’t admit all drug offenders, so it’s important you have someone with legal experience on your side. For trusted representation that cares, call Morris Law Firm, P.A..
The attorneys at Morris Law Firm, P.A. excel helping their clients qualify for drug court. They will utilize their resources, time, energy and knowledge to assist you and your recovery. Call us now at (727) 388-4736 to set up a free consultation. Morris Law Firm, P.A. accepts clients throughout the St. Petersburg area and surrounding cities including Clearwater, Belleair, and Largo.
This article was last updated on August 21, 2019.
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