Florida law enforcement agencies take a tough approach to drug crimes. The offenses often carry harsh and unwavering penalties. However, these tough policies often can affect first-time offenders and those who have committed minor crimes. Rather than jail time, some offenders may be eligible for drug court.
Drug Court is a valuable program that may aid non-violent first-time offenders who are charged with drug crimes. This program is a form of rehabilitation, rather than punishment, which allows offenders to complete treatment courses in exchange for a clean record. A skilled St. Petersburg drug attorney can help you avoid a conviction and enroll in the program.
St. Petersburg Adult Drug Court Attorney
Not having a criminal record is a valuable asset in everyday life, and often people take it for granted. When you are faced with criminal charges you realize how important avoiding a conviction can be. If you are a first time offender and have been arrested for a drug crime in the Tampa Bay area, contact Morris Law Firm, P.A..
The attorneys at Morris Law Firm, P.A. have years of experience fighting for the rights of clients facing drug charges. They understand the importance of protecting your future and avoiding a criminal conviction. Melinda Morris, managing attorney of Morris Law Firm, P.A., is a former prosecutor who can use her experience to make drug court a tangible option for you.
Morris Law Firm, P.A. represents clients throughout St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas County, Tampa, Hillsborough County and other surrounding counties. Call (727) 592-5885 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. You also can contact us online for a free case evaluation.
Information About Drug Court Programs
- What is Drug Court?
- Who Is Eligible for Drug Court?
- What To Expect in Drug Court
- Benefits of Drug Court
- Additional Drug Court Resources
What is Drug Court?
The concept of drug courts originated in Florida. In 1989, the Miami-Dade County Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida developed an intensive, community-based, treatment, rehabilitation and supervision program for felony drug offenders to address what was then rapidly increasing recidivism rates.
The program proved to be a success by lowering re-arrest and conviction rates, improving substance abuse treatment outcomes, reuniting families and also producing measurable cost benefits. Today there are more than 2,140 drug courts in operation, including those in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota and Pasco counties.
Drug court offers treatment as an alternative to prison and jail for non-violent, substance abusing offenders. By increasing direct supervision of offenders, coordinating public resources and expediting case processing, drug courts can help break the cycle of criminal behavior, alcohol and drug use and incarceration.
Drug court is a voluntary program that involves regular court appearances, which are referred to as Judicial Reviews, Status Hearings or Case Reviews. These must be done before a designated drug court judge. The drug court exists to provide participants the opportunity to become productive, drug-free members of the community. Providing participants timely, comprehensive and appropriate substance abuse treatment, aftercare and compliance monitoring help to eliminate substance abuse and reduce recidivism among participants.
For defendants entering drug court through pre-trial intervention-diversion, which includes first-time, non-violent and third-degree felony offenders, successful completion and graduation from the program typically will result in a dismissal of the charge.
For defendants entering the drug court as a condition of probation, including a post-plea drug court, successful completion typically will result in a withhold of adjudication of guilt, a reduced length of probation or both.
Who Is Eligible for Drug Court?
Eligibility for adult drug court is determined at the time of the filing of an information by the State Attorney’s Office. The State Attorney’s Office screens each and every adult felony case after arrest to determine if the defendant meets eligibility criteria.
Qualifying criteria typically includes the following:
- Drug possession, excluding trafficking amounts (§893.13, Florida Statutes)
- Purchase of drugs
- Small sales of drugs where the facts indicate the seller is supporting his or her habit
- Property crimes where the victim agrees and other third-degree felonies where the facts indicate the offense was drug related or influenced
- Violations of probation on the above crimes where all the crimes before the court would individually qualify
Disqualifying criteria typically includes the following:
- Defendant has been designated for treatment as habitual or violent felony offender under FP AA guidelines
- Defendant is in violation of controlled release
- Defendant is in violation of parole
- Defendant has current charge or charges that resulted in serious personal injury to a victim
- Defendant has a history of sale of controlled substances indicating profiteering
- Defendant defined as “violent offender” as defined by Statute 42 U.S.C. 3797
What To Expect in Drug Court
Participants in drug court usually can expect a combination of treatment, judicial supervision, incentives, and sanctions. They also should be aware they can potentially be expelled from the program.
Drug courts utilize multiple treatment providers to supply both residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment services. Additional providers are often accessed to provide collateral and ancillary services such as mental health or medical services. Information is exchanged among treatment providers after the client signs consent to release information forms. Information is exchanged on a regular basis at the case staffing, through written reports and verbal communication among the collaborating partners and providers.
Participants in drug court will receive an individualized treatment plan that is developed with the treatment team. Several screening and assessment tools are used including a psychosocial assessment, mental health assessment, physical health screening and examination, dietary screening, urine drug screening and risk factor screening.
A treatment plan is developed based on individual issues and can be reviewed and revised at any time based on issues that occur in treatment, the home, or the community. Drug court is unique for each participant in that the level, intensity, and duration of treatment is based on the specific assessed needs of the individual.
Drug court participants typically appear every 30 to 45 days for status hearings. Before a status hearing, the drug court team conducts a case staffing meeting to discuss each client’s progress and to provide input and feedback.
Team members who participate in Status Hearings other than the judge and participant include:
- Probation Officers who report on a participant’s progress in the community and under supervision
- Substance abuse treatment representatives who report on a participant’s progress in treatment
- Defense Attorneys who ensure a participant’s due process rights are protected
- Representative of the State Attorney’s Office who represents and protects the interests of the community
- Drug Court Coordinator whose role is to be the liaison among all involved entities and drug court team members
Incentives and Sanctions
During a Status Hearing, the judge may provide for incentives or sanctions depending on the progress of the participant.
Incentives may include:
- Encouragement and recognition
- Furloughs to travel out of county or out of state
- Advancement to the next phase of treatment
- Early termination of probation
- Formal graduation and a certificate of completion from the drug court program
Sanctions may include:
- Increased frequency of substance abuse testing
- Supervision and treatment
- Extended probation
- Demotion to an earlier phase of treatment
- More intensive treatment regimen
- Brief periods of incarceration (“judicial hold”)
- Termination from the Drug Court program
- Reinstatement of criminal proceedings
The court imposes sanctions based upon reports from treatment providers and probation officers. Sanctions are usually administered for non-compliance, testing positive and unsatisfactory performance in treatment, absconding from treatment, and new arrests.
Participants in drug court may be terminated from the program at the discretion of the Drug Court Judge or the State Attorney’s Office. Participants may be terminated by the Drug Court Judge for:
- Continuous failure to participate in treatment
- Continued positive urinalyses results after completion of treatment
- Failure to comply with other program requirements
Participants may be terminated by the State Attorney’s Office if she/he is formally charged with any of the following crimes:
- Drug trafficking
- A property crime in which the victim objects to defendant’s participation in the drug court program
- Sale of controlled substances
- Any other crime that qualifies the participant as a violent offender, as defined by 42 USC 3797
Benefits of Drug Court
There are several benefits to enrolling in drug court programs, with the main being having an opportunity to avoid a potentially permanent criminal record. Some other benefits of successfully completing a drug court program include:
- Avoiding the stress and cost of a criminal trial
- Avoiding potential criminal charges
- Receiving counseling, education, medical and psychological treatment
- Reduced recidivism rates for those who successfully complete drug court
- Eligibility to have criminal charges sealed
Participants who successfully complete drug court typically will have their criminal charges dismissed. Even though your criminal charges may be dismissed, it does not mean they have been sealed. Sealing your criminal record in Florida is a separate process that may be initiated after you have completed a drug court program.
Additional Drug Court Resources
Sixth Judicial Circuit
Pinellas County Adult Drug Court – Pretrial / Post Adjudication
Pasco County Adult Drug Court – Pretrial / Post Adjudication
Pasco County Dependency Drug Court
Pinellas County: Shannon Loveday
Drug Court Manager
Sixth Judicial Circuit
14250 – 49th Street North
Clearwater, Florida 33762
Phone: (727) 592-5885
Pinellas County: Julia O’Connor
Adult Drug Court, Div Z
14250 49th Street North
Clearwater, Florida 33762
Phone: (727) 592-5885
Pasco County programs: Stephanie Lombardi
Drug Court Coordinator
West Pasco Judicial Center
New Port Richey, Florida 34654
Phone: (727) 592-5885 ext 8489
Tenth Judicial Circuit
Polk County Adult Drug Court – Pretrial
Polk County Adult Drug Court – Post Adjudication
Polk County Misdemeanor Drug Court
Polk County DUI Drug Court
Twelfth Judicial Circuit
Manatee County Adult Drug Court – Pretrial / Post Adjudication
Manatee County DUI Drug Court
Sarasota County Adult Drug Court – Pretrial / Post Adjudication
Sarasota County DUI Drug Court
Thirteenth Judicial Circuit
Hillsborough County Adult Drug Court – Pretrial
Hillsborough County Adult Drug Court – Post Adjudication
Hillsborough County Juvenile Drug Court
Hillsborough County Dependency Drug Court
Finding A Drug Court Lawyer in Pinellas County
If you have been arrested for a drug offense, there is a chance you could fight to avoid a conviction. Contact Morris Law Firm, P.A. to see if you qualify for a drug court program. The St. Petersburg drug court attorneys at Morris Law Firm, P.A. can work with you and discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case. Call (727) 592-5885 to schedule a free consultation.
FORMER STATE PROSECUTOR
Melinda Morris is a former prosecutor and has handled thousands of criminal cases from investigation through sentencing enabling us to identify weaknesses in the State’s case against you.
We never settle for the easiest outcome or the typical result. We know how to negotiate with the State Attorney and we will work to get you the best possible outcome.
TRUSTED & EXPERIENCED
Melinda Morris has practiced criminal law for over 20 years. Our clients trust advice that comes from experience in nearly every type of criminal case.
We will know every client’s story because we will take the time to listen and understand. You will work with your attorney one-on-one at every stage of the process.
You will have the cell phone number of your attorney. Your attorney will directly return your call, email, or text to answer your pressing questions.
SAME DAY REPRESENTATION
The government is wasting no time in trying to prove your guilt, a proactive defense is imperative. Prompt and decisive action from your defense attorney is of critical importance.