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What are drug courts?

At their most basic, drug courts were developed as an alternative to sending nonviolent drug offenders through the Florida prison system. When utilized appropriately, the drug courts can help offenders get help from local resources and save the state money on incarceration costs. As of 2012, there were more than 2,500 drug courts in the United States, but many people don't know that the drug courts were first implemented successfully in Florida.

Drug courts are different than traditional criminal courts because they seek to figure out what will best help defendants move forward with their lives and also match them with local resources that can help them deal with a prescription drug addiction and learn healthy life coping skills. While drug courts can be a very valuable tool for those charged with drug crimes, it's important to remember that they are not a free pass.

Drug courts require offenders to actively participate in and complete their treatment programs, and they must also make regular court appearances so that the judge can check on their progress. Random drug tests are standard, and participants are expected to pass these tests to be able to remain in the program.

If the defendant completes all of the requirements for the program set forth by the drug courts, the judge may either dismiss the charges or reduce the person's sentence. In many cases, this is an optimal result because the defendant gets the resources and assistance he needs and avoids a criminal conviction that could adversely affect employment opportunities or other aspects of the person's life.

Source: Florida Office of the Attorney General, "Florida’s Prescription Drug Diversion and Abuse Roadmap 2012–2015," accessed June 09, 2015

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