May 1995, the Drug Court Pilot Program began in collaboration with law enforcement and health officials. The goal of the program was to provide treatment and rehabilitation to certain nonviolent criminal drug offenders by increasing awareness of drug abuse/addiction, increasing the ability of participants to live drug-free, increasing access to community resources to support positive lifestyle changes and reduce drug related crime and recidivism. This court-supervised pilot program consisted of intensive drug treatment and education. In December 1995, the court received a federal grant to continue its efforts on a larger scale.
In order to participate in the Drug Court Program, defendants must meet clearly defined criteria. All defendants must have a history of or evidence of present drug abuse or addiction, their abuse or addiction is at least one motivating factor in the commission of their crime, be at least 18 years old, and must not be on parole. Criteria which will disqualify a defendant currently charged or previously convicted of a crime include the possession or use of a firearm, a crime in which a death, serious bodily injury or intent to cause either occurred, or crimes involving sexual misconduct. The District Attorney’s Office and the Probation Department determine a defendant’s eligibility. The treatment phase is provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Eligible defendants enter a plea, sign a contract accepting admittance to the program, and make regularly scheduled court appearances. These status hearings are for the purpose of promoting the treatment and rehabilitation of the defendant. A probation officer also works very closely with the defendant by monitoring program compliance and provides progress reports to the court.
If a defendant does not or cannot comply with requirements of the treatment program plan and discontinue the use of drugs, participation in the program is terminated. The defendant is returned to custody and criminal proceedings are resumed. Defendants who establish a consistent pattern of clean drug tests, employment or enrollment in vocational or educational programs, and other proof of a stabilized lifestyle, graduate from the program. All criminal charges are dismissed.