For those facing drug charges in Wisconsin, drug courts can offer an alternative to dealing with the traditional criminal court system. Whether drug court is a good choice for a particular defendant can depend on many things, including previous history, type of offense and potential consequences.
The purpose of drug court
The idea of drug courts is based on recognizing the factors that are often behind a defendant’s act of drug possession. If a person suffers from a drug addiction, gets charged with possession and goes to jail, that person is still addicted and continues to be at risk for breaking the law. Drug courts aim to address the reasons behind the criminal conduct and help the defendant, thus reducing the likelihood of future criminal behavior.
In Wisconsin, treatment court eligibility criteria and resources often vary from county to county. In some cases, a judge in the county of arrest may agree to transfer an offender to a treatment court in a different county.
Drug courts often exclude offenders with a history of violent or sexual offenses and defendants who are charged with drug trafficking rather than possession. A key requirement is the willingness and ability to comply with the program’s requirements.
Drug courts and treatment
The essential component of any drug court is its intensive rehabilitation program. The most effective programs recognize the variety of reasons for drug addiction. For example, many people get addicted to substances such as painkillers or marijuana as a way of self-medicating for chronic pain.
Others use drugs to deal with untreated or undiagnosed mental illness and need mental health treatment in addition to drug addiction treatment. Depression, anxiety and PTSD are all common problems that can lead to addiction. A defendant with a severe psychiatric illness may be referred to a mental health court rather than a drug treatment court.
Typically, eligible offenders spend a minimum of 18 months in treatment. During this time, they are on probation and under close supervision, with frequent mandatory drug tests. An offender who fails to comply with treatment or breaks probation in some other way can be expelled from the program and face charges in criminal court.
Successfully completing a drug treatment program can mean avoiding jail. Many counties will also drop charges once treatment is completed. If you are otherwise eligible, drug court can be a good alternative to going through criminal court.
If you are accused of drug possession, consulting an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible is your best chance of getting an optimal outcome. Your attorney can assess the facts of your case and pursue the most effective way to resolution.