Drug Courts

The Unique Approach of Drug Courts

Drug-related crimes are widespread, and specialized courts have been set up to deal with drug cases. Drug courts recognize the connection between addiction and criminal behavior. Many addicts commit crimes to get money to support their drug habits. Drug courts use a therapeutic justice model, which includes treatment services to address defendants' substance abuse problems.


Almost all states currently have drug courts, and some states have set up juvenile drug courts to handle delinquency cases involving juveniles with substance abuse issues. Drug courts utilize judicial supervision and treatment programs in dealing with substance abuse matters. Defendants who would benefit from the approach used in drug courts are identified early and diverted to the drug court program.

Substance Abuse Treatment


A cooperative, non-adversarial approach is used in drug court cases. The common goal of public safety is encouraged, while a defendant's due process rights are protected. The judge, the prosecutor, the defense counsel, a probation officer, and treatment providers work together as a team in addressing a defendant's drug abuse problems. Defendants are required to participate in substance abuse programs and other related treatment services. Treatment providers include public agencies and community organizations. Defendants are monitored by frequent alcohol and drug testing.

Sanctions and Incentives


The judge uses positive reinforcement to encourage a defendant's successful participation in treatment programs. The judge has discretion to order incentives and sanctions related to participation in substance abuse programs. Incentives for a defendant's cooperation with treatment might include decreasing the length of probation, granting special privileges, and holding less frequent status hearings. If needed, the judge can sanction a defendant by increasing the length of a defendant's probation, requiring community service, placing in-home restrictions on the defendant, and ordering incarceration.

Effectiveness of Drug Courts


Overall, research shows positive results for drug courts. Studies have shown that the rate of recidivism is lower for drug court participants. From a cost standpoint, drug courts have been shown to be less expensive than traditional courts.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.