Drug court sentencing alternatives allow rehabilitation as an alternative to jail time. Those convicted of crimes due to substance abuse may qualify. The court has the power to determine which defendants it will accept for treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration. Typically, the court will review such factors as the defendants’ history and criminal record to see if any prior rehabilitation has been attempted or if the defendant has committed any violent offenses. A majority of the cases accepted for sentencing alternatives tend to be theft related crimes due to drug dependency.
What is Drug Court?
Drug court programs seek to provide alternative sentencing in non-violent drug related cases. Drug court sentencing alternatives allow the defendant to obtain substance abuse counseling and education instead of punishment. The mission of drug courts is to stop the abuse of alcohol and drugs that lead to the criminal activity the defendant is engaging in.
California Proposition 36
California Proposition 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000, is
an initiative statute that permanently changed state law to allow qualifying defendants convicted of non-violent drug possession offenses to receive a probationary sentence in lieu of incarceration.
It is important to understand that not all defendants convicted of non-violent drug possession offenses are eligible for probation and treatment under California Proposition 36. Defendants who fit any of the criteria listed below would be considered ineligible for the program:
- Any defendant who has been incarcerated within the last five years for a serious or violent felony offense.
- Any defendant convicted in the same proceeding of a non-drug related misdemeanor or felony.
- Any defendant who, during the commission of the offense, was in possession of a firearm and, at the same time, was either in possession of or under the influence of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or phencyclidine (PCP).
- Any defendant who refuses treatment.
- Any defendant who has two separate drug related convictions, has participated in Prop 36 twice before, and who is found by the court by clear and convincing evidence to be unamenable to any and all forms of available drug treatment. In such cases the defendant shall be sentenced to 30 days in jail.
For more information you can visit the California Department of Alcohol and Drug programs website.
A person who is on parole may be eligible for California Proposition 36 instead of returning to prison. If the parolee has committed a non-violent drug possession offense or violated a drug-related condition of their parole they may be eligible for drug court sentencing alternatives. Sentencing alternatives typically include mandatory participation in a licensed and/or certified community drug treatment program. Failure to complete this program, as well as other probation violations, may lead to probation being revoked and the defendant serving additional sentencing, which may include incarceration.