Many counties throughout the state of Pennsylvania offer certain offenders the opportunity to participate in drug court programs as an alternative to going to jail or prison. As a condition of admittance, participants must comply with strict program rules and regulations under the supervision of a probation officer. In this blog post, our drug defense lawyers will explain some of the Pennsylvania drug court program eligibility requirements, terms and conditions of participation, and potential penalties for breaking the rules.
It’s important to emphasize that each Pennsylvania county which offers a drug court program has its own set of application procedures, participation rules, violation penalties, and so forth. In Eastern Pennsylvania alone, drug court programs are available in Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Montgomery County, and Lancaster County, to name just a few geographic locations. This entry will focus on some of the common features many of these programs share. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the basic eligibility requirements.
Generally speaking, program participants should:
Believe it or not, the underlying offense does not have to explicitly be a drug crime, such as simple possession or possession with intent to distribute. For example, provided all other eligibility requirements are satisfied, Lancaster County Adult Drug Court will permit non-violent offenses including but not limited to:
Even if you are initially rejected from the program, you may be able to file a request for reconsideration provided you do not miss the deadline for your county. Your attorney can help you file the request and handle your other legal documentation so that you do not make any critical errors or omissions.
Before applying, bear in mind that these programs are long-term. For example, the Bucks County drug court program has a minimum duration requirement of at least one year, divided into four “phases” lasting at least three months each.
Drug court allows successful participants to avoid incarceration. Needless to say, this is a highly preferable option for most individuals. However, in exchange for being granted this invaluable opportunity, program participants must obey a comprehensive list of rules and regulations which are imposed by the courts and monitored closely by a network of probation officers, police officers, and the providers of medical treatment.
While specific requirements vary by county, program participants must generally:
If a participant pays all fines and restitution and completes drug court successfully, he or she may have the charges reduced and be granted the opportunity to be placed on administrative (i.e. non-supervisory) probation, thereby avoiding jail or prison.
On the other hand, however, breaking the program’s rules can result in sanctions or even outright ejection. Sanctions are typically reserved for minor violations, such as being slightly late for curfew or missing one treatment session, while very serious deviations from the rules, such as being arrested for a violent felony offense, can result in termination of participation.
Depending on the county, sanctions may include:
Conversely, outstanding achievements are rewarded with incentives such as:
If you’ve been charged with drug possession, possession of paraphernalia, or other drug crimes in Philadelphia, you face harsh criminal penalties. The experienced criminal defense attorney Lloyd Long can help protect your legal rights, fight to have your charges reduced or dismissed, and guide you through the court system. To set up a free and completely confidential legal consultation, call our law offices right away at (215) 302-0171.