Are You Eligible for Chester County’s Drug Court Program?
If you had the opportunity to avoid going to jail for drug charges, wouldn’t you be interested? If the answer is “yes,” there’s good news: you may be eligible to participate in Pennsylvania’s drug court program instead of going to prison. If you complete the program successfully, your charges will be dismissed, and your record will be sealed. In the first entry of this five-part series, our Chester County DUI defense lawyers explain the rules and requirements for participating in the Chester County drug court program. In our future installments, we’ll be looking at the drug court programs in Bucks County, Allegheny County, York County, and Montgomery County, so be sure to check back in for more information.
What is Drug Court?
For many defendants, the greatest benefit of drug court is that it offers an alternative to incarceration, as well as the opportunity to have your record expunged. If you are eligible to participate in Chester County’s adult drug court program, you can avoid going to jail — but in exchange, you must adhere to the program’s rigorous requirements. As the state judiciary explains:
Court programs require intensive supervision based on frequent drug testing and court appearances, and implement tightly structured treatment processes and recovery services. This high level of supervision allows supervisors to react swiftly to impose appropriate sanctions or reinstate criminal proceedings when participants do not comply with the program.
Consequences of Breaking Program Rules
That last phrase — “reinstate criminal proceedings when participants do not comply with the program” — is especially important to highlight. If you break any of the program’s rules, not only could you find yourself facing your original sentence once more, you will also lose the opportunity to have your record sealed.
You can be expelled from the program for violations including but not limited to:
- Failing or attempting to tamper with a urine test.
- Deliberate failure to pay program fees.
- Failure to comply with ordered rehab or treatment programs.
- Failure to attend court appearances and hearings, unless you have just cause. If an emergency crops up and you absolutely must reschedule a hearing, it is extremely important that you contact your attorney and probation officer immediately.
You absolutely will be expelled from the program for the following violations:
- Drug possession in court or at a treatment facility.
- Any abusive or violent behavior during program participation.
- Receiving additional criminal charges.
- Violating court orders.
Chester County Drug Court Eligibility
In order to participate in the program, you need to meet the Chester County drug court eligibility requirements. Eligible convictions include first-offense DUI with drugs, as well as drug offenses without mandatory sentencing requirements. Additionally, you must also:
- Be a legal resident of the United States.
- Not be currently under parole or probation supervision.
- Participate in a substance abuse assessment.
- Fill out and submit a drug court application, which we’ll cover in greater detail below.
- Have no violent offenses on your criminal record. For example, having previous convictions of crimes involving assault or domestic violence would rule you out as a candidate.
- Waive your right to a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing, which usually takes place about three to 10 days after an arrest, is meant to determine whether there is enough evidence for the prosecution to proceed with the charges against you. You should always consult with an experienced Bensalem criminal defense lawyer before you decide you waive any of your legal rights.
How to Apply for the Chester County Drug Court Program
Before you decide to participate in the drug court program, it’s important to understand that it’s a long-term commitment requiring between 12 to 24 months of participation. Throughout the course of your participation, you must continually comply with all program rules or face expulsion and renewed sentencing. In order to graduate, you will need to:
- Stay sober for a period of at least 90 consecutive days.
- Actively search for employment or another “productive daily activity.”
- Pay all of the fines and fees.
If you are comfortable with all of these requirements, it’s time to start exploring the application process. The court’s application form will prompt you for basic information including your:
- Name, D.O.B., and SSN.
- Phone, home address, and work address.
- Insurance information.
- Criminal record and probation status.
While the blank fields are relatively simple, you will also be required to sign off on 36 different statements confirming that you understand and agree to various rights and responsibilities, such as:
- The right to withdraw from the program at your own discretion.
- Your consent to be drug-tested.
- The risk of renewed prosecution should you be terminated from the program.
If you’ve been charged with drug possession or other narcotics crimes, our Bucks County criminal defense attorneys can help. To set up a free and completely confidential legal consultation, call the criminal defense lawyers of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania today.