Are You Eligible for the Bucks County Drug Court Program?
In our last blog post, we covered the eligibility requirements for the Chester County drug court program — but did you know that Bucks County has a program of its own? If you live in Doylestown, New Hope, Quakertown, or elsewhere in the area, you may be a good candidate. If you finish the program successfully, your charges will be reduced, and you may be able to receive probation instead of jail time. In this entry, our Bucks County drug defense lawyers will cover topics like program requirements, how to apply, and the consequences of non-compliance.
What is the Bucks County Drug Court Program?
The Bucks County drug court program is a relatively new system that was established in 2010. It is meant to serve two populations:
- Parole or probation violation offenders.
- Offenders who have already entered a plea, but have not yet reached the sentencing phase of their case.
The program’s basic objective is to give non-violent drug offenders the tools and resources they need to overcome their substance abuse problems. Not only does this help the individual participants, it also helps the entire system by aiming to reduce recidivism rates and increase space and efficiency in the traditional courts. For participants who are able to complete the program successfully, the reward is reduced charges and probation instead of jail time and more serious charges.
Many alumni who have already gone through the program report having a positive experience. As Drug Court Alumni Association chairwoman Sarah Colvin told the Bucks County Courier Times in 2014, “We’re here to say we made it. We’re here to say that recovery is possible, and it’s beautiful and it’s fun. We’re here to offer participants hope.”
Rules and Requirements for Participation
The drug court program grants participants certain legal benefits. In return, participants must comply with all of the program’s rules and requirements. In order to graduate successfully, you must:
- Complete at least 12 months of participation, with a maximum program duration of 24 months. The program is broken down into four 90-day phases.
- Earn a G.E.D. or high school diploma.
- Keep up full-time employment. If full-time employment is not an option, the participant must document “other approved use of time.” Generally speaking, the program emphasizes productivity and avoidance of negative or addictive behaviors.
- “Maintain adequate housing” to program specifications.
However, the program’s terms do not immediately cease upon graduation. Program alumni must remain arrest-, alcohol-, and drug-free for at least six months following graduation.
What if You Violate the Program’s Terms?
As the court warns, “Participants will be sanctioned if they violate the Drug Court rules or fail to achieve certain phase requirements.” Violations which can result in sanctions or termination from the program include but are not limited to:
- Failing or tampering with the results of a urine test.
- Being charged with and/or arrested for additional crimes.
- Failing to appear at all scheduled court dates and treatment sessions.
Removal from the program has serious consequences. If you are removed from the program, you will have to face your original charges — and your original sentencing — in the traditional court system. If you deviate from the program, you may find yourself in jail.
Even if you are not ejected from the program, minor violations can still cause you to lose certain privileges. Depending on the severity of a violation, you may:
- Lose program incentives.
- Be set back in the completion of your phases.
- Have to pay additional fines.
- Be subject to curfew restrictions.
How to Apply
If you think you may qualify to participate in the Bucks County drug court program, it’s time to start looking into the application process. The official application form is a 12-page document which will prompt you for basic information like your contact information and SSN before going on to more complex questions about your medical and personal histories. Some questions you can expect to see on the application form include the following:
- “Do you feel you need help with a mental health issue?”
- “When was your first use of drugs or alcohol (age and specifics) and what led to your use?”
- “What is your longest period of sobriety and how did you maintain it?”
- “How would you describe your childhood?”
- “Why are you applying for Drug Court?”
When you’ve finished, you should mail your completed application materials to the following address:
Bucks County Adult Probation and Parole
55 East Court Street, 7th Floor
Bucks County Courthouse
Doylestown, PA. 18901
Attn: Warren R. Grant
Of course, it is always prudent to consult with an attorney before you make any major legal decisions. Your attorney will be able to advise you of the potential pitfalls, advantages, and strategies regarding your case.
If you have been arrested for drug possession or other narcotics crimes in Pennsylvania, an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer can help you explore your legal options. To set up a free and private evaluation, call the Bucks County criminal defense attorneys of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania today.