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Detroit Legal Blog

Do Drug Courts Work?

Oct 24, 2016, by Maurice Davis in Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes, Legal Blog

The idea behind Michigan’s drug courts is simple: treat the addiction issues of nonviolent substance abusing offenders instead of punishing them. By addressing the cause of these individuals’ criminality–their substance abuse problem–drug courts are able to significantly reduce recidivism and save the state money.

If you’re facing charges for drug possession or driving under the influence, the prosecutor and judge handling your case may offer you drug or sobriety court as an alternative to criminal punishment. Of course, it’s in your best interest to seek a verdict of not-guilty, but when this is not an option, accepting treatment for your substance abuse is a desirable alternative to serving time.

How Do Drug Courts Work?

If you’ve been convicted of a nonviolent crime involving drugs or alcohol, the sentencing judge may offer you the opportunity to enroll in one of these programs as an alternative to jail time. This means that over the course of a period of anywhere from 90 days to 24 months, you will submit to regular drug testing and close supervision by a team that typically includes your judge, the prosecutor, your defense attorney, a probation officer, and a drug counselor.

If you fail a drug test or demonstrate that you are still abusing intoxicating substances, you will face sanctions, which may include expulsion from the drug court program. At that point, you may receive criminal penalties. On the other hand, if you comply with the conditions of your supervision and make progress in your treatment, you will see the benefits.

Your substance abuse counselor will conduct regular home visits to ensure you are on track with the program. Depending on your circumstances, you may also need to enroll in an educational or vocational program. Sometimes, drug court participants must find and hold down a job for the duration of the program. The goal is to set you on the path for a productive and sober life so that you won’t offend again.

How Much Do Drug Courts Cost the State?

Critics of the drug court program might point out that it adds to the $2 billion a year that Michigan already spends every year on its corrections system. The drug court program costs around $4,500 per year, per participant.The program takes up time that judges and prosecutors would spend on other cases, requires county courts to hire additional probation officers, and investment in drug testing and drug counseling services. Fortunately, Michigan drug courts can apply for funding from federal grants. Some courts are even financed by private donors.

Supporters of the drug courts program point out that it provides a significant return on investment. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, drug courts save the criminal justice system $2.21 for every dollar invested. This is because the program leads to fewer arrests, court hearings, and people sleeping in jail and prison.

According to Oakland County District and president of the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals, Judge Brian MacKenzie: “It’s really not how much it costs. It’s how much it saves. Drug courts are the single most effective thing you can do for addicted defendants. They are far more effective and they save far more dollars than any other approach.”

Drug Courts Have Proven their Effectiveness

According to the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, drug courts significantly reduce recidivism rates, meaning the number of times offenders get re-arrested after their release. According to their data, drug and sobriety court graduates are more than twice less likely to commit another offense in the two years following their treatment than an offender who received criminal penalties. Furthermore, graduates are more likely to retain or gain employment following their conviction.

Even prosecutors are onboard with the program. According to Eaton County prosecutor
Jeffrey Sauter: “We used to do things the old way, where you try to incarcerate someone like a habitual drunken driver for as long as you could because you are at least protecting the public while the person is incarcerated. The treatment approach focuses on the underlying substance abuse problem. I’m convinced that treatment can work.”

Davis Law Group Can Help

At Davis Law Group, our goal is to put our clients in the best possible position possible when facing the criminal justice system. For some, this might involve enrollment in a Michigan drug or sobriety court. To learn more about what options might be available to you, call us today at (313) 818-3238 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.