What is Drug Court Program in Washington?

Drug Courts in Washington offer an alternative approach to traditional criminal justice methods for drug-addicted offenders. Drug Courts are recent phenomena within our criminal justice system. The emergence of these new courts reflect growing recognition on the part of judges, prosecutors and defense counsel that traditional criminal justice methods of incarceration, probation or supervised parole have not stemmed the tide of criminal activity by drug addicted individuals.

Drug Court is a special court charged with the responsibility of handling cases involving drug-addicted offenders. This is accomplished through an extensive supervision and treatment program. Drug Court has the power to offer an individual an alternative to traditional court if they successfully complete a Drug Court supervised treatment. For “graduates” of the program, the court may dismiss the original charge, lessen the sentence, or offer a lesser penalty.

Who is Drug Court for?

Drug Court is for individuals who are taken into custody for non-violent drug offenses. Persons with prior crimes of violence or sex offenses will not be admitted. It is up to the individual to apply to enter Drug Court. If they decide to apply, the prosecuting attorney’s office, the defense counsel, and the case manager decide if the individual meets the criteria to be enrolled in Drug Court.

Purpose and Goals

One of the purposes of the Drug Court system is to deal with all drug-using offenders while they are in the community, utilizing the programs that are currently in place. The goal is to place drug-using offenders in appropriate Drug Court tracks that tailor the level of intervention and resource commitment to the needs of the offender, and more importantly the needs of the community. Drug Courts provide more comprehensive and closer supervision of the drug-using offender than other forms of community supervision. While most community based treatment programs are based on volunteering enrollment, Drug Court remands individuals into programs, documents participation, and provides rewards for positive progress.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported that incarceration alone does little to break the cycle of drugs and crime. One study, completed in 1993, found that a full 60% of police chiefs believe that police and other law enforcement agencies have been unsuccessful in reducing the drug problem in the United States.

Eight Key Components of Drug Court set forth by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP)

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals has set forth these eight key elements to provide a guideline and structure format for Drug Courts in the Nation.

Key Element 1 ~ Drug Courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice case processing

Key Element 2 ~ Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants’ due process rights.

Key Element 3 ~ Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the Drug Court program.

Key Element 4 ~ Drug Court provides access to a continuum of alcohol, drug, and other related treatment and rehabilitation services.

Key Element 5 ~ Frequent alcohol and other drug testing to monitor abstinence.

Key Element 6 ~ A coordinated strategy governs Drug Court responses to participants’ compliance.

Key Element 7 ~ Ongoing judicial interaction with each Drug Court participant is essential.

Key Element 8 ~ Clear monitoring and evaluation measures track the achievement of individual participants’ program goals and gauge the effectiveness of the program.

What are the procedures of Drug Court in Washington?

If a person is currently charged with a felony offense a request for admission to Drug Court may be made. The Drug Court candidate’s request for approval into the Drug Court system is made to the prosecutor’s office. A wait list is created for the program because there are more eligible candidates than the Drug Court program can handle at current funding levels. The prosecutor’s office reviews the candidate’s file and disapproves or approves the request for admission to Drug Court. Candidates may be rejected for any of the following reasons:

  1. History of violent crimes or current violent crime or drug dealing offense;
  2. Extensive failure to appear history;
  3. Outstanding warrants from other jurisdictions;
  4. Inability to pay full restitution within 18 months (or within the time period that the candidate is under Drug Court supervision).

If the prosecutor’s office approves the request, then the request is forwarded to the case manager of the Drug Court program. The case manager may reject any candidate for Drug Court if inappropriate for therapeutic or other reasons. With the approval of the case manager, the candidate is accepted into the program.

What is the effectiveness of this Program?

In 1997, the Government Accounting Office reported that 71% of all offenders entering Drug Court have either successfully completed their Drug Court program or are at the present time actively participating in the program in Washington. The retention rate is very important to the program. Individuals that need help can only receive help if they are in the program and stay with the program. The 2000 Annual Report of the National Drug Control Strategy reports that approximately 175,000 drug-using offenders have participated in Drug Court programs since their inception in 1989, with 122,000 graduating or remaining active participants. It is important that the individual participants recognize the effectiveness of the program. If they see the improvement they are making for themselves, there is a better likelihood that they will complete the program.

Results of urine testing of participants in four county probation programs compared to Drug Court Treatment by the Office of National Drug Control Policy:

This chart compares intensive and general court ordered supervision with Drug Court treatment programs. The Drug Court treatment program had the lowest drug-use rate and had the majority of negative drug tests. The chart also shows that as traditional court ordered supervision is decreased from intensive to general there is an increase of drug use and a corresponding decrease in negative drug test results.

What is the recidivism rate of Drug Court?

The bar graph below shows how effective Drug Court is with recidivism. Through the 18-month period the majority of defendants that were Drug Court participants had no additional arrests. More interestingly, Drug Court participants who were arrested were in the minority when compared to traditional felony court defendants. This shows that Drug Court decreases the chance of a future arrest for individuals who participate and graduate from the program.

Re-arrests during 18-month observation period: 1990 Drug Court defendants compared with 1990 felony 2 and 3 drug defendants.

The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer will fight to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome in your court case. Call attorney Erin Bradley McAleer today at (360) 334-6277 to schedule an immediate confidential free consultation in Washington State.

Washington Attorney Erin Bradley McAleer represents clients throughout Southwest Washington State, including in Clark County, Cowlitz County, and Skamania County and Vancouver, Battle Ground, Camas, La Center, Ridgefield, Washougal, Woodland, Yacolt, Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, Longview, North Bonneville, and Stevenson. Attorney Erin Bradley McAleer focuses on the areas of Criminal Defense, Traffic Infractions, Landlord Tenant, Personal Injury, Firearm Rights Restoration, and Post-Conviction Relief (Vacating & Sealing Criminal Records).