Friday, October 8, 2010

New Florida Drug Court Requirements Could Benefit Offenders

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the recent review of Florida Drug Courts by the Florida Legislature and how it may affect those convicted of Drug Crimes.


The Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability recently released a report that indicated the requirements for admitting drug offenders into Drug Court (a type of diversion program to give offenders treatment and rehabilitation instead of prison sentences) is too strict.

The Florida Legislature has poured $19M over the last year into the Florida Drug Court program in eight counties (including Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Polk) with the hope that it would save the State some $95M by diverting offenders into treatment instead of prison which can be much more expensive.

Why This Matters To You:

The review of the standards by the Florida Legislature is good news for those charged with Drug Offenses as it may allow more offenders to enter Drug Court as opposed to prison.

Today, Drug Courts cannot admit an offender if they have a probation violation for anything other than a failed drug test.  The reality is that Drug Crimes offenders often violate probation for a variety of reasons but still need the treatment available through the Drug Court system.

As well, the Florida Sentencing Guidelines utilize a point system to determine applicable criminal sentences.  Drug Courts are currently limited to taking offenders at a cap of 52 points.  Many feel this should increase to at least 60 points.

To date, the Drug Court program was to have diverted some 4000 offenders from prison, but has only accomplished approximately a third of that goal.  With this review by the Florida Legislature the guidelines for admittance to the Drug Court program may be changed providing more offenders with the rehabilitation they need.

Regardless of changes to the requirements for Drug Court, it is very important to retain a Criminal Defense Attorney with experience in the Drug Court system if you seek admittance.  In many cases, even when the offender does not fit the guidelines, an attorney can work with the prosecutor to secure entrance to the program.

What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, or other drug related crime contact a St. Petersburg Drug Crimes Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Drug Crimes offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).