Drug Court

What is a Drug Court?

A Drug Court is a special court that hears selected felony and misdemeanor cases involving non-violent, drug-using offenders.  (The San Diego Adult Programs, due to recent funding limitations, are limiting the enrollment to felonies only at this time.)

 The program includes frequent random drug testing, judicial supervision, drug treatment counseling, educational and vocational training opportunities, and the use of court-imposed sanctions and incentives. The judge is actively involved in supervising drug court participants, rather than placing defendants in unsupervised probation or diversion programs. Upon successful completion of the criminal drug court program, which is a minimum of 18 months, probation may be terminated, or in rare instances, based on the recommendation of the prosecutor, the drug charge may be dismissed.

How many Drug Courts are there?

Each of the programs in San Diego County was designed using the guidelines of the Federal Office of Drug Court Policy.

San Diego County Drug Courts include:

  • North County Division Adult Drug Court;
  • Central Division Adult Drug Court;
  • East County Division Adult Drug Court;
  • South County Division Adult Drug Court; and
  • Juvenile Drug Court (both Delinquency and Dependency).

What is the Adult Drug Court's mission?

The mission of the Adult Drug Court Program is twofold:

  • To improve lives that have been impacted by drug addiction, and
  • To increase public safety by reducing the amount and frequency of drug related crimes.

These goals are accomplished by assisting the participants in leading clean, sober, independent and productive lives. The tools used to provide this assistance are:

  • Mandated treatment
  • Rigorous court supervision
  • Sanctions
  • The dedication of caring and knowledgeable collaborative team members

How is the Adult Drug Court funded?

San Diego Superior Court Adult Drug Courts operate with federal and state grant money. In addition, local law enforcement agencies have contributed drug asset forfeiture money and Local Law Enforcement Block Grant funds. The County, in collaboration with the San Diego Superior Court, has applied for and received funding for Drug Courts including federal funding for a countywide drug court evaluation and state funding through the California Drug Court Partnership Act and Comprehensive Drug Court Implementation Act.

Participants in the Adult Drug Court programs must pay a minimal $20 fee each week to the provider to aid in the therapeutic aspect as well as to help off-set costs.

Who is involved in the Adult Drug Court?

The Drug Court Team consists of the following representatives:

  • Superior Court - judge and support staff;
  • District Attorney;
  • Public Defender;
  • State and local law enforcement agencies;
  • Case management and treatment providers.

Are violent and/or serious offenders eligible for Drug Court?

San Diego Superior Court Adult Drug Courts exclude offenders charged with violent offenses, sex crimes, manufacturing illegal substances and other serious offenses. Funding under the Crime Bill excludes participation by any offender that has been charged with a violent offense or who has a prior conviction for a violent crime.

How often does Drug Court convene?

Court status hearings with the Drug Court Team are held weekly. Participants appear before the judge weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, depending on which phase of the program they are in. A report of each participant's progress is prepared and given to the judge prior to the hearing. The judge is notified of positive and negative urinalysis tests, and attendance at counseling and educational classes. Any special circumstances concerning the participant are included in the progress report. The Court may increase the frequency of drug testing, order increased attendance or participation in a residential program as a requirement to stay in the program, and may order jail time as a sanction. Terminating the defendant from Drug Court and sentencing them, is the final sanction.

What is the Treatment Program?

All four Divisions of the Adult Drug Court Programs utilize a single case manager/treatment provider, who is under contract to San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. The Drug Court Teams and treatment providers have together designed drug intervention programs intended to provide an early opportunity for treatment and a cost effective alternative to traditional criminal case processing. The criteria for program participation has been established cooperatively by the Court, the Public Defender's Office, the District Attorney's Office, County HHSA/Alcohol & Drug Services and local law enforcement agencies. Local law enforcement officers participate as Drug Court Liaison Officers to help supervise the program participants in the community.

What does Treatment entail?

Treatment services may include:

  • Group therapy;
  • Individual therapy;
  • Case management;
  • Urinalysis drug testing (quantitative and immediate results); and
  • Placement in detox, residential treatment, sober living and mental health programs as deemed appropriate by the Drug Court Teams and availability of resources.

Ancillary services may include:

  • Job training and employment assistance;
  • Education, such as G.E.D.; and
  • Health referrals.

Clients are responsible for their development and participation in the treatment process. Regular status hearings are held with the judge and Drug Court Team. Status hearings offer the client encouragement for continuing growth. Sanctions are imposed for relapses, use incidents, failures to attend treatment or testing, and other non-compliant events.

Clients successfully completing the program will have broken the addiction cycle, found and maintained employment, and become active, productive members of society.

Chemical dependency is treated as a primary, chronic, lifelong disease. Group therapy, education, individual counseling, and a community-based approach are the basic tools offered for behavioral changes. Involvement and participation in 12-step self-help meetings such as Alcoholics and/or Narcotics Anonymous, is stressed as a fundamental tool of lifelong recovery.