Florida has a bit of a reputation when it comes to illicit drugs. Possibly due to the stories out of South Florida in the 1980s, along with pop culture references such as those found in TV shows like Miami Vice, many people think of Florida as a place where drug smuggling is pervasive. Another thing to come out of Miami in the 1980s, however, is the idea of 'Drug Court.' Now used throughout the state, including the 12th Judicial Circuit encompassing Bradenton and Sarasota, Drug Court is an alternative to traditional criminal proceedings for certain kinds of offenses.
In a Drug Court model, defendants, generally referred to as 'clients,' participate in treatment programs, such as counseling, therapy and group interventions, and also must appear before a Drug Court judge at regular intervals. The individual's progress is monitored at these appearances, and if he or she is not fulfilling the program's requirements, the Drug Court judge may impose sanctions, including jail time. Clients of the Drug Court are also, of course, subject to drug testing at any time.
To get into the drug court program, a defendant must make a written request for screening, and must be approved for the program by the Drug Court Coordinator, who works out of the State's Attorney's office. This request must be made within 30 days of the defendant's first case management hearing in a felony division. To have the case moved to Drug Court, the defendant must waive his or right to speedy trial and enter a plea to the court. If the defendant fails to appear or meet the requirements of Drug Court, a bench warrant may be issued for his or her arrest.
While Drug Court may be a good idea in some cases, waiving any of one's legal rights should not be done without due consideration. Those who have been charged with a drug crime in Manatee or Sarasota may wish to consider seeking the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney.