The Perth Drug Court was introduced on 4 December 2000, but Drug Courts have existed in the United States as far back as the 1980’s. The court was introduced with a focus on rehabilitating offenders with long-standing drug addiction problems. The court’s focus is on stopping the cycle of offending by drug users, rather than simply handing out progressively harsher sentences as their drug addiction continues unabated.
The court runs a program which monitors and treats an offender’s drug addiction. Through the use of bail conditions, the Drug Court can require an offender to do any or all of the following:
- Attend treatment programs such as one-on-one or group counselling;
- Attend residential rehabilitation;
- Undergo urinalysis;
- Comply with a curfew;
- Attend check-up appearances in court where the court is informed as to the offender’s progress; &
- Be remanded in custody if conditions are not complied with.
What will going on Drug Court achieve for me?
Ultimately going on Drug Court aims to keep you out of prison. If you successfully comply with the program for an extended period, generally the Magistrate will impose a non-custodial sentence such as a conditional suspended imprisonment order. It also aims to resolve serious drug addiction problems which can dramatically increase an offenders quality of life.
Even if you don’t successfully complete the program, your efforts whilst on the program will ordinarily result in some reduction of your sentence.
How do I get on to the Drug Court program?
To be placed on the Drug Court program you must request a referral to the Drug Court from a Magistrate. You must be on bail, have a drug problem, and be willing to plead guilty to all of your charges.
After receiving a referral, you must attend the Drug Court information session which is held at 9AM at the Perth Magistrates Court. After that, on the same day, there will be a hearing where the Drug Court Magistrate determines whether you should be assessed for inclusion onto the Drug Court program. Some people are not suitable for the program, such as:
- People whose offences are so serious that they will inevitably receive a prison sentence, regardless of their performance on Drug Court;
- Violent offenders who may be a risk to other persons on the program;
- Offenders facing certain charges such as murder; &
- People who don’t have a genuine drug problem.
If you are suitable to be assessed, your case will be adjourned for about 4 to 6 weeks and assessment will occur. This will usually involve urinalysis and other strict bail conditions. The assessment occurs at the CATS (Court Assessment & Treatment Program) office at 30 Moore St, East Perth. You will need to demonstrate your commitment to complying with the program and living a drug-free lifestyle.
After the assessment period, a report will be provided to the court. If assessed as suitable, you will be placed on the program and will be required to continue to comply with it for an extended period. If not suitable, you will generally proceed to sentencing.
Suitable applicants are given an indicated sentence, which is the sentence they will receive if they don’t comply with the program. If you do comply, generally that sentence will be suspended or will be substantially reduced.
What else do I need to know?
The Drug Court has various other requirements, for instance a 10 point breach system for dirty urines, not attending appointments, etc. If you rack up too many points, you can get breached and removed from the program. Further, you are free to leave the program at any time. More information is available in the Perth Drug Court guidelines.
The maximum length of the Drug Court program is 24 months and the longer you participate and comply, the better the reduction of sentence you will receive.
You can also be placed on the Drug Court if you face District or Supreme Court charges. This is done through the imposition of a Pre-Sentence Order, which is an order requiring you to comply with the conditions of the Perth Drug Court.
The Drug Court is an intensive program and not for the faint of heart. An offender must have substantial motivation to participate and comply with the program, in order to obtain any benefit from it.
If you require advice as to whether you might be suitable for the Drug Court program, don’t hesitate to contact James Jackson Criminal Defence today.