Drug Courts have their roots in an idea that was developed in Miami, Florida, in 1989. In response to a crack epidemic, jurists in Miami realized that the endless cycle of addiction and recidivism needed to be broken to reduce drug use and drug-related crime. The basic concept behind drug courts involves a dramatic intervention by the court in cooperation with an entire team including the defense, prosecution, treatment, education, and law enforcement. In return for a promise of a reduced sentence, appropriate non-violent addicted offenders are given the option of entering voluntarily into court-supervised treatment. The rules and conditions of participation are clearly stated in a contract entered into by the defendant, the defense attorney, the district attorney, and the court. The results have been overwhelmingly positive and drug courts have gone into operation all over the country.
New York State leads the nation in the expansion and institutionalization of drug courts into daily court operations. Former Chief Judge Judith Kaye recognized the benefits of the program and had the vision to ask that it be implemented in every jurisdiction in the State. As of January 1, 2016, there were 141 drug courts in operation, 89 in the criminal courts, 33 in the family court , 4 in the town and village courts and 15 drug courts focused solely on juveniles. Through January 1, 2016 , over 93,000 individuals have participated in New York State court drug treatment programs and over 42,800 have graduated. In addition, 867 drug-free-babies have been born to drug treatment court participants while in the program.
Each drug court in New York is locally based and reflects the legal culture of the community. Support for the program comes from the local communities, the Unified Court System budget and the federal government. Statewide standards are facilitated by the intense training each team receives and the oversight provided through continuous evaluation and assistance from the Office of Policy and Planning.
Types of Drug Treatment Courts in New York State
Criminal Drug Treatment Courts
Defendants facing felony or misdemeanor charges where drug addiction is a component of their offense may be eligible to participate in a criminal DTC program. Those who successfully complete their drug treatment court program may have their charges dismissed or reduced or may receive a reduction in their sentence.
In October 2009, a new law, Criminal Procedure Law, Article 216: Judicial Diversion Program for Certain Felony Offenders, authorizes a court to divert eligible felony offenders into substance abuse treatment programs.
Young Adult Drug Treatment Courts are operational in several of the criminal courts. These courts target defendants in the 16- to 21-year-old population.
Family Drug Treatment Courts
Family drug treatment courts (FDTC) target respondents in neglect petitions where substance abuse is a component of the allegations. Respondents who successfully complete the program are reunited with their children in the great majority of cases. Additionally, successful participants in the FDTC program often receive more liberal contact with their children prior to graduation.
Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts
Participants in the juvenile drug treatment courts (JDTC) are facing either Juvenile Delinquency (JD) or Person In Need of Supervision (PINS) petitions in the Family Court where substance abuse forms some component of the pending petition. Successful participation in the juvenile drug treatment court program generally results in the dismissal of the pending petition.