Addiction is a powerful and cunning disease that can make people act out in dangerous, risky, and illegal ways. People may lie, cheat, steal, and break the law in various ways to continue their substance abuse. However, when a person gets caught, he or she will have to face the consequences.
There are many ways the legal system deals with people who suffer from addiction. Very few are actually sent to a rehab center, and those who are are usually sent there under an involuntary commitment law. Some are sentenced to time in jail or prison while some are granted community service or parole. When a crime involves drugs or alcohol and the judge believes the defendant is struggling with addiction, a different consequence may be dealt: drug court.
Drug court in New Jersey can be an option for people to participate in if their crime did not hurt another person or constitute being locked up. In fact, compared to the other possible sentences, people who get mandated to drug court are actually fairly lucky.
What is Drug Court?
Drug court is a type of probation that may be offered to individuals who are being prosecuted for a crime, but whose crimes were likely motivated by drug or alcohol addiction. For example, it may be offered to someone who was arrested for selling a small amount of marijuana or possessing a small amount of heroin.
The state of New Jersey offers drug court as an alternative to jail or prison for people who are not serving time or have already served time in prison and struggle with substance use disorder. The program is designed to help people who struggle with addiction stay away from future run-ins with the legal system. When completed, it can help reduce crime, substance abuse, and even recidivism rates. This can ultimately benefit individuals struggling with addiction, the community as a whole, the local economy, and the already overcrowded jails.
Rather than going to jail or prison, qualified individuals get to enter a supervised probation program that is specialized to help people embark on a lifestyle of sobriety. However, if an individual does not successfully complete drug court, he or she may be given an alternative prison sentence.
Who Qualifies for Drug Court in New Jersey?
Oftentimes, drug court candidates are chosen on a case-by-case basis. Still, there are three qualifications individuals must meet to be eligible for a drug court program in New Jersey.
- Be at least 18 years old or older
- Have a drug or alcohol problem
- Be facing non-violent charges
This program is NOT available to people who have:
- Previous convictions
- Pending charges unrelated to substance abuse
- Pending charges that are violent crimes such as manslaughter, murder, aggravated assault, sexual assault, and kidnapping
A person’s eligibility is determined through a comprehensive clinical assessment and legal review process.
What is Drug Court Like in New Jersey?
If a person wants to go to drug court, they must enter a guilty plea after agreeing with a judge to an “alternative” prison sentence. Instead of going to prison, the person is sentenced to supervised probation during which they must complete a drug court program. If they don’t complete the program, they will be sentenced to prison based on their original charges and guilty plea.
People who are accepted into a drug court program in New Jersey will immediately begin a treatment program that consists of:
- Regular mandatory court appearances and hearings
- Regular mandatory in-person meetings with a probation officer
- Medical detox services (if needed)
- Residential and outpatient programs (if needed)
- Individual and group counseling
- Mandatory 12-Step participation
- Relapse prevention classes
- Randomized drug testing
- Community service hours
If drug court participants choose to go to treatment, they may pick their addiction treatment provider. However, individuals are responsible for all costs associated with both court and treatment.
Individuals are given incentives for sticking to their treatment program and sanctions if they do not. Sanctions can include jail time. Those who successfully complete the program are released from probation and avoid prison altogether. It can even give individuals the opportunity to clear their criminal records, making it easier to integrate back into society.
Can Drug Court Keep a Person Sober?
Drug court programs in New Jersey are surprisingly effective. One study found that 84% of participants were not re-arrested or charged with a serious crime in the first year after completing the program and more than 72% did not have any arrests after two years.
Completing drug court can prevent a person from getting a criminal record, serving time in prison, and letting their addiction get worse. While drug courts cannot cure addiction, they can introduce individuals to resources in their community that they can use to help treat their addiction and prevent relapse.
Find Help for Addiction in New Jersey Today
People don’t have to struggle with addiction until they end up arrested or facing criminal charges. They can get help early on and put an end to bad behaviors. Here at New Jersey Addiction Intervention, our aim is to help rehabilitate individuals who struggle with substance abuse to minimize the negative effects on their lives.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, our team can help. Call now to get started.
Medically Reviewed: November 30, 2021
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.