Drug court began as a way to provide treatment to people with substance abuse problems as an alternative to incarceration. Individuals in Charlottesville, Albemarle, and Fluvanna are fortunate to have a drug court, which many other counties in Virginia lack. Drug court can be a good option if you really intend to overcome drug addiction. Make sure to discuss your options with your attorney before you decide to enter into drug court.
Last month, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Drug Court saw its 400th graduate finish the program. Conni Cotten, 22-years-old, was arrested on drug charges but was able to get help through the drug court instead of treating her like just another criminal.
“Deciding to join the program wasn't hard for me at all; I was in jail!” Cotten said during her graduation. “I wanted out. I figured I'd go through the program and return to doing what I was doing, but my life changed when my attitude began to change. It changed because I started listening and learning from everyone who was trying to help me along the way.”
Drug Court Option for Drug Charges
Drug charges can carry serious criminal penalties in Virginia. Possession of marijuana is generally a misdemeanor offense. Possession of a Schedule I/II controlled substance is a felony. Distribution of a controlled substance can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the type of drugs involved. Distribution of a Schedule I drug can result in 5 to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000, even for a first offense.
Some individuals facing a first-time drug possession charge may be eligible for a first-offender program. The first-offender program can result in having charges dismissed after successfully completing probation and the terms of the program, which can include community service. However, after multiple drug charges, the only alternative to jail may be drug court.
What Is Drug Court?
“The Drug Treatment Court is an alternative to incarceration available to non-violent, substance dependent felony offenders in the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. The program provides intensive supervision and outpatient substance abuse treatment along with intensive judicial oversight to produce outcomes of reduced recidivism and reduced substance use among program participants and graduates. Drug Treatment Court is a voluntary program. Offenders must agree to participate.”
If the individual is eligible for drug court and the prosecutor agrees, the individual enters into a plea agreement. The program is a minimum of 12-months, made up of 4 phases. Participants receive substance abuse treatment, intensive case management, random drug and alcohol testing, and judicial monitoring. If the offender fails to complete the program, they will immediately be sentenced on the original charges.