Drug possession and use crimes remain a major problem for New York City. Some parks in the Bronx are so heavily strewn with used hypodermic needles that the grounds are unsafe for visitors. Heroin addicts can be seen shooting up inside Manhattan subway stations. Overdose deaths due to opioids such as heroin and fentanyl have skyrocketed to an estimated 1,500 per year in New York City.
As prison sentences have failed to stem illegal drug possession, alternative programs such as drug treatment courts have been created. Most of these programs have now been operating in NYC for 10 to 15 years.
How the NYC Drug Treatment Court Program Works
If you have been arrested for a non-violent crime in New York City and you have a substance use disorder (alcoholism or drug addiction), the first thing you should do is seek the advice of an experienced drug court lawyer. Your lawyer can explain your legal options and advise you as to whether a drug court program might be a good option for you.
All criminal courts in NYC offer a drug/alcohol screening program. This program will determine whether you are a good candidate for a drug court program.
If you are given the option of a drug court program, the NYC drug courts all use what is called “deferred sentencing.” First, you must plead guilty to a criminal charge. You will then enter a court-designated drug or alcohol treatment program for one to two years. Your participation in the program will be closely monitored by the court. If you successfully complete the program, your guilty plea will be withdrawn, and the criminal charges against you will be dismissed.
While you are in the program, you may be sanctioned for small violations of the program, or you may be dismissed from the program for more significant violations of the rules. If you fail out of the program, you will be returned to criminal court for sentencing, which typically means jail or prison time.
Requirements to Qualify for a NYC Drug Court Program
In New York City, over a dozen specific drug courts now exist for different types of offenders. All of these programs accept offenders age 16 and up. “Treatment court” programs are open only to people with no prior felony convictions, while “diversion court” programs do allow people with prior felony convictions. Here are a few examples:
- Brooklyn STEP. You may qualify for the STEP program if you have been arrested in Brooklyn, are charged with a felony crime (which can either be a drug crime or a non-violent crime not involving drugs), have no prior felony convictions, and admit to having a problem with drug and/or alcohol abuse. While you are in the STEP program, you will receive drug or alcohol treatment and be closely supervised by the STEP judge through regular court appearances. You may spend one to two years in the STEP program, depending on your offense and your individual progress in treatment.
- Felony Treatment Court is available in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens. This program is for people facing first-time felony drug charges who have a drug abuse problem. It is similar to STEP, but the criminal charge must be for either felony drug possession or felony drug sale.
- Misdemeanor Treatment Court (MTC) is available in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens. As the name suggests, this program is for misdemeanor drug offenders with a history of multiple arrests due to their drug abuse problem. This program strives to address not just an offender’s need for drug treatment, but also their need for housing and employment.
A Seasoned Team of Manhattan Drug Court Lawyer
If you are facing criminal charges as a result of drug use and want to turn your life around, a savvy New York City drug court attorney can help you receive treatment instead of punishment. Call JOEY JACKSON LAW, PLLC at 833-JOEYJACKSON or 833-563-9522.