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How drug court may help those facing drug charges

Over the past several years, there has been a trend away from treating the commission of minor drug offenses as a criminal matter and toward treating it as a health concern. Many drug users would like to get help with breaking the cycle of addiction, but they may not know where to turn for such assistance. Has this trend been reflected in Pennsylvania law and policy?

Indeed it has. Drug courts are currently an option in many Pennsylvania counties. Drug courts have been established in the Keystone State as a way of helping low-level offenders who would like help kicking the drug habit. These courts not only involve the judicial process, but they also involve treatment, testing and recovery services. Tightly structured treatment processes and recovery services are coupled with frequent drug testing and court appearances. As long as participants continue to follow the rules of the program, they will not face sanctions or criminal prosecution.

Drug courts are problem-solving courts. In order for a program to be considered an accredited drug court, it must comply with standards and best practices as part of a nationally recognized framework for the operation of compliant programs. Many court programs in Pennsylvania are deemed to be in compliance with these standards.

Those facing drug charges have options to avoid the harshest penalties with which they are being confronted. In order to secure a conviction, though, the prosecution must prove every element of a drug crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high standard, and prosecutors are sometimes unable to meet their burden of proof. By seeking the advice of experienced legal counsel, those facing charges may increase their chances of a desirable outcome.

Source: The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, "Drug Courts," accessed on March 11, 2017

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