A drug-related conviction in New York can come with serious consequences. Many people who face charges do so because of a substance abuse issue, and a jail or prison sentence does not typically treat the root of the offense.

The Society for Evidence-Based Professionals notes that as a result, recidivism rates for offenders with drug convictions are high. The good news is that drug courts are now available, and they have proven to reduce the re-arrest rate.

How does drug court work?

The Suffolk County Drug Treatment Court allows people facing certain misdemeanor or felony charges to go through a court-supervised treatment program rather than becoming incarcerated. In order to enter the program, the defendant must plead guilty to the charges.

Throughout the program, the participant must attend substance abuse treatment through a court-approved service provider, as well as making regular court appearances and taking random drug tests. There may be specific requirements in a participant’s contract with the court that must also be fulfilled during the program, such as paying restitution or performing community service.

At the end of the program, the defendant’s charges may be reduced or dismissed based on what is included in the contract.

Participation lasts a minimum of one year for misdemeanors and 18 months for felonies.

Who is eligible?

Any nonviolent offense may qualify a defendant for the program. The defendant must be clinically eligible for substance abuse treatment, as well, and participation must be voluntary. Usually, the defendant’s attorney or the judge may refer him or her, and then the District Attorney’s Office evaluates the referrals on a case-by-case basis.