Administrative Order: Expansion of Adult Drug Court in Pinellas County

In March 2016, Chief Judge Anthony Rondolino signed an administrative order that expanded the Sixth Judicial Circuit Adult Drug Treatment Court to include additional offenders. The order established the protocols for identifying the which defendants the expanded adult drug court, referred to as section Z, would serve.

Prior to the expansion, only defendants with sentences that did not include prison time, but may have included time in the Pinellas County Jail, could participate. Now, qualified defendants facing time in state prison can qualify as well.

Adult Drug Treatment Court is a voluntary, comprehensive, court-supervised program for eligible non-violent defendants. It is a highly successful program that benefits both offenders and the state. It involves regular appearances before the Drug Court judge, substance abuse treatment, and random testing for substance abuse. Pinellas County is one of nine counties that participate in the drug court program.

According to the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida, the recidivism rate for program graduates was less than eight percent after the first year.

Who is eligible for the post-adjudicatory drug court expansion program?

Most people who participate in the program are non-violent offenders facing marijuana or cocaine possession charges. Before defendants’ first pre-trial, the state attorney’s office will determine which defendants meet the criteria for the post-adjudicatory drug court expansion program and transfer the case to section Z. Florida Statute § 397.334(3) provides that before the court can approve an offender for the adult drug court expansion program, it must assess the defendant’s:

  • “Criminal history;
  • Substance abuse screening outcome;
  • Amenability to the services of the program;
  • Total sentence points;
  • Recommendation of the state attorney and victim; and
  • Willingness to enter the program.”

The guidelines stipulate that the court can order defendants who meet the following criteria to enter post-adjudicatory drug court:

  • The primary offense was for a third-degree, non-violent felony, including third-degree burglary.
  • The defendant committed the crime on or after July 1, 2009.
  • The offender admits a violation of probation or house arrest.
  • The offender has fewer than 52 sentence points.
  • The offender is amenable to substance abuse treatment.
  • The alleged offender understands and is willing to participate in the program.
  • The offender has no “current or previous forcible felony convictions.”

What are the benefits of complying with Adult Drug Treatment Court?

The program facilitates rehabilitation while simultaneously saving the state money. The state designed the program to help people with drug charges become productive, drug-free members of the community. Participants must see the judge every 30 to 45 days for a review of their terms and progress. The judge may reward progress or penalize non-compliance.

The court can order entry into the Adult Drug Treatment Court as a condition of probation or community control. Defendants benefit from the program in several ways:

  • It facilitates rehabilitation and reduces your risk of getting into trouble again.
  • You can use it as a diversion program, so you may avoid jail time.
  • Upon successful completion of the terms of drug court, we can petition the court to terminate your probation.

From the time of its inception to December 2016, 374 defendants participated in the post-adjudicatory drug court expansion program. People who complete the program have fewer felony convictions, fewer prison sentences, and are less likely to commit future crimes, according to the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) research.

The program also winds up saving the state millions of dollars resulting from prison diversion and an estimated $500,000 through reduced recidivism. (It costs the state the same amount of money to incarcerate one person as it does to put eight people through Drug Court.) 

Call Goldman Wetzel to see if you qualify for the Adult Drug Court Expansion Program.

If you have been charged with a drug crime in Pinellas County, call our drug crime defense attorneys at Goldman Wetzel in St. Petersburg to discuss your case. We can review your case, determine if you may qualify for a diversion program, and help you gain entry into the Adult Drug Court Expansion program. The sooner we begin working on your case, the better. If the courts have not sentenced you yet, we can also work to get the charges reduced or dropped.

Contact us today at 727-828-3900 to speak with our attorneys. The initial consultation call is free.