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Drug/DWI Specialty Courts Offer Alternatives to Criminal Penalties

Drug abuse and drunk driving are serious problems in Texas, just as they are throughout the nation. While state criminal laws seek to address the issues by adopting stiff penalties, most people who violate these laws do so because of physical and/or mental conditions, not due to criminal intent. One strategy for dealing with the underlying causes of this behavior is the use of specialty courts.

In Texas, specialty courts for drug users and DWI offenders operate at the county level. Unlike criminal courts that find guilt and impose punishment, specialty courts focus on treatment and rehabilitation. The rationale is that some criminal behavior is attributable to substance abuse that the offender cannot control. In essence, specialty courts treat drug and alcohol abuse and addiction more like a disease than a moral failing. Specialty courts charge program fees that are in lieu of fines and court costs.

Drug Courts, as they are commonly known, give accused violators the chance to resolve their cases without criminal penalties. The participants have the opportunity to get help for their addiction and turn their lives around. However, drug court is not a free and easy ride. While the entire process is closely supervised and resources are available to help, ultimate success or failure depends on the individual. Those people who do not succeed in drug court usually end up back in regular criminal court and possibly in prison.

DWI courts operate similarly, in the recognition that most drunk drivers are afflicted with acute alcohol problems. Offenders diverted to these courts must participate in treatment programs and be supervised by specially trained court personnel. A judge who knows the unique circumstances of every participant meets with each one during a specialized court docket held every other week. Violations of program orders are discussed by the supervisory team and handled by the judge on an individual basis.

Not everyone accused of a drug- or alcohol-related crime is eligible for diversion to a specialty court. Every alternative program applicant must:

  • Be 17 years or older
  • Be diagnosed as drug-addicted or alcohol-dependent
  • Be facing only misdemeanor charges
  • Not be accused of using violence in commission of any drug offenses

Those who successfully complete an alternative program are less likely to end up in trouble with the law again. With no criminal records, they have many more employment, educational and personal opportunities available to them in the future. Anyone accused of a drug or DWI offense should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can determine their eligibility for this relief.

Kevin L. Collins, P.C. in San Antonio is a full-service Texas criminal defense law firm. If you or a family member have been accused of a drug- or alcohol-related offense, our firm can help achieve the best possible resolution possible under the circumstances. Feel free to contact us online or call 210-598-8629 for an initial consultation.



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