Drug Court in Tampa, FL

When compared with other types of criminal justice strategies, drug courts can provide better treatment outcomes, produce better cost benefits, and reduce crime. Drug court programs only work, however, for individuals who really need treatment for substance abuse issues.

If you were charged with a drug crime in Hillsborough County, then you might be eligible for the drug court diversion program in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Tampa, FL.  If you complete the program, your charges might be dropped completely.

Section 948.08, Florida Statutes, establishes various pretrial intervention programs within the State of Florida. To be eligible for admission into a drug court program under § 948.08(6)(a), Fla. Stat., the statute provides that a defendant must:

  1. be identified as having a substance abuse problem or charged with purchase or possession or other specified crimes;
  2. have no prior felony convictions, and
  3. not be charged with a crime involving violence.

The statute’s two enumerated exceptions to admission include:

  1. if a defendant rejected a previous offer to enter drug court; or
  2. if the state attorney establishes that the defendant was involved in drug dealing.

Attorney for Drug Court in Tampa, FL

Many of our clients want to opt out of drug court and fight their case in a regular criminal division so that pre-trial motions can be filed to fight the charges before trial.

For clients that decide they want to submit to drug treatment, drug courts can provide important benefits including the chance to get the charges dropped completely.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the pros and cons of entering drug court. We can also help you find proactive ways to complete the conditions as quickly as possible.  If you were charged with a felony drug crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm.

If drug court is not for you, read more about the ways our attorneys fight felony drug charges in Tampa and Hillsborough County, FL.

Call 813-250-0500.

The History of Drug Courts in Florida

The Florida Legislature created Section 397.334, F.S., to implement treatment-based drug court programs in each judicial circuit. Drug Court was established in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in 1992 as a specialized subdivision of the Circuit Criminal Division.

The purpose of the Drug Court Division is to provide a non-adversarial forum that permits a person to plead guilty or enter a pre-trial drug diversion program, a person who meets the eligibility criteria and voluntarily chooses to avail themself to drug treatment may do so.

What Happens in Drug Court?

The drug court model includes a case management system for defendants with substance abuse issues as defined in Section 397.334(4), Florida Statutes. In drug court, the court uses supervised drug treatment instead of litigation.

In drug court, there are no pre-trial motions or trials. If you want a pre-trial motion or trial then you have to opt out of drug court and go into a trial division.

The drug court model relies on a phased system of treatment. In the phases system, the court supervises the defendant as they complete varying levels of substance abuse treatment, court incentives and sanctions, and frequent court case reviews. The phased system of treatment is explained in the Florida Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards.

Other treatment and social services necessary to successfully graduate from the drug court program might include:

  • criminal thinking interventions;
  • trauma informed services; or
  • mental health counseling.

The continuum of care provided in drug court includes:

  • detoxification
  • outpatient
  • intensive outpatient
  • residential
  • partial hospitalization
  • aftercare
  • in-jail treatment programs

The Drug Court Team in Hillsborough County, FL

The drug court team includes:

  • a Circuit Court judge
  • prosecutors with the State Attorney’s Office
  • criminal defense attorneys
  • community supervision officers
  • a Problem-Solving Courts program coordinator
  • treatment representatives
  • service providers
  • law enforcement officers

The drug court team includes a multi-disciplinary team of professionals that manages the day-to-day operations of the Drug Court Division including:

  • reviewing participant progress during pre-court staff meetings and status hearings;
  • contributing observations and recommendations within team members ‘ respective areas of expertise; and
  • delivering or overseeing the delivery of legal, treatment, and
    supervision services.

Hillsborough County Adult Drug Pretrial Intervention (DPTI)

To enter the Adult Drug Pretrial Intervention program in Hillsborough County, you might sign a contract agreeing to treatment for substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation. The contract typically requires the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office to drop the charges if you complete the special conditions listed in the contract.

In Hillsborough County, Judge Jack Espinosa, Jr. presides over drug court. Treatment is provided by several organizations, including:

  • Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office, Inc. (DACCO);
  • Phoenix House;
  • ACTS;
  • Avon Park;
  • First Step of Sarasota;
  • Crossroads for Residential Programs;
  • Operation PAR;
  • Tri-County Addictions; and
  • Westcare.

To be eligible for drug court, the defendant must admit they are addicted to drugs and want help recovering. Other eligibility requirements include:

  • being at least 18 years old;
  • not having a disqualifying felony record; and
  • signing a waiver of rights form.

Participants in drug court also report directly to Judge Espinosa to show their progress.

Treatment provided by DACCO includes group and individual counseling, group therapy, behavioral therapy, random blood and urine testing for drugs, and meetings with a probation officer.

The rules for drug court in Hillsborough County, FL, are outlined in Administrative Order S-2020-009, supersedes Administrative Order S-2017-037.

The Pre-trial Intervention Contract in Drug Court

For pre-trial intervention, the defendants is required to enter into a contract outlining the requirements to participate in the diversion and intervention program.

Defendants are not required to enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to the charges that caused them to be assigned to this drug court division.

Successful completion of the drug treatment program will result in dismissal of the charge or charges against the defendant as explained in Section 948.08, Fla. Stat.

Post-Adjudicatory Drug Court Program in Drug Court Division “Y”

The post-adjudicatory treatment-based Drug Court Division “Y” applies to eligible drug offenses. The presiding judge of Drug Court Division “Y” manages those eligible cases through final disposition, including violation of probation cases.

To be eligible for transfer to Drug Court Division “Y,” a defendant must meet the following criteria:

  • the defendant has a substance abuse problem;
  • the defendant’s Criminal Punishment Code scoresheet total sentence points are 60 points or less;
  • the defendant’s current offense is a non-violent felony;
  • the defendant wants to participate in the drug court model; and
  • the defendant does not want in any way to contest the criminal charge(s).

Additional Resources

Contact Information for Drug Court in Tampa, FL – Visit the website of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, FL, to find the contact information for the Drug Court Program Office. Drug court is a part of the Administrative Office of the Courts located at 800 E. Twiggs Street, Room 605, Tampa, Florida 33602. The program includes a drug court specialist for the Adult Post-Adjudication the Drug Court Expansion.

Drug Courts in Florida – Visit the website of the Florida Courts to find resources for the problem-solving drug courts. Drug court programs include adult felony, adult misdemeanor, juvenile drug court, family dependency, and DUI drug court.

This article was last updated on Friday, December 31, 2021.