drug court explained
The San Francisco Drug Court (SFDC) was created in 1995 as an alternative way to deal with drug related criminal charges. Instead of going to prison or jail, people with drug charges could elect to enter substance use treatment and agree to be supervised during this period. Diversion simply means a discretionary policy that allows the district attorney to defer or suspend prosecution if the offender agrees to certain conditions ??? such as completing a treatment program.
This program placed San Francisco squarely at odds with California's otherwise conservative criminal-justice system. Once again, we’re on the forefront of progressive reform. In most California counties, district attorneys use diversion sparingly, favoring their more traditional emphasis on prosecution, conviction and incarceration. San Francisco's diversions exceeded the combined total for Los Angeles, Contra Costa, Fresno, Orange, San Diego, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Marin, San Bernardino and San Mateo counties. So, if you get busted in SF, you may get more lenient consequences.
Here’s how the process usually goes within drug diversion:
Defendants are referred to Drug Court from various departments from the San
Francisco Superior Court at any time during their criminal proceedings. Clients are then assessed at the Drug Court Treatment Center, usually within two weeks, where they go through an intensive outpatient program for a period of 2-3 weeks. This gives the staff a window of opportunity to determine the most appropriate method of treatment (e.g. whether or not someone needs residential or outpatient care). During this time, the client is also referred to a suitable community-based treatment provider.
Throughout their entire participation in Drug Court, clients, (except for those in residential programs) are urine tested 3 times a week. Participants must also show up in court on a regular basis so that the Judge can monitor their progress.
Once participants successfully complete the Drug Court program, which generally lasts 12 months, the charges that led to their entry into Drug Court are automatically dismissed.
Who is eligible for drug diversion?
Only defendants with certain charges and criminal histories are considered eligible for this voluntary program. In order to be considered, all clients must have ‘serious underlying substance abuse problems’. Participants are continually screened for suitability and may be determined unsuitable at any time during their participation in Drug Court, most commonly for noncompliance with program requirements. In such cases, clients are referred back to criminal court for more appropriate placement.
Charges that make defendants eligible for entry into the San Francisco Drug Court are as follows:
HS 11550 Under the influence of a controlled substance
HS 11173 Possession or acquisition of prescription drugs
HS 11350(a) Possession of a controlled substance
HS 11351 Possession for sale, Cocaine Schedule I and Heroin (Quantity restrictions)
HS 11351.1 Possession for sale, Cocaine Schedule I (Quantity restrictions)
HS 1152 Sale of Cocaine Schedule I or II or Heroin (Quantity restrictions & DEJ)
HS 11355 Sale of another substance in lieu of (Quantity restrictions &DEJ)
HS 11357(a) Possession of concentrated cannabis
HS 11357(b) Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana (not incl. concentrated cannabis)
HS11359 Possession for sale, Marijuana (Quantity restrictions)
HS 11360 Sale of Marijuana (Quantity restrictions &DEJ)
HS 11364 Possession of drug paraphernalia
HS 11377(a) Possession of a controlled substance
HS 11378 Possession for sale, Methamphetamine (Quantity restrictions)
HS 11379 Sale of Methamphetamine (Quantity restrictions &DEJ)
Charges that make Criminal Defendants ineligible for entry into the San Francisco Drug Court are as follows:
For those charged with possession for sales or sales, they cannot have a
possession for sales or sales conviction within the past eight years.
Prior violent felony convictions or serious felony priors.
Prior sustained juvenile petitions for family violence within the past ten years.
With statistics showing recidivism rates of 60 percent to 70 percent among offenders sent to prison or jail, San Francisco's more sensible approach clearly yields the greatest public benefit. By diverting large numbers of low- level offenders, San Francisco sharply reduced its prosecution levels and reduced recidivism rates. For example, San Francisco's drug diversion program registered a repeat-offense rate of 12 percent, while the first-offender prostitution program had a 3 percent recidivism rate. In most jurisdictions, thousands of low-level or nonviolent offenders are incarcerated each year and then simply cycled back into the community with little effort made to ensure against their return.
In conclusion, we as San Francisco residents are quite fortunate that the Drug Court Program continues its commitment to assist all its participants in their recovery process with a system that upholds the treatment rather than the criminalization of drug addiction, even if someone sells drugs in order to support his or her drug habit. In this way, individuals will have the opportunity to gain insight into their life circumstances and internalize the values that will help keep them drug free.