With the exception of violent crimes, drug charges arguably carry the most stigma of most types of criminal accusations. People tend to judge those with prior drug charges harshly, and Texas is notorious for imposing harsh penalties on convicted offenders.
Despite drug law reform in some states and increased awareness of the underlying issues that drive substance abuse and addiction, Texas still aggressively prosecutes those accused of drug possession, manufacturing or distribution. Often, those accused of drug offenses will face felony charges, and even misdemeanor offenses can lead to incarceration and other life-altering penalties, to say nothing of how their criminal record will limit their opportunities for education and employment in the future.
Preventing a criminal record usually means either qualifying for pretrial diversion or successfully defending against the charges at trial. Is drug court – which is a kind of diversion – potentially an option for someone facing drug charges in Texas?
The drug courts can be an option in certain cases
Texas has a drug court program that requires extensive supervision. Unlike the traditional criminal courts, the focus of the Texas drug courts is on the rehabilitation of those who admit they have substance abuse issues. For someone to qualify for proceedings in drug court, they will usually need to establish that they have a substance abuse disorder that directly relates to the crime that the state accused them of committing. Typically, drug court is only an option for non-violent offenders.
Those that do qualify will need to attend frequent court hearings and regular meetings with specialists. They may even require inpatient treatment. They will also be subject to random testing requirements to confirm that they have achieved sobriety. The drug court process usually takes more than a year and will require the full commitment of the defendant hoping to avoid a conviction.
If they fail to fulfill drug court requirements, they may then end up in criminal court or in state custody. However, if they successfully complete the process, they will not be subject to criminal penalties and will also not have to worry about a criminal record. Not everyone qualifies for drug court proceedings, and not everyone who does qualify would be able to complete them successfully.
Considering every option for avoiding jail time and a criminal record may be a smart choice for those facing drug charges in Texas.