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Eligibility for Drug Court in Miami

Florida drug courts were developed as an alternative to a regular court, and it was meant to help those struggling with addiction. The emphasis in drug court for people convicted of Miami drug crimes is treatment and rehabilitation, rather than punishment. A non-adversarial approach is used. In a recent appellate decision, the court considered a case in which the defendant had been denied admission to drug court based on an administrative order.

The defendant asked the appellate court to review the lower court’s decision he wasn’t eligible for the drug court program and the administrative order that denied him admission to the drug court program. The appellate court reasoned that the administrative order departed from basic legal requirements.

The defendant had been charged with heroin and a DUI. The prosecutor had, at first, agreed to the defendant’s admission into the drug court program as it connected to possessing heroin. The felony judge who was assigned to the case referred the defendant to arraignment in drug court where he could be observed, and his eligibility reviewed.

The staff at the drug court found he’d previously completed the drug court program. A local administrative order prevents a defendant from being admitted into its drug court program more than once. The drug court entered an order that denied his admission into drug court based on its administrative order.

Florida Statutes Section 948.08 sets forth a range of pretrial intervention programs within Florida. In order to be admitted into a drug court program, the law states a defendant needs to be identified as having a drug problem or charged with buying or possessing or other stated crimes, along with other requirements. The law has two exceptions. One is where a defendant has turned down a prior offer to go into drug court and the other is where the state attorney establishes the defendant was involved in drug dealing. Neither of these exceptions applied to the defendant.

The drug court program was established by Administrative Order 2017-04. The order specified that a defendant only had a single chance to have their case tried in drug court. When a defendant is charged with a new crime and had already had a previous case heard and resolved in drug court, the new case needs to be heard in the regular criminal or juvenile court unless the State Attorney’s Office has given permission.

Aside from the administrative order, the defendant was eligible for drug court: he didn’t have prior felony convictions and he wasn’t currently charged with a violent felony, nor was he suspected of selling drugs. He met the statutory requirements for eligibility and exceptions didn’t apply to him.

The appellate court explained that the administrative order went against the statute that created drug court and the eligibility requirements by adding criteria that weren’t part of it. Florida law doesn’t recognize the chief judge’s authority to add further requirements to the drug court law.

The appellate court quashed those parts of the administrative order that conflicted with section 948.08(6) and sent the case back for additional proceedings that complied with the holding.

If you’re accused of, investigated for or charged with a heroin crime or another drug crime and you hope to have your case heard in drug court in Miami, you should hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney. Call The Hoffman Firm at (305) 928-1669, or contact us via our online form.

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