Drugs are often related to crime through the effects that they have on the user’s behaviour. In the eyes of the law, an offender cannot use their drug use as an excuse for criminal actions.
However, while an offender cannot blame drugs on their offending behaviour, an acknowledgement of a drug problem may enable them to access the Perth Drug Court for help.
What is the Drug Court? What does it do?
The Perth Drug Court operates in the Perth Magistrates Court and is aimed at breaking the cycle of drug related offences by allowing individuals to enter a treatment program prior to sentencing. Allowing the participant to deal with the problems prior to sentencing shows the Court that they have taken positive steps in the attempt to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. As a result, the presiding judicial officer will take these steps and efforts by the offender to change their behaviour into account, and may subsequently reduce their overall sentence in light of this information.
This process aims to help individuals by:
- Supporting participants in addressing their substance misuse and associated lifestyle;
- Helping participants change their behaviour so that they can lead a constructive, fulfilling and law-abiding life;
- Reducing the imprisonment of those with substance misuse issues by addressing problems that are integral to offending behaviour; and
- Reducing post-treatment supervision requirements for participants by having them address relevant requirements at an earlier stage in the process.
A review of the Perth Drug Court conducted by the Department of the Attorney-General found strong evidence that involvement in a Drug Court program had a positive effect in reducing the level of re-offending among individuals charged with a drug-related offence. Specifically, it was found to be associated with a net reduction in recidivism of 17% over prison and 10.4% over community corrections.
Who is accepted by the Drug Court?
Not everyone is automatically eligible to participate in the Drug Court program. To participate, an applicant must:
- Admit that they have an illicit substance abuse problem;
- Enter a plea of guilty to all charges;
- Be willing to undergo appropriate and agreed evidence-based drug treatment, in the community or a residential rehabilitation facility; and
- Be willing to be supported and supervised by the Drug Court and the Court Assessment and Treatment Service (CATS).
How do I get referred to the Drug Court?
The Perth Drug Court accepts referrals from the Magistrate, District and Supreme Courts, and is normally referred at your first court appearance. After you have been referred to the program, you will undertake an initial assessment, and be considered by the Drug Court Magistrate as to your suitability.
The Drug Court Magistrate, when assessing your suitability, will take into consideration the seriousness of your drug problem, the seriousness of the offence and what individual requirements have been identified during the assessment. If accepted, your final sentencing will be deferred until after you complete the treatment program.
What are the Drug Court programs? Which one will benefit me?
There are three different pre-sentence programs available within the Perth Drug Court, which are as follows:
- Supervised Treatment Intervention Regime (STIR): For those that have committed less serious offences that would not result in a prison sentence. This program runs for up to 6 months and involves community-based treatment and less intense case management.
- Drug Court Regime (DCR): For those with a significant criminal history and drug problems, who have committed a serious offence. This program runs for up to 6 months.
- Pre-Sentence Order (PSO): For those with a significant criminal history and who are looking at a substantial prison sentence. This program runs for approximately 12 months and heavy supervision is required.
All of the above programs require you to undertake regular drug screen urine tests, make regular appearances in the Drug Court, and participate in treatment through the help of support services and programs within the community.
How can a lawyer help?
Although decision making is largely dependent on the discretion of the Court, one of our lawyers may be able to assist in your matter by:
- Providing you with detailed information on the Drug Court;
- Discussing whether you are likely to be eligible for a program;
- Representing you throughout your proceedings before the Court;
- Providing you with specific information on how participating in a program can be beneficial to you;
- Assisting you in obtaining a referral from the Court; and
- Once the program is completed, assist you in preparing for your sentencing hearing with the aim of minimising your sentence to the greatest extent possible.
If you wish to be assisted in the matters outlined above or have any further questions about the Drug Court and wish to speak to a lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact Carter Dickens Lawyers on (08) 9408 5212.
Please note the above is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. All situations are different and legal advice must always be tailored to the specific facts of your Legal Matter.