Collaborative Courts

The State of California recognizes that many crimes are drug or alcohol related and are often a reflection of underlying issues in a person's life that would be better addressed by supervised rehabilitation rather than punishment. That is where Collaborative Courts come in. Also known as "problem-solving" courts, these courts offer alternative sentencing wherein the defendant agrees to participate in a program aimed at rehabilitation and recovery. The collaborative court program is intended to rehabilitate the offender and to reduce recidivism. As a Garden Grove alcohol-related crime lawyer, I am familiar with this process.

Participation in a collaborative court program is voluntary and it requires a serious commitment, but successful completion can be life-changing for the offender who was previously controlled by his or her addiction. Rather than end up in the revolving doors of the criminal justice system, as so many drug and alcohol dependent individuals do, participation in these programs can stop that cycle and introduce the offender back into society as a productive and contributing member. It is unfortunate that the collaborative courts are used all too infrequently. It often takes the strong advocacy of the defendant's attorney to get his or her client into this program as an alternative to statutory sentencing.

In Orange County collaborative court programs are in place for adult and juvenile drug offenders and DUI offenders. There are other collaborative courts that address mental illness and homelessness among other societal and criminal matters. There is even a special collaborative court program for veterans who have been charged with a crime. When a defendant participates in collaborative court, he or she has a small army of advocates. In addition to the judge, the defendant will have a team of professionals that collaborates on a strategy for the defendant's success. This may include the probation office, health care professionals, recovery program professionals, and even law enforcement agencies. An alcohol-related crime attorney in Garden Grove can help a defendant explore their options.

Drug Court

The Adult Drug Court program is a four-phase program which is intensely supervised by the court. A participant in this alternative program must successfully complete a minimum of 18 months in four distinct phases. Eligibility for this program is restricted to those non-violent offenders who have been charged with a crime that is substantially related to a substance abuse problem. For example, a person arrested for theft may be eligible for this program if he or she is stealing to support a drug habit. There are other exclusions for eligibility, even if the crime is substantially related to substance abuse, including a previous conviction for a serious or violent felony within the previous 5 years or an arrest for the sale of drugs.

At Phase I, the defendant will be assigned to a Probation Officer and Health Care Counselor. These professionals will learn about the participant's needs and the participant will be oriented to the program. The participant and his or her team will formulate a treatment plan depending on the participant's needs. The participant is required thereafter to follow the plan through completion of the program. Phase I is strictly monitored and regulated. This phase must continue for a minimum of 30 days and requires weekly group sessions, regular drug testing, and almost daily attendance at self-help meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous. Other services as determined by the treatment team may be required. Some examples might include psychiatric services and detox. Before moving to the next phase, the participant must be employed or in an educational program and must demonstrate a positive adjustment to treatment. Successful completion of Phase I allows the participant to move to Phase II.

Phase II must continue for a minimum of 90 days. During this phase, the treatment plan is reevaluated and updated. This phase seeks to address areas that are most challenging for the participant and identify methods the participant can utilize to deal with stressful situations. As in Phase I, the participant continues to attend weekly group therapy sessions; individual sessions may also be required. Drug testing and regular attendance at self-help meetings are also a requirement in the Phase. The participant is required to engage in clean and sober socialization programs and have defined employment or educational goals.

The participant who advances to Phase III will be expected to focus on daily living skills. This phase is designed to assist the participant's return to society as a productive and responsible member. In addition to the therapy, self-help, and drug testing requirements in the previous two phases, during Phase III, which must last a minimum of 120 days, the participant becomes a mentor to a new Drug Court participant. The participant must also complete community service work as determined by the treatment team. Phase III is the final phase before the participant is expected to begin his or her transition from the drug court strictures to a self-directed clean and sober lifestyle.

In Phase IV, which lasts at least 120 days, the participant continues to receive counseling and random drug tests but not to the extent required in the first three phases. Phase IV is designed to be more representative of the lifestyle the participant will experience "on the outside." Upon the successful completion of Phase IV, the participant graduates. The graduation ceremony takes place at the courthouse and is presided over by a judge. Each graduate is expected to make a speech and it is, as you can imagine, an inspiring celebration.

There is a separate drug court for juveniles. The juvenile drug court is patterned after the adult drug court program but focuses on the unique needs of minors with serious drug abuse problems. Often family situations need to be addressed as one of the underlying issues contributing to the child's drug abuse. The juvenile drug court program lasts one year and like its adult counter-part entails a collaborative treatment program formulated by the court, the participant and a team of professionals. Once a juvenile completes the program, he or she is provided with long-term mentorship.

DUI Court

Aimed at repeat DUI offenders, this program operates under the supervision of the court and lasts a minimum of 12 months for misdemeanor DUIs and 18 months for felony DUIs. DUI offenders with convictions for violent crimes or gang activity on their record or who have been convicted of drug sales are not eligible. The mission of the DUI Court program is to reduce repeat DUIs, which results in a safer community and a healthier and safer life for the DUI offender and his or her family. The court and the assigned probation officer want the participant to succeed and although there are sanctions for noncompliance with the program, the participant is usually counseled and permitted to get back on track as long as he or she does not repeatedly violate the rules of the program.

The participant is required to attend counseling and self-help meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous. There participant must also submit to regular and random alcohol/drug testing and make regular appearances in court, where the participant will be asked to report on his or her progress in the program. Building on the Drug Court model, the DUI Court uses the team approach. Based on the individual participant's needs, the treatment plan will be either outpatient or residential treatment. If a participant's treatment is outpatient, a treatment plan will be devised by the participant and the health care administration therapist assigned to the case. If the treatment plan is to enter a residential program, the participant must follow the rules of that program. Upon release from the residential program, the participant will transition to an outpatient program for a minimum of three months.

Throughout the program, the participant is provided with services to help the participant overcome his or her dependency. These services include such things as psychological evaluations, detoxification referrals, and employment or education referrals.

The DUI Court program mimics the Drug Court program four-phases with the same requirements and milestones. Upon successful completion of all four phases, the participant may apply with the court to be considered for graduation. The final decision is made by the judge and if the judge considers the participant to have successfully completed the program, the participant will be congratulated by the court before his or her invited family and friends.

Veteran's Court

Veteran's Court is truly unique. Recognizing the trauma many vets have suffered at war such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury as well as drug abuse and other mental illnesses seen in the veteran community, this court is geared towards addressing the special needs of the veterans who have been convicted of certain crimes. Veteran's Court has been described as a hybrid of drug and mental health courts. This court is a collaborative effort between the criminal justice system and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and offers veterans an alternative to traditional criminal sentencing.

The program is similar to the Drug Court and DUI Court programs. Participants progress through the four phases. The program differs from the other programs for the obvious reason that it is specifically geared toward the veteran community and participants in this program are assigned a VA case manager. The program lasts a minimum of 18 months. At graduation, the participant is required to write a graduation essay.

All of these programs require that the participant demonstrate rehabilitation according to the criteria of the program in order to graduate. Program graduates must have gainful employment or be in school; they must achieve stable living arrangements and have plans for continuing a rehabilitated lifestyle. The programs are tough and the requirements demanding but the benefits to the successful participant is well worth the effort. Entering one of these programs can be truly life-changing for the participant who is determined to succeed.

As an alcohol-related crime lawyer in the Garden Grove area, I would be happy if all my eligible clients participated in the collaborative court program rather than face traditional sentencing, which usually does nothing to address the underlying problems. I will advocate strongly for the any client who desires to enter one of these collaborative court programs. I welcome the opportunity to consult with you about the collaborative courts or any other criminal matter. You may reach me at my Irvine office by phone at (949) 474-8008 or by emailing me at bill@williamweinberg.com for a free appointment with a Garden Grove alcohol-related crime attorney.