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Are you eligible for drug court in Florida?

Many drug crimes have their roots in addiction -- which is something that Florida's courts have finally begun to recognize through a program known as "drug court." When completed successfully, drug court can help defendants avoid jail time and possibly even a felony record.

However, before you decide that drug court is your best bet, there are a few things you should know.

What is drug court?

Drug court is an intervention and diversion program that offers certain defendants accused of drug crimes an opportunity to participate in monitoring and treatment for substance abuse -- with the goal of getting them out of the cycle of addiction and crime.

Participation is voluntary, and you're only eligible if you meet the criteria used by the court. You'll be screened after your arrest automatically. Generally, you can't be charged with drug distribution to qualify. You also can't be charged with a violent crime, even if it was somehow related to drugs.

What happens if you're accepted to drug court?

Drug court isn't an easy process. Some defendants may find it harder to handle than they expect because it can require numerous visits to court, plus frequent drug tests and attendance at 12-step meetings and group counseling sessions. It also can be a lengthy program -- because the goal is to get the defendant on the road to recovery, the court can continue the defendant's obligations for a year or longer.

Successful completion can offer different benefits, depending on your agreement with the court. However, it usually means an elimination to jail time and may even a offer you the chance to erase the charges from your record.

On one hand, some defendants find the demands of drug court very hard to handle -- especially if they aren't ready to try to beat their addiction. On the other hand, it's often an excellent chance to get off drugs for good. Only you can decide the best approach toward a drug charge and determine what you're able to handle. If drug court has been offered, talk it over carefully before you decide.

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