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How Illinois drug courts work

Over the years, judicial systems throughout the United States have undergone a growing recognition that normal criminal penalties may not be the best way to address drug crimes stemming from addiction. As a result, many states, including Illinois, have implemented a system of treatment courts.

Drug court can offer benefits to some, but they are not for everyone. An experienced defense attorney can give you more information and advise you as to the best course to take in your individual situation.

Treatment rather than punishment

Typically, an Illinois drug court operates within the structure of a normal criminal court. This program centers on treating the addiction rather than penalizing the specific offense.

Who is eligible?

To participate in drug court, defendants must meet eligibility requirements. In DuPage County, requirements include addiction to alcohol or drugs, no open cases from other jurisdictions, being over 18 years old and having either U.S. citizenship or legal residence.

In addition, the current charges must not include a violent offense, and the defendant may not have a conviction for a violent offense within the past 10 years (time spent in prison does not count for this purpose). Drug courts will typically exclude offenders who deny their addiction or show a lack of willingness to undergo treatment.

Preparing for the program

Once the defendant applies for drug court, regular proceedings are postponed while the application is evaluated. Typically, the defendant will undergo a professional substance abuse evaluation that will assess whether and how a drug court program can help this person. He or she will also need to attend special classes to prepare for treatment. A lack of commitment to attending punctually and completing assignments will generally be taken as a lack of commitment to participate in the actual treatment program.

During the program itself, strict cooperation with treatment will be required. Participants typically undergo frequent random drug tests. Failing out of the program generally means going back to the standard criminal process. 

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