The biggest concern most people have when facing criminal charges in Massachusetts is the risk of going to jail. No one wants to lose their freedom. Defendants may also worry about how time in state custody could hurt their relationships or their careers. Many offenses, even first-time, nonviolent offenses, can lead to incarceration. Judges can send people to prison for property crimes and drug offenses even if they plead guilty in hopes of a lenient sentence. The penalties imposed by the courts can cause emotional trauma and worsen someone’s situation.
Oftentimes, people who commit minor, non-violent crimes do so because of difficult personal circumstances. Going into state custody may only worsen their situation. For many people, staying out of jail is the most important consideration when facing charges. Occasionally, those accused of non-violent offenses may qualify for alternative court proceedings that could help them stay out of jail.
Massachusetts offers drug courts as an alternative
There are dozens of adult drug courts currently operating in Massachusetts. These courts are an alternative option for individuals facing certain criminal charges. Those accused of non-violent offenses who have a substance abuse disorder may qualify for drug court proceedings.
A traditional criminal trial requires that someone enter a plea, and they will be at risk of criminal penalties if they plead guilty or the courts convict them. The drug courts do not focus on proving someone’s guilt. Instead, they seek to address the underlying issue that contributed to someone’s criminal behavior.
The drug courts can oversee someone’s recovery efforts. Those who successfully graduate from the drug court program do not need to serve a criminal sentence. They can also avoid a criminal record that would limit their opportunities for years to come. Instead of attending a few hearings in court, those going through the drug courts will instead attend routine meetings, undergo intensive substance abuse treatment and be subject to random drug testing. If they successfully complete the program and graduate, they can bypass a criminal conviction and all the consequences it would generate.
Not everyone qualifies for drug court proceedings. Yet, learning more about alternative courts can help a defendant decide if drug court might be a viable option in their case.