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How do Colorado drug courts work?

In many cases, people who commit drug offenses do so as a result of addiction. Colorado law recognizes that, in such situations, treatment can be more effective than punishment in preventing future offenses.

Certain defendants accused of drug possession who also struggle with addiction may be eligible to participate in Colorado's adult or juvenile drug courts. Taking this path can offer numerous benefits.

Admission

Generally, admission into a treatment court program begins with a referral from one's attorney, probation officer or other involved person. This can happen soon after arrest or, in some cases, after conviction and a period of imprisonment. Court authorities then evaluate the candidate and decide whether he or she is eligible and likely to benefit from it. Individual programs may require additional or different steps for admission.

Eligibility

Each Colorado county treatment court has its own criteria for eligibility. Generally, relevant factors include the amount of drugs in possession, prior convictions and whether the defendant has any history of violence. In some cases, courts may agree to make an exception and admit someone who does not meet all necessary criteria.

Requirements

Treatment programs typically require participants to comply with treatment, undergo frequent drug testing and attend review hearings. They may also need to participate in community service and pay fines and restitution. Failing to comply with any of the requirements can lead to dismissal from the program and a loss of any benefits it offers. Those who complete the program may also need to comply with some obligations afterward.

Potential benefits

Participating in drug court can help one avoid or reduce time in prison. The treatment can prove effective in addressing addiction and mental health issues that may contribute to it, allowing participants to rebuild their lives. Depending on the initial charges and some other factors, completing the program can lead to a dismissal or reduction of the charges. Graduates can also petition to seal their records.

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