The opioid crisis is making drug charges increasingly more common, both in West Virginia and across the country. Increased drug charges almost inevitably lead to increased incarceration, but drug courts are helping to reduce this.

Drug court in West Virginia is an alternative that can provide those charged with crimes a chance to rebuild their lives by helping them to get clean and sober as they complete the legal requirements set forth for them by the court.

How drug court works

Drug court is a program designed by the court system to allow offenders to rehabilitate and to reduce recidivism rates; that is, the frequency of repeat offenses. When a judge assigns drug court, the offender goes through a drug treatment program that includes counseling and drug testing. There are 48 drug courts in West Virginia.

An example of a successful drug court case, one woman in Boone County faced spending two decades in federal prison for burglary and conspiracy charges. When a judge ordered her to a West Virginia drug court instead, she was given a chance to turn her life around, and she did. Now, a West Virginia citizen who may have spent nearly 20 years in jail is a productive member of society.

How judges assign drug court

One of the critical considerations under West Virginia law regarding who is eligible for drug court is whether the offender is a first-time offender or has had previous drug arrests. To be eligible for drug court, an individual cannot have any prior drug arrests. This is an especially viable solution in the face of the opioid crisis, as many first-time offenders find themselves caught in the criminal justice system due to an addiction that may have stemmed from initially taking a legally prescribed painkiller.

Drug charges are severe and the risk of prison time has long-term impacts on individuals and their families. Finding a qualified criminal defense attorney is the first step towards an effective defense strategy that may include the possibility for drug court if an offender meets the requirements.