Drug courts: Everything You Need To Know

Drug courts: Everything You Need To Know


Drug Courts are specialized court programs. This court help criminal defendants, offenders, and parents with child welfare cases who have dependency problems.

Within the criminal court system, they have a court drug testing policy where the drug courts offer practical and innovative solutions to addressing substance abuse. Drug courts are designed for people with substance use disorders.

Instead of jail time, offenders are offered long-term drug treatment programs under court supervision. Drug courts offer intensive programs that require the compliance of participants.

Participants are required to maintain their abstinence from drugs, take responsibility, and implement lifestyle changes.

This blog will help you understand the drug courts, can they drug test you, drug court drug  testing policy, and what happens if you fail a drug test at drug court.

Table of Contents

What Does a Drug Court Program Look Like?

Under court supervision, the progress of a participant is monitored. The goal of drug courts lies in reducing crime rates and creating positive changes in people's lives. A typical drug court program includes the following:

  1. Drug courts ensure participation for a period ranging from months to years. The long participation time ensures long term recovery of participants. 
  2. Drug courts subject the participant to frequent and sometimes random drug tests.
  3. Participants undergo clinical treatment for their addiction and abuse of drugs.
  4. Participants are subjected to individualized services, community service time, and education provisions.
  5. Frequent court appearances. 
  6. Candidates receive awards for complying with treatment and penalties for failure to comply.
  7. Support from the drug court team. 

What Is The Procedure of Court-Ordered Drug Tests?

In a court-mandated drug test, the individual will be given information about the frequency and duration of their drug test. An individual has to set up their testing by scheduling with the drug screening center. 

Once an individual is notified of testing, they must report to designated facilities at the specified time. Drug tests take place with testing the participant's urine sample. Make sure that you drug test in a SAMHSA certified agency

An MRO or Medical Review Officer evaluates the data and determines whether the result is negative or positive. The results are then forwarded to the court and the participant who is tested.

Can The Court Drug Test You Without Warning?

Yes. As per the drug court drug testing policy, a drug court can schedule random drug tests without prior warning. As a participant, You may face random drug tests during your treatment program.

Drug courts' purpose is not to prepare you for a possible drug test but to prepare you for a healthy lifestyle. Expecting an unpredictable drug test can be a deterrent to not doing drugs.

Although Drug Courts are an alternative to traditional punishment, there are penalties for lack of compliance with the program terms.

What Happens If You Fail a Court-Ordered Drug Test?

Failure to pass a drug test can have dire consequences. If an individual is on probation, the court will suspend their terms of probation and face incarceration. Failure to report to a drug test has similar consequences. 

As Drug Courts are an alternative to incarceration, repeated failure to comply with its terms can lead to imprisonment. 

When Are Drug Tests Used in Child Custody Court Cases?

Drug abuse has a huge role to play in most divorce cases. In a marriage headed for divorce, the spouse is morally obliged to report substance abuse problems of their partner before it endangers their children.

Under normal circumstances, the court may not demand drug testing. When drug testing does happen, it is the result of one parent requesting it. The court may grant their request if they can provide evidence of their spouse's drug abuse. A history of drug use or charges constitutes evidence and would be sufficient for the court to order a drug test.

During child custody cases, the court acts in the best interest of the child or children. It is likely that both parents have to undergo testing and share its costs. As the court acts in children's best interests, even occasional use of drugs shall be considered detrimental to children's wellbeing. 

Drug abuse and positive drug tests can cause restrictions on your custody of the child. Substance abuse leads to lousy parenting decisions and, even worse, abuse or harm to children under the influence of drugs. 

How Do You Get a Court-Ordered Drug or Alcohol Assessment?

A judge often orders Court-ordered alcohol or drug evaluation. It is usually ordered when a particular case involves substance abuse.

It could also be part of the sentencing procedure where an individual committed the crime. Any certified state agency can perform substance evaluation. The cost of an assessment ranges between $100 to $150, which the accused bears.

In addition to the history of records of the accused, drug tests help the judge make a decision.  

Finally, How To Get Out of Drug Court Early?

It might come as no surprise, but you cannot get out of a drug court early. A drug court program is essentially a contract that a participant cannot renegotiate.

Drug Courts are designed to benefit the participant through rigorous research and trial. Terminating a program before it is complete would cancel its benefits.  The longer you stay in a program, the greater your chances of success become.

A participant can appeal for early release based on specific reasons. Valid reasons such as job offer or need to move out of state are cause for appeal.

If the DA office in the state where an individual is subject to their drug court consents, they might get an early release. But, it is improbable that the DA would permit a premature termination of one's drug court program. 


Drug Courts operate with great success in the United States. Getting people into treatment is a crucial step in improving their sobriety period significantly. People who commit to drug court programs are less likely to get arrested again than people sentenced to traditional punishments. 

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