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Drug Court in Victoria

The Drug Court in Victoria operates at the Magistrates Courts at Dandenong, Ballarat, Shepparton and Melbourne. It is responsible for the sentencing, supervision and treatment of offenders who are drug and/or alcohol dependent and who are subject to a court Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order (DATO) under the Sentencing Act 1991. This article outlines the role of the Drug Court in Victoria.

Who is eligible?

To be an eligible to be dealt with by the Drug Court an offender must:

  • Plead guilty.
  • Live in an area serviced by the Drug Court.
  • Be dependent on drugs and/or alcohol and this must have led to the offence.
  • Agree to comply with the DTO.
  • Not be subject to a Parole Order, a Combined Custody and Treatment Order or a Sentencing Order of the County or Supreme Court.
  • The offence/s must not be sex offences nor offences involving actual bodily harm.
  • They must have a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment and it must be likely that the offender would get a prison sentence.

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders

The Drug Court administers orders called Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders. A DATO is made up of a custodial sentence to be served in the community and treatment and supervision to address their alcohol or drug issues.

A person who is placed on a DATO is required to attend regular mentions in the Drug Court, submit to drug and alcohol testing, engage in assessment and treatment, engage ine educational and employment programs and comply with the conditions of the order.

Non-compliance with the order or further offending may lead to the cancellation of the order.

While on a DTO, a person must:

  • not commit another offence punishable by a prison sentence.
  • attend the Drug Court when required.
  • attend Community Corrections or any other place if directed.
  • report to and have visits from the Drug Court team or from a Community Corrections Officer.
  • undergo drug or alcohol dependency treatment as directed.
  • advise the Drug Court of any change of address at least two working days before the change.
  • not leave the state unless permitted by the Drug Court or Community Corrections.
  • obey all instructions from the Drug Court and the Community Corrections.
  • obey all conditions in the DTO throughout the entire time the order is in force. These conditions can include;
  • submitting to drug or alcohol testing.
  • attending educational, vocational, employment or other programs.
  • submitting to medical, psychiatric or psychological assessment.
  • not associate with certain persons.
  • live at a specific place.
  • comply with any other orders the court thinks necessary.

Review hearings

Review Hearings are held regularly throughout the term of the DATO.. The Drug Court Registrar, prosecutor, defence lawyer, Clinical Adviser, Case Manager and any other person the magistrate invites will be at the conference. The offender’s progress, and any need to vary or cancel the order or give rewards or impose sanctions will be discussed.

At the hearing, the magistrate will speak to the offender about any issues raised in the conference. The offender is given the opportunity to respond to these. The magistrate then makes their decision. If they think the DATO should be terminated then a Breach Hearing is scheduled. Reports are prepared relating to the offenders non-compliance. During the adjournment the offender attends weekly reviews. If after the hearing the Magistrate decides to cancel the order, the offender is either sentenced to prison in accordance with the original custodial order, or the custodial part of the order is cancelled and the offender is re-sentenced.

Rewards and sanctions the Drug Court use include:

  • Verbal praise or warnings.
  • Advancement or demotion between program phases.
  • Increasing or decreasing supervision.
  • Increasing or decreasing court appearances.
  • Increasing or decreasing drug testing.
  • Increasing or decreasing unpaid community work.
  • Prison time for non-compliance. The minimum is 7 days.
  • Gift vouchers.
  • Imposing a curfew.

The court may also terminate the program because:

» The offender’s circumstances were not accurately given during the assessment.

» The offender can’t comply with a condition of the DTO.

» The offender has had a major change of circumstances since the DTO was made.

» The offender is not willing to fully comply with the DTO.

» Continuing the DTO isn’t likely to achieve its purpose.

» The offender has fully or mostly completed the DTO and is rewarded be ending it.

County Court Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court

The County Court also now has a division dedicated to sentencing offenders with drug and alcohol dependencies who have committed associated offences. This court began operating in 2022 and deals with offences that are not sexual and do not involve the infliction of bodily harm.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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