The Victorian Drug Court
The Victorian Drug court is based at the Dandenong Magistrates Court, and was established to provide sentencing and supervision of the treatment of those with a drug and alcohol problem, who have committed an offence. It is an alternative to the normal penalties that may be imposed by legislation for the particular offence you have committed.
What is the Eligibility of the Drug Court?
To be eligible for your matter to be heard in the Drug Court you must meet the following criteria: you must live within a certain postcode, your matter must be able to be heard in the Magistrates Court, you must plead guilty, you must not be subjected to a parole order or current treatment order, the offence cannot be one of a sexual nature or involving bodily harm, and that the court is satisfied that you are dependant on drugs or alcohol and that this dependency contributed to you committing the crime.
What is the process of the Drug Court?
If you want your matter heard in the Drug Court, you will need to participate in a screening process. This involves a court officer assessing your suitability to participate in a Drug Treatment Order and to identify areas where immediate intervention may be required. The process takes about an hour after which the Drug Court Magistrate will review the report and if unsuitable you may be referred back to the Magistrates Court for sentencing. If you are suitable for your matter to be dealt with by the Drug Court you will need to undertake two separate assessments. The first being a case management assessment: This looks at your criminal history and past convictions and penalties, your family and social history, and your housing situation. The second is a clinical assessment: This considers your drug and alcohol history, your behavioural indicators, your treatment history, current health status, and your motivation to change. These two assessments will be used to determine a suitable treatment program and will formulate the basis of the Drug Treatment Order.
What is the Drug Treatment Order?
The Drug Court can sentence an offender to a Drug Treatment Order (DTO) for two years. This is an Order given by the Drug Court Magistrate instead of the normal penalties and sentencing legislated for the type of offence you have committed. After the Order is imposed you will be given a Review Hearing date in which the Magistrate will review your participation in the drug programs, whether you have re-offended during this time, and whether the Order needs to be varied to either increase or decrease supervision and participation. The Magistrate can also order that you have successfully completed the program if they feel you have met all of the requirements of your Drug Treatment Order. The Orders cannot last longer than two years, but during this time if you are not complying, the Magistrate can cancel the Order and you may need to serve the remainder of your sentence in prison.
What type of treatment and supervision will I need to undergo?
There are two treatment and supervision components to the DTO, which are the core conditions and the program conditions. The core conditions are common to everyone participating in the program and provide that no further offences are committed within Australia, attend the Drug Court when required, report to a Community Corrections Centre within two days after the DTO is made, report to and accept visits from a Drug Court team or Corrections Officer, undergo treatment as specified in the DTO, give notice of any change of address, not leave Victoria without permission, and obey all instructions given by the Drug Court of Corrections Officer. The program conditions will vary according to your situation and may include drug or alcohol testing, submit to detoxification, attend education programs, submit to medical or psychiatric treatment, not associate with specified persons, and reside at a specified place. These conditions can be varied at the Review Hearings depending on how your treatment is progressing.