Magistrates Court - criminal
Who can be part of the Drug Court program?
The Drug Court program is available to drug-dependent offenders who live, or are prepared to live, close to the Beenleigh, Ipswich, Southport, Cairns or Townsville Magistrates Courts.
To be considered for the program, you must:
- be aged 17 or over
- be charged with drug-related offences
- have no outstanding charges for disqualifying offences, such as offences involving sexual or other types of physical violence
- not already be serving a prison term
- be drug-dependent, and able to prove that your dependency influenced your offending behaviour
- be likely to be imprisoned for the offences
- intend to plead guilty to the offences
- be suitable for intensive drug rehabilitation.
What offences qualify for the Drug Court?
Offences that qualify for Drug Court include minor (summary) and more serious criminal (indictable) offences that have come before the Magistrates Court.
Charges relating to prostitution, common assault or resisting arrest will not disqualify you from Drug Court.
How can I be considered for the program?
If you would like to be considered for Drug Court, you should talk to your lawyer and/or the Drug Court community corrections officer in your area.
Once your case goes to a participating Magistrates Court, you will need to tell the magistrate that you are going to plead guilty and ask to be referred for a Drug Court assessment.
Don’t leave it too late to ask for help. You can ask to be referred for assessment at any of your court appearances, but it’s too late once you’ve been sentenced or committed for trial to another court.
What does ‘refer for assessment’ mean?
Refer for assessment means that the magistrate asks for advice on whether you should be offered the chance to participate in an Intensive Drug Rehabilitation Program.
Staff from Queensland Health and Queensland Corrective Services will assess your suitability and explain the terms and conditions of the program.
You will be remanded in custody or placed on bail while the assessment takes place. If you are found to be suitable, a rehabilitation program will be planned as part of your assessment stage.
What happens if I’m assessed as suitable?
If you are assessed as suitable, you will appear for sentencing at the same courthouse where the magistrate referred you for assessment. This time you will appear before a special Drug Court magistrate.
If you plead guilty, the Drug Court magistrate may make an Intensive Drug Rehabilitation Order (IDRO) and place you in a rehabilitation program. The magistrate will supervise your participation until the rehabilitation program is complete.
If the magistrate decides you are not eligible for the IDRO, you will be sentenced as normal.
The Drug Court has placed me under an IDRO, what does this mean?
An Intensive Drug Rehabilitation Order (IDRO) has three parts:
- the suspension of the sentence while you take part in the program
- the conditions of the order
- the rehabilitation program.
Under the conditions of the order you must:
- not commit an offence
- not leave or remain outside Queensland without permission
- notify the court every time you change your address or jobs
- comply with all reasonable directions of your corrective services officer, including directions to appear before the Drug Court magistrate.
The order includes specialist treatment, corrections programs, frequent drug testing and strict court supervision until you meet your program goals. Programs generally last for 12-18 months.
The magistrate may also order that you make restitution, pay compensation and perform community services as part of your rehabilitation.
Who will supervise me?
You will be supervised by a team of professionals from various government agencies including Queensland Police Service, Queensland Health, Queensland Corrective Services and Legal Aid Queensland.
They will continually monitor and review your participation and progress to help you kick your habit, resist drugs, stop committing crime and improve your chances of getting a job.
What happens after I complete the program?
After you complete the program you will return to the court for final sentencing. The final sentence will take into account your participation in the program and any rewards or sanctions that may have been given to you.
What happens if I start the program, but I want to quit before it’s completed?
You can ask the magistrate to end your program at any time. This will result in a termination hearing.
If you ask to be terminated from the program, your original sentence will be replaced with a new and final sentence.
Is Drug Court a ‘soft option’?
No. Drug Court is not a soft option. Offenders accepted for the Drug Court program must undergo intensive rehabilitation for 12-18 months. The length of time depends on the progress made by each individual and the type and extent of his/her drug dependency.
Participants must be willing to take part in all elements of the program, including treatment and courses. They must also obey strict conditions set by the court. Offenders who disobey the court’s conditions risk going to jail.
What does Drug Court achieve?
The court is designed to promote the rehabilitation of eligible offenders and their re-integration into the community and reduce:
- drug dependency in the community
- criminal activity associated with drug dependency
- health risks associated with drug dependency
- pressure on the court, health and prison systems.
Is the Intensive Drug Rehabilitation Order (IDRO) effective and do these programs work?
The IDRO is effective because it combines the resources and skills of officers from several government agencies and appropriate community organisations to help you through the rehabilitation process.
There is strong evidence that these types of programs provide positive outcomes for participants. Independent reports by the Australian Institute of Criminology state that the Drug Court works for those offenders who complete the program.
This research consistently found that offenders who completed the program had low re-offending rates or took longer to re-offend than those people who did not participate.
Who can help me decide if the Drug Court program is right for me?
Before you decide to participate, talk over your options with your lawyer and the Drug Court coordinator in your area.
If you have been referred for assessment, you can ask your lawyer to help you apply for Legal Aid Queensland funding to pay for your next appearance.
The Drug Court program requires hard work and dedication, but will help you learn the skills to become drug-free and crime-free. It will also help you resist drugs in the future, manage anger and improve your chances of employment.
The program is aimed at helping you solve the underlying problems that led to your addiction, improving life for you, your family, and the community.