When the police arrest you for a drug-related offense, the Washington courts will typically arraign you for a criminal charge. You may face incarceration and the prospect of a lifelong criminal record holding you back from opportunities if convicted for that drug offense. Thankfully, there may be an alternative option.

Nonviolent drug offenders clog up the criminal justice system and consume a huge amount of court time in Washington. Despite numerous changes to drug laws in recent years, drug offenses are still some of the most common criminal charges in the state.

Those accused of certain drug offenses who acknowledge that addiction led to their criminal activity might qualify for proceedings in the drug courts instead of in the standard criminal courts. Going through drug court can be a harm-reduction option for those already facing charges.

What are the drug courts?

The drug courts are a kind of specialty treatment court that operate in Washington. There are adult and juvenile drug courts, as well as family treatment courts. The focus of these unique courts is to help those accused of crimes seek treatment and support.

Rather than just punishing those accused of an offense, the drug courts try to help them avoid future criminal activity by addressing their addiction. Typically, a defendant going through drug court will have to work closely with a judge and other court professionals to address their addiction.

How does drug court work in Washington?

If you qualify for proceedings in the adult drug treatment courts, you can avoid a standard criminal trial. The courts will order treatment for the addiction issues that led to the criminal charges. The defendant will likely have to submit to random drug screenings in addition to routinely attending courts to talk about their progress.

If someone successfully completes all of the requirements set by the drug courts, they can avoid a conviction and criminal record. For those hoping to build a professional career or attend college, avoiding a conviction could help them achieve their long-term goals. For those otherwise unable to connect with treatment resources, the drug courts could help them overcome their addiction and move on with their lives.

Knowing the different ways to handle pending drug charges can help you make good decisions before you go to court.