A drug conviction in the state of Colorado can result in thousands of dollars in fines, incarceration in a correctional facility, and a permanent criminal record. Any Colorado drug conviction will damage the offender’s ability to find work and even to find housing in the future. These are consequences that can permanently impact someone’s life. Anyone who is accused of any drug crime in the state of Colorado will need to contact an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney.

The Denver District Attorney’s Drug Unit – consisting of five attorneys and an investigator – works closely with the Denver Police Department and the Denver Drug Court. The Drug Unit aggressively prosecutes and closely supervises drug offenders. Many drug offenders may be eligible for Denver’s Drug Court, a special court that works with the Drug Unit to help offenders deal their individual substance abuse problems.

Drug courts are specialized court programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems. In 2015, the National Institute of Justice estimated that more than 3,000 drug courts were operating in various jurisdictions across the United States. The majority of the nation’s drug courts target adults, but a growing number of drug court programs are also now aimed at juveniles.

WHO QUALIFIES FOR THE DENVER DRUG COURT PROGRAM?

The Denver District Attorney’s Drug Unit assesses the felony drug arrests of adults in the City and County of Denver within 2 days of the arrest. The Drug Unit first decides if charges should be filed, and if so, precisely which charges. If the suspect is a first-time offender accused of possessing a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use, the suspect may be eligible for Drug Court. What disqualifies a suspect from participation in Drug Court?:

• a prior conviction for any act instrumental in causing serious bodily injury or death
• a prior conviction for any felony violation involving the possession, use, or threat to use a deadly weapon
• a previous conviction for any criminal offense based on or involving a sex crime
• a charge of possessing over 25 grams of a controlled substance with the intent to sell
• a history of violent behavior demonstrating unsuitability for Drug Court
• residing outside of the Denver metro area
• being currently on parole

The Denver District Attorney’s office has complete discretion to exclude any offender from participation in Drug Court and may also recommend for participation suspects who would otherwise be excluded. If a defendant is accepted for Drug Court, a hearing is conducted before a Drug Court Magistrate, and the defendant has the opportunity to plead guilty and receive sentencing.

Subsequent to Drug Court sentencing, felony offenders are supervised by the Denver District Court Probation Department and misdemeanor offenders are supervised by the Denver County Court Probation Department. If the offender is in custody at the time of his or her sentencing, the Drug Court Magistrate will order and schedule the offender’s release from custody to probation the next day.

WHAT DOES DRUG COURT REQUIRE?

Upon conviction, every offender who is a participant in the Denver Drug Court Program must complete supervision in three phases. When the three phases have been successfully completed, a convicted offender then graduates from the Drug Court Program. Those who fail to complete all three phases of the Drug Court Program may have their probation revoked and suffer additional penalties.

Phase One of the Drug Court Program includes eight to ten urine screens a month; participation in a treatment program; appearances in Drug Court for review hearings; and meetings with a probation officer as scheduled. Phase Two includes four to five urine screens a month; participation in a treatment program; appearances in Drug Court for review hearings; community service hours; and continuing compliance with the terms and conditions of probation.

Phase Three of the Drug Court Program includes a urine screen two to three times a month; appearances in Drug Court for review hearings; continuing compliance with the terms and conditions of probation; completion of a treatment program; completion of community service hours; and finally, graduation from the Drug Court Program. Graduates of the program are required to meet with a probation officer regarding their post-graduation obligations.

WHAT HAPPENS AT DRUG COURT REVIEW HEARINGS?

Drug Court participants can be assured that urine screening results and in-court admissions of their alcohol and drug use will be used by the Denver District Attorney’s Office only in the Drug Court case and will not be used by the District Attorney’s Office to file new charges in the future. The Drug Court Program provides frequent judicial contact – review hearings – for each participant.

At each hearing, the Drug Court Magistrate receives a report regarding the offender’s progress, and the magistrate may impose rewards for compliance and progress or penalties for noncompliance and lack of progress. These penalties may include but are not limited to reprimands or warnings, suspension of travel privileges, increased community service hours, additional urine screenings, and/or home detention.

If you are accused of a drug crime in the state of Colorado – whether the charge is international drug trafficking or the possession of a small amount for personal use – politely insist on having a lawyer present during any interrogation and politely exercise your right to remain silent. Do not try to act as your own lawyer. Instead, you will need to consult a Denver criminal defense attorney with considerable experience in Colorado drug cases who can fight aggressively on your behalf.

According to Wikipedia, drug court is historically the single most successful intervention tool for leading people who struggle with serious addictions out of the criminal court system and into recovery and long-term health. In fact, drug courts refer more people to treatment than any other intervention in America, and the people who are referred are more successful in treatment than any other group.

Drug courts work to reunite families, repair lives, and reduce drug abuse and crime, and to do it all for far fewer tax dollars than jails and prisons. If you are charged with a drug crime, and you are innocent, your attorney will fight aggressively for your acquittal. But if you are charged with a first-offense drug crime in the Denver area and you’re guilty, it’s possible that Drug Court may just be the right option for you.

By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.