Comprehensive Guide to Navigating the Hillsborough County Drug Court Program

The Hillsborough County, Florida Drug Court is a voluntary program that is designed to take non-violent drug offenders out of the criminal justice system and place them into drug treatment.  The goal is to get non-violent drug offenders the help they need to kick their drug habit.

The Florida Statutes set out the rules concerning Florida Drug Courts.

In Hillsborough County, Florida, drug court is called Drug Pretrial Intervention (also known as DPTI). If a Defendant is accepted into the Hillsborough County DPTI program, their drug case is removed from prosecution, and the Defendant is given the opportunity to complete the requirements of the program.  If the Defendant completes the DPTI program, the State will drop the charges against them.

Who is Eligible to Participate in Hillsborough County, Florida Drug Court?

A Defendant must meet the following Florida drug court requirements in order to participate in the Hillsborough County DPTI program:

  • The Defendant must be at least 18 years old.
  • The Defendant must be charged with drug possession or similar offense.
  • The Defendant cannot be charged with drug sale or delivery.
  • The Defendant cannot have had a prior felony.
  • The Defendant cannot have already participated in DPTI program.
  • The Defendant must waive his or her right to a speedy trial.
  • The Defendant must admit to having a drug problem.
  • The Defendant must express a desire for drug treatment.

How Long Does the Hillsborough County Florida Drug Court Last?

The Hillsborough County Drug Court program (also known as DPTI), lasts at least one year. Depending on the progress of the Defendant, it can last longer.

What are the Requirements to Complete Florida Drug Court?

The Florida drug court rules states that the type of treatment that a Defendant receives in DPTI depends on the extent of their drug problem.  At the start of the DPTI process, the Defendant will attend an assessment session with a substance abuse expert.  The drug court will use that assessment to structure an appropriate treatment plan.  Treatment may involve group and individual substance counseling, urine screens, AA or NA meetings, and acupuncture.  Some defendants may require a period of residential treatment in which they live at a treatment center for a specified period of time.

What are the advantages of the Hillsborough County Florida Drug Court Program?

The big advantage for a Defendant that completes the Hillsborough County Florida Drug Court Program is that the case will get dropped.  Therefore, the person won’t have a conviction.  Additionally, given that the case did not result in any conviction, the Defendant may be able to expunge the record of the arrest that leads to the drug charge.

What are the Disadvantages of the Hillsborough County Florida Drug Court Program?

However, there are disadvantages to participating in the Hillsborough County DPTI program.

First, a Defendant that elects to participate in the DPTI program gives up his or her right to fight the case.  Sometimes, a Defendant may have a good chance to get a case dismissed because of a Miranda violation or an illegal police search or seizure.  However, if the Defendant elects to enter DPTI, they lose the chance to file a motion to suppress evidence and get the case dismissed through litigation.

Second, the DPTI program is not an easy program to complete.  It requires time, effort, and a sincere commitment to stop using drugs.  There are some people who don’t have the time to complete the program’s requirements, or the necessary commitment to complete the program.

Third, when a person enters the DPTI program, they are agreeing that the judge can give them up to six months of jail time for failing to comply with the program’s requirements.  If for whatever reason a person continues to test positive for controlled substances, a judge can order to person to remain in jail for weeks or months until a residential drug program becomes available.

When investigating DUI cases, police sometimes use urine tests to check for the presence of cannabis in a driver's body
If a person in the  Hillsborough County DPTI program continues to test positive for controlled substances, a judge can order the person to remain in jail for weeks or months until a residential drug program becomes available.

Therefore, before agreeing to enter the DPTI program, a Defendant should discuss with her or her criminal defense attorney whether or not the DPTI program is the best option.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help a Defendant in the Hillsborough County Florida Drug Court Program?

An experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney can help a Defendant through the Hillsborough County DPTI program in a variety of ways.

First, a Tampa criminal defense attorney may be able to help a Defendant qualify for the DPTI program.  For example, sometimes a Tampa Police Officer or a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy may arrest a person and charge them with possession of a drug with intent to sell or deliver. Since a Defendant accused of selling drugs is not eligible for DPTI, an experienced criminal defense lawyer should contact the State Attorney’s Office and make the argument that while the Defendant possessed the drugs in question, he or she never had the intent to sell or deliver the drugs.  If the prosecutor agrees, then DPTI may still be an option for the Defendant to explore.

Second, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer can guide a Defendant through the initial assessment of whether or not DPTI is a good option for them.  For example, in some cases, the State’s case may be so weak, that it’s better to litigate the case in court rather then entering the DPTI program.  Only by consulting with a skilled Tampa criminal defense attorney will you know whether or not DPTI is the best route to take.

Third, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer can guide a Defendant through the DPTI program itself.  Frequently, there are issues that come up during the program that may require a defense attorney’s intervention and assistance.

Fourth, a Tampa criminal defense attorney can serve as a bridge between the Defendant and the other parties in the program, including the prosecutor, the substance abuse treatment providers, the Florida Department of Corrections, and the Judge.   Clear communications between all parties involved can avoid any misunderstandings or miscommunications that could land a drug court Defendant in jail.

Are you looking for an Attorney to help you through the Hillsborough County Florida, Drug Court program?

Criminal Defense Attorney
Nationally and Florida Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney David C. Hardy is a former Tampa prosecutor that has extensive experience handling Tampa drug court cases.

Tampa criminal defense attorney David C. Hardy is a former prosecutor that now represents persons accused of drug crimes. He is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law.  He has extensive experience handling Hillsborough County Drug Court Cases. Contact David Hardy today!

Posted in Florida Criminal Defense