March 24, 2023
Drug Court

Drug Court Philosophy

The San Mateo County Drug Court addresses the needs of nonviolent, diversion-eligible defendants. This specialized court includes a courtroom-based team approach with a strong judicial leadership role in the processing and treatment of drug cases. By relaxing their traditional adversarial roles, Drug Court officials work as a team. With the Judge acting as team leader, probation officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, jail classification officers, the Bar Association Own Recognizance Program staff and treatment professionals work collaboratively to develop a strategy that is in the best interest of both the defendant and society.

What is Drug Court?

Drug Court offers individuals facing criminal charges for drug use and possession an opportunity to enter into a substance abuse recovery program in lieu of straight jail time.

The requirements of drug court are quite strict. The defendants are frequently drug tested and must attend substance abuse recovery meetings and make court appearances regularly. Defendants must also abide by all other rules and laws.

If the participant successfully completes the conditions set by the drug court judge, they "graduate" from Drug Court, and the original charge may be dismissed, reduced (or set aside), a lesser penalty imposed, or a combination of these.

Why have Drug Court?

An enormous proportion of criminal defendants have a substance abuse problem. Most crimes are either directly or indirectly connected to addiction. People with a substance abuse problem require treatment. Drug Courts offer a way to help a defendant recover from addiction and stop related criminal activity.

» Benefits of Drug Court

Who is involved in Drug Court and what do they do?

  • Judge - team leader who is ultimately responsible for making decisions regarding each defendants' participation
  • DA - negotiates disposition of criminal charges and defendant's program conditions
  • Defendant's Attorney (Private Defender Program or Private Bar member) - works with the defendant to ensure that the defendant understands his/her rights
  • Treatment Providers - provide residential and outpatient recovery assistance. Prepare progress reports that are shared with team.
  • Probation - supervise probation or diversion conditions and provide regular reports on the progress of the participants
  • OR/Jail classification - Determines preliminary eligibility of defendants in custody. Describes the program to potential participants. Initially supervise the participants until they are transferred to Probation for formal supervision.
  • Mental health - On occasion, the Access Team from County Mental Health will evaluate participants, especially those on psychotropic medications, in order to assure that they can benefit from the substance abuse recovery programs

» I have been arrested, is Drug Court for me?

More information

For more information, visit these websites:
© 2023 Superior Court of San Mateo County