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What is Drug Court?

In North Carolina, there are many programs to help those who suffer from addiction issues. If you suffer from an addiction, you might have been to a treatment center or gotten involved in community programs to find help. However, if you didn’t find relief from your substance abuse disorder, you could face drug charges and, eventually, drug court. Going to a drug court may sound daunting, but it may help you legally. Let’s look at why you might end up in drug court and what may happen there. 

What is Drug Court?

Adult Drug Treatment Court (DTC) works with non-violent, repeat offenders facing jail or prison time. DTC uses a team of court and community professionals to help ensure that those addicted to drugs or alcohol receive intensive treatment to become 

  • Healthy 
  • Law-abiding
  • Productive family and community members 

If you desire to be a part of the adult drug treatment court, you must have a diagnosis as chemically dependent or documented borderline chemically dependent under the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory III (SASS-3)

The inventory asks questions about your drug use, but also other questions unrelated to addiction issues. The test can identify individuals with alcohol and other drug problems, often even those who don’t believe they have a problem.

Usually, you are eligible for drug court if you suffer from a substance abuse disorder and are charged with a:

  • Class H or I felony and 
  • Intermediate penalty such as active sentencing to prison

The local county court often has its eligibility criteria in addition. (1)

Drug Court Can Help

If counselors or other medical professionals diagnose you with a substance abuse disorder and you attend drug court, you may benefit legally. In drug court, it is possible to receive treatment interventions instead of active jail time. 

The professionals who gather data about your addiction issues present their findings to the court, and the judge makes a ruling for your future. Possible programs or probationary measures the judge may mandate include:

  • Diversion programs
  • 12-step programs 
  • Group therapy or counseling sessions
  • Substance abuse education classes
  • Inpatient or Outpatient Rehab
  • Random drug testing
  • DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (RRP)

Why Is There a Drug Court?

While many individuals go to treatment centers or rehab to find help, many who try a rehab program drop out in the first few months. The data shows that individuals with substance abuse disorder need more than a quick fix rehab to maintain their sobriety.

Drug court is an effort by the state to help those with addictions to find help and stability within their community rather than facing punitive measures like prison time. The focus by the state is now on Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC). 

ROSC shifts the primary focus from getting people into treatment to promoting a lifetime process of recovery with:

  • Improved health, wellness, and quality of life
  • Ongoing treatment
  • Networks of services and supports
  • Programs that build on relationships with other resilient individuals, families, and communities 

The state of North Carolina believes that “access to quality treatment is critical, but so is having good relationships with family or friends, having a job, having a place to live and being around people in recovery.” (2)

North Carolina designed the drug court, in part, to reduce:

  • Alcoholism 
  • Drug dependency
  • Recidivism
  • Drug-related court workload

Drug Tests After Drug Court

Policies differ according to the county and the probation officer. Often a requirement of passing your program is taking mandated unannounced drug tests. If you’re wondering how to pass the first one, probation and parole officers generally give a free pass on the first drug test during intake. 

They generally understand that you may have an ongoing addiction and that many drugs are already in your system. If they used your first drug test against you, the programs would not work, and individuals with addiction would no longer be eligible for help.

If you are attending treatment and education classes for DWI/DUI or for failing a drug test, realize that your probation officer expects you to work the program you are in. If you are willing to make changes and go to your program offerings, your chances at completing your program goes up.

Attending the classes or therapy sessions and showing that you are working to grow and change can help you avoid jail, regain your driver’s license, or get a job again. 

Bottom Line

While drug court may help you realize that you struggle with a substance abuse disorder and get you started making changes, ultimately, your life direction is your choice. The courts cannot mandate you into a state of recovery. You have to decide where your life goes from here and how to find help when you need it. 

However, a drug court can help you avoid active jail time if you have a substance abuse disorder.

We Can Help

At Scharff Law, we work extensively with drug courts and understand the procedures and criteria they look at. We know what is at stake for you when facing criminal charges along with drug charges. We want to walk you through each step to finding your best outcome. No matter if you received a DWI, drug possession, prescription med charges, or trafficking, we investigate your case fully and work with prosecutors and the court to find the best route for you. Our goal is protecting your rights and your best interests. Contact us today and find out how we can help.


  1. Adult Drug Treatment Court | North Carolina Judicial Branch 
  2. NC DHHS: Substance Abuse