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Drug Court

If you’ve been charged with a drug offence, and you have a history of drug use, you might want to consider the Drug Court Program. Participation in the program may even increase your chances of getting a more lenient penalty.

The Drug Court Program is a special court that’s based in Parramatta, Sydney and Toronto on the Central Coast. It aims to help people who have been affected by drug addiction to break the cycle and get on with their lives so that they don’t reoffend.

If you’re looking for a way to break your drug habits and stop your offending, the Drug Court is a program that can give you the support you need to get clean and move forward with your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which courts can refer cases to the Drug Court?

The Drug Court accepts referrals from Local Courts at Bankstown, Belmont, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Central, Cessnock, Downing Centre in Sydney, Fairfield, Kurri Kurri, Liverpool, Maitland, Mount Druitt, Newcastle, Newtown, Parramatta, Penrith, Raymond Terrace, Toronto, Waverly and Windsor.

It also takes referrals from District Courts and Campbelltown, East Maitland, Newcastle, Parramatta, Penrith and the Downing Centre in Sydney.

What is the Drug Court ballot?

The number of participants for the Drug Court program is limited and, due to the high volume of applicants, ballots are held every Monday at Hunter Drug Court and every Thursday at Parramatta and Sydney Drug Court whereby participants are selected electronically from the pool of applicants.

Applicants can only be placed in the next upcoming ballot – applications do not carry over into future ballots.

This means an applicant who is not selected in the ballot must reapply for future ones.

The results of the ballot are sent to the referring court on the day of the ballot.

How many places are available in the Drug Court program?

There is no set number of places available in the Drug Court program.

Rather, the number of availabilities are determined each week by the Senior Judge in consultation with the court team, taking into consideration the number of participants engaged in the program at that time and the resources available to effect the program.

What details are referred to the Drug Court?

Referring courts are required to provide the following information to the Drug Court in order for the application to be considered in the ballot:

  • The date of nomination for the ballot,
  • The applicant’s first and last name,
  • The applicant’s gender,
  • The central names index (CNI) number for the applicant,
  • The applicant’s date of birth,
  • The applicant’s last known residential address,
  • The applicant’s Aboriginal / Torres Strait Islander status,
  • The charge number/s for the alleged offence/s (or ‘H number), and
  • The referring court and contact name.

The CNI and H numbers are normally entered at the top right of a defendant’s court attendance notice.

Who is eligible for the Drug Court program?

To be eligible for the Drug Court program, an applicant must:

  • Be 18 years of age or over,
  • Be willing to participate,
  • Be dependent on prohibited drugs,
  • Have indicated a plea of guilty,
  • Be highly likely to be sentenced to fulltime imprisonment if convicted,
  • Live in the Local Government Areas of Canterbury-Bankstown, City of Blacktown, City of Campbelltown, City of Cessnock, City of Fairfield, City of Hawkesbury, City of Lake Macquarie, City of Liverpool, City of Maitland, City of Newcastle, City of Parramatta, City of Penrith, City of Sydney, Cumberland, Port Stephens, The Hills Shire;
  • Be referred by the Local Court at Bankstown, Belmont, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Central, Cessnock, Downing Centre, Fairfield, Kurri Kurri, Liverpool, Maitland, Mount Druitt, Newcastle, Newtown, Parramatta, Penrith, Raymond Terrace, Toronto, Waverly and Windsor, or the District Court at Campbelltown, Parramatta, Penrith, East Maitland, Newcastle or Sydney.

In addition to these requirements, the applicant must not:

  • Be charged with an offence involving violent conduct,
  • Be charged with a sexual offence,
  • Be an offence punishable under Division 2 Part 2 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985, which are more serious types of drug offences,
  • Be suffering from a mental condition that could prevent or restrict his or her ability to participate in the program.

What does the Drug Court program involve?

There is no set program which applies to participants in Drug Court program.

Rather, each person’s program is tailored to their particular situation and needs, with the primary objective of addressing dependance issues that contributed to his or her offending conduct.

Justice Health will provide a preliminary health assessment to each participant, following this up with further investigations.

Each participant will, however, need to go through the assessment and detoxification stages –  during which the treatment program is formulated and prescribed.

A particular program will include abstinence and may involve methadone and/or buprenorphine treatment, either in the community or residentially (ie full time at a treatment facility).

The initial assessment will normally take around two weeks, involving health reviews by Justice Health and/or bodies from the relevant health district.

The participant will normally appear before the Drug Court after the assessment stage to formally enter his or her pleas of guilty, receive the sentence and undertake to comply with the specific program conditions.

The participant will then be formally remanded in custody for detoxification at the Drug Court Unit, which is annexed to the main clinic of the Silverwater Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre (the MRRC).

The Unit is separate from where other inmates are held at the MRRC.

Following this, the participant will formally commence their plan forward – which can involve being out of custody and undertaking counselling and treatment requirements externally.

What sort of monitoring and compliance is involved?

Participants in the Drug Court Program are closely monitored by the Drug Court Team.

The Team meets before court each day to receive reports from treatment providers and Community Correction Officers to discuss the compliance of each participant.

The Team is made up of:

  • The Judge,
  • A solicitor from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions,
  • A Police Prosecutor,
  • A Clinical Nurse Consultant,
  • Solicitors from the Legal Aid Commission,
  • A Coordinator from Community Corrections, and
  • A Registrar of the Court.

What are the rewards and potential punishments?

Participants in the Drug Court program who demonstrate a satisfactory level of participation can be rewarded in a range of ways, including:

  • Being allowed to seek and take part in employment,
  • Reducing the frequency of counselling or other treatment,
  • Reducing the level of supervision,
  • Reducing the frequency of drug testing, and/or
  • Changing the nature of vocational services under the plan, or reducing the frequency of required attendance.

Those whose participation is considered to be unsatisfactory may, on the other hand:

  • Have any employment liberties revoked,
  • Have the frequency of counselling, treatment, supervision or drug testing increased, and/or
  • Be remanded in custody for up to 14 days.

The most serious punishment is termination from the program altogether.

How long does the Drug Court program last?

The Drug Court program lasts for at least 12 months, unless it is terminated earlier.

When is a program terminated or declared to be completed?

A person’s participation with the Drug Court program may be terminated in unfavourable circumstances, including:

  • Where the person applies to have it terminated, or
  • Where the court decides that further participation poses an unacceptable risk to the community of further offending.

In these situations, the court’s initial sentence will normally be imposed as the final sentence.

This will normally be a sentence of full time imprisonment.

By contrast, termination may occur in favourable circumstances, including:

  • Where the court decides that the person has substantially complied with the program, or
  • Where court decides that a person is unlikely to make further progress in the program.

In these situations, the court may set aside the original sentence and impose another penalty – which is usually a non-custodial sentence.

Those who successfully complete the program will be awarded a certificate of completion and achievement.

What are the benefits of completing the Drug Court program?

Successful completion of the Drug Court program will normally result in the original sentence being set aside and a different penalty imposed.

The penalty for those who complete the program to a satisfactory standard is normally a non-custodial sentence – in other words, something other than a prison sentence.

Can I appeal a decision of the Drug Court?

There is no right of appeal against:

  • A decision to refuse entry into the Drug Court program,
  • The initial sentence imposed by the Drug Court, or
  • Any decision made regarding the imposition of conditions, awards or sanctions.

However, there is a right of appeal against the Drug Court’s final sentence – whether or not this follows an unfavourable termination or successful completion of the program.

Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?

Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with. Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:

  1. Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results

    Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.

    Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.

    Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.

    We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.

    Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.

  2. Highest Level of Client Satisfaction

    We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.

    Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.

    We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.

    We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.

  3. Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm

    We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.

    The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.

  4. Fixed Fees

    We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.

    We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.

    Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.

  5. Free First Appointment

    For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.

    We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.

  6. Specialist Lawyer Guarantee

    We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court.

    This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.

  7. All NSW Courts

    From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.

    And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.

  8. Accredited Specialists

    Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.

    All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.

    An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.

    Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.

    Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.

  9. Results-Focused Law Firm

    Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.

    The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’.

    Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.

    No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.

    The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.

  10. Team of Lawyers Behind You

    Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide.

    Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes.

    A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.

    In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.

  11. Familiar with Magistrates and Judges

    Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state.

    Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.

  12. Convenience

    We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:

    • the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
    • Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
    • Parramatta, near the justice precinct.

    We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD and Liverpool locations, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.

    For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.

    If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at info@sydneycriminallawyers.com.au.

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