Drugs Courts Promote Recovery, Offer Second Chances Incarceration Can’t

Since its creation in 1996, the Ohio Drug Court program has expanded from 3 specialty dockets to 112, spanning 54 counties. Last month, Governor Mike DeWine proposed the creation of 30 additional drug courts across the state, especially in those 34 counties that do not have a specialty docket available. According to several surveys completed over the past two decades, specialty dockets like drug courts can reduce the recidivism rate in jails and prisons for repeat drug-related offenses (as well as some other crimes!). Specialty dockets are created within specific trial courts and are certified by the Supreme Court of Ohio. Other specialty dockets include domestic violence, child support enforcement, family dependency, reentry, human trafficking, juvenile, and mental health court.

What is Drug Court?

Under Ohio law, 4th and 5th-degree felony drug offenders who complete a court-approved drug rehabilitation program can receive reduced sentences or probation instead of prison time. Drug courts were established in order to break the cycle of recidivism (the tendency to re-offend or break the law again) by addressing an offender’s drug dependency and overall history instead of just the offender’s actions. Think of drug court as a hybrid model that places equal importance on criminal justice and rehab. Through drug courts, defendants can become patients, where their recovery progress is reviewed and closely monitored by trained professionals. Before entering the treatment program, people must sign confessions that waive their right to defense and due process, but they are able to receive greater access to treatment options in return, where relapses are monitored and can be corrected.

Why Drug Court?

In addition to reducing the rate of repeat crimes, drug courts can also be beneficial to the State in that there are less criminal proceedings in an alcohol or drug-related case, which saves money. Drug courts can also handle more complicated situations than regular dockets by taking into account an offender’s mental health, chemical dependency, and repeat offenses. While some courts have harsh sentencing guidelines with no exceptions, courts that offer specialty dockets like drug courts can work with the defendant and a probation officer to achieve rehabilitation and wellness, not just punishment.

Who Qualifies?

First, a drug court must exist in the county where the defendant will be tried. The charges before the defendant must be a felony offense of the 4th or 5th degree (see Ohio Revised Code § 2925.01). The defendant must be evaluated and diagnosed as having a chemical dependency, or else the defendant must otherwise meet Ohio’s sentencing guidelines for a presumption for probation. Lastly, the defendant must demonstrate sufficient motivation to change through treatment. The judge is the ultimate decision-maker in whether drug court is appropriate for an individual defendant, though defendants can also ask to be moved to the specialty docket.

Where are Ohio’s Drug Courts?

The following counties have 1 or more drug courts: Allen, Ashtabula, Belmont, Butler, Clinton, Columbiana, Coshocton, Cuyahoga, Delaware, Erie, Fairfield, Franklin, Fulton, Gallia, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Highland, Hickman’s, Huron, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Lake, Lawrence, Lickin, Logan, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Marion, Medina, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery, Morrow, Muskingum, Ottawa, Perry, Pike, Portage, Richland, Ross, Sandusky, Scioto, Seneca, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Union, Warren, and Williams.


Participation in, and completion of, a drug court program may result either in dismissal or reduction of some or all charges against you! Contact us now to see if the Equality Ohio Legal Clinic can help! If you or someone you love is in need of addiction treatment and is LGBTQ+, call 1-877-413-8506 any time to find an appropriate treatment center near you.