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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

Todd Spodek is a second generation attorney with immense experience. He has many years of experience handling 100’s of tough and hard to win trials. He’s been featured on major news outlets, such as New York Post, Newsweek, Fox 5 New York, South China Morning Post, Insider.com, and many others.

In 2022, Netflix released a series about one of Todd’s clients: Anna Delvey/Anna Sorokin.

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How Do Drug Courts Work in New York City? The Process Explained

How Do Drug Courts Work in New York City? The Process Explained

Drug courts in New York City are specialized courts that focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment for nonviolent drug offenders. The goal of drug courts is to help offenders overcome their substance abuse issues and lead productive lives free of crime.

Overview of the Drug Court Process

The drug court process generally involves the following key steps, according to the New York State Unified Court System:

  • Arrest and Arraignment: Offenders are identified as potential candidates for drug court at the time of their arraignment. The district attorney, defense attorney, and judge will review the case to determine eligibility.
  • Clinical Assessment: If deemed eligible, the offender will undergo a clinical assessment to evaluate their substance abuse history and treatment needs. The findings help guide an appropriate treatment plan.
  • Status Hearings: Offenders appear before the drug court judge regularly for status hearings to review their progress in treatment, discuss any sanctions or rewards, and receive encouragement and guidance. Frequency of hearings depends on their phase in the program.
  • Phases of Treatment: New York City drug courts have 3-4 phases of substance abuse treatment, typically lasting 12-18 months total. Progression depends on meeting treatment goals and remaining drug-free.
  • Graduation: Upon completing all phases, remaining clean and sober, obtaining employment, and meeting all drug court requirements, offenders “graduate” and have their charges dismissed or receive a reduced sentence.

Eligibility Criteria for Drug Courts

According to the Center for Court Innovation, to be eligible for drug court in New York City, the offender must meet certain legal and clinical criteria:Legal Criteria

  • Nonviolent felony or misdemeanor drug possession or sale charge
  • No major drug trafficking or violent offense history
  • No outstanding warrants or detainers

Clinical Criteria

  • Diagnosis of substance abuse disorder
  • Moderate to severe addiction level
  • Motivated for treatment and change

The district attorney ultimately decides eligibility on a case-by-case basis. They tend to allow first-time or low-level drug offenders. Repeat, high-level, or violent offenders are often excluded.

The Drug Court Team

New York City drug courts utilize a collaborative “drug court team” approach:

  • Judge: Leads status hearings, monitors progress, issues sanctions and rewards. Often the same judge oversees a case from start to finish.
  • Prosecutors: Determine legal eligibility and help develop treatment plans. Can file charges if participants fail out of the program.
  • Defense Attorneys: Advise clients on their legal options and rights regarding drug court. Ensure fair legal treatment.
  • Case Managers: Coordinate treatment services, meet with participants regularly, and give progress reports.
  • Treatment Providers: Assess treatment needs, provide clinical services, and supply updates to the team.

This multi-disciplinary team works together to provide accountability while supporting each participant’s recovery.

Treatment Phases in Drug Court

Drug courts in NYC have several treatment phases participants must complete. Requirements vary slightly by borough. A typical 3-phase model includes:

Phase 1

  • Attend court hearings 1-2 times per week
  • Receive intensive inpatient or outpatient treatment
  • Meet with case manager and probation officer weekly
  • Submit to frequent random drug testing
  • Find a sponsor and attend support group meetings
  • Comply with curfews or geographic restrictions
  • Develop career or educational goals

Phase 2

  • Attend court hearings every 2 weeks
  • Continue outpatient treatment
  • Meet with case manager and probation officer bi-weekly
  • Submit to random drug testing 2-3 times per week
  • Actively seek employment or continue education
  • Transition to independent sober housing

Phase 3

  • Attend court hearings every 4 weeks
  • Complete any remaining treatment
  • Meet with support team monthly
  • Submit to random drug testing weekly
  • Maintain employment or continue education
  • Establish prosocial activities and positive peer groups
  • Pay any outstanding fines or fees

By meeting all requirements and remaining drug-free, participants “graduate” from the program.

Benefits of Completing Drug Court

The benefits of successfully completing drug court include:

  • Dismissed Charges: For misdemeanors and some felonies, charges are dismissed and removed from the participant’s record.
  • Reduced or No Jail Time: Sentencing to incarceration is either greatly reduced or waived completely.
  • Saved Money: By staying out of jail, participants can keep their housing, employment, healthcare, and avoid costs of incarceration.
  • Family Reunification: Maintaining sobriety and meeting program goals enables reunification with children and custody rights.
  • Peer Support: Participants build positive peer networks and community connections that support their recovery process.
  • Life Skills: Participants receive vocational training, financial counseling, parenting classes, and other services to help their rehabilitation.

However, failure to meet drug court requirements leads to termination from the program and conviction on the original charges.

Criticisms and Challenges of Drug Courts

While drug courts have demonstrated effectiveness and enjoy general public support, they also face some criticisms and challenges including:

  • Net Widening: Some research suggests drug courts pull in offenders who would have otherwise avoided incarceration altogether .
  • Disparities: Studies show participation and success rates vary across demographics, with lower rates among minorities and women .
  • High Failure Rates: Estimates indicate only 50% of participants nationwide graduate from drug court . Failure to complete the program results in harsher punishment.
  • Lack of Privacy: Critics argue frequent court appearances and random drug testing is unnecessarily invasive and undermines civil liberties.
  • Resource Challenges: Drug courts rely heavily on funds for treatment services, case management, and drug testing capabilities. Budget limitations can hinder operations.

Despite these concerns, however, most research concludes that drug courts yield overall positive results for offenders and communities when implemented properly.

Finding a Drug Court Attorney in New York City

If you or a loved one is considering drug court in NYC, speaking with an experienced drug court lawyer is highly advisable to understand the legal process and potential outcomes. When researching attorneys, look for the following credentials and experience:

  • Knowledge of Local Drug Courts: Find someone familiar with the specific drug courts in NYC and their policies and procedures.
  • Defense Experience: An attorney with a proven background defending drug cases and mitigating sentences will best advise on options.
  • Resources and Connections: Look for an attorney affiliated with local treatment providers, case workers, and other drug court staff.
  • Supportive Approach: The right lawyer will believe in the drug court model and actively encourage their clients to participate and graduate.

The following are some recommended drug court lawyers serving the various boroughs of New York City:


New York City’s drug courts aim to help substance addicted offenders by providing supervised treatment and community support services. The process involves intensive rehabilitation programming overseen by a collaborative court team. Graduates can achieve dismissed charges, reduced sentencing, family reunification, peer support networks, and life skills to build a productive drug-free future. Defense lawyers play a crucial role informing and encouraging eligible defendants to participate. With hard work and perseverance, drug courts offer many a chance at redemption.


Infographic overview of how NYC drug courts function

Drug Court Participant Video Interviews

FindLaw guide on drug courts and diversion programs

Avvo article on avoiding jail time with drug court

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I was searching for a law firm with some power to help me deal with a warrant in New York . After 6 days I decided to go with Spodek Law Group. It helped that This law firm is well respected by not only the top law firms in New York , but the DA , Judge as well. I...

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