New York Announces Nation’s First Opiate Court

Many states, including Massachusetts, have specialized drug courts, which aim to provide addiction treatment rather than criminal penalties for drug offenders. However, last month, New York took its drug court system one step further by instituting a highly-specialized opiate court to address the nation’s growing problem with opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions, nationwide. As such, law makers have come to the realization that the problem must be dealt with differently from other crimes, even from other drug crimes. In most cases, opioid addicts need treatment and rehabilitation, not hefty fines and prison time.

On May 1, New York’s Buffalo City Court initiated the opiate intervention program, which will screen anyone arrested in Buffalo for opiate use and put their criminal cases on hold while they are enrolled in an addiction treatment program. In a recent interview, District Attorney John J. Flynn told the Buffalo News, “Jail is not the answer. Will people be held accountable for their crimes? Yes. But they also deserve to be cared for and loved.” A MA defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a drug crime.

Delays Can be Deadly

New York’s new opiate court is different from traditional drug courts in multiple ways. In its standard program, drug users typically don’t begin treatment for 30, 60 or 90 days. In opiate court, treatment begins immediately. When it comes to opiate addicts, a three-month delay can be deadly. So far, the program seems to be a success; 40 of the first 43 people admitted are currently undergoing addiction treatment. New York’s bold move may create sweeping changes in how drug offenses are treated across the country.

The Massachusetts Probation Service, which administers MA’s drug courts, estimates that over 80 percent of the probation population is battling some type of addiction. According to Specialty Courts Administrator Sheila Casey, MA drug court programs generally last between 16 and 24 months. “Drug courts provide highly intensive probation supervision and access to appropriate treatment for substance use disorders to participants who are ’high risk/high need,’” said Casey. “Probationers report on a weekly basis at first with court appearances becoming less frequent as the person progresses through the drug court.“ A Boston defense attorney can help you determine if drug court is an option for you.

Drug Courts Work

Across the country, about 75 percent of individuals who successfully complete drug court remain arrest-free for at least two years following the program.

  • Studies of drug courts reveal that, on average, crime reduction lasts at least three years and can endure for more than 14 years.
  • Reports show that drug courts reduce crime by up to 45 percent more than criminal prosecution.
  • Across the country, taxpayers save up to $3.36 for every $1.00 invested in the drug court system.
  • When other cost offsets such as healthcare are considered, that savings increases to up to $27 per every $1 invested.
  • Per client, drug courts save up to $13,000 in reduced arrest and trial costs, reduced prison costs, and reduced costs related to victimization.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Top Drug Crimes Defense Law Firm

If you have been charged with any type of criminal offense, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of individuals charged with crimes for more than 50 years. When it comes to drug crimes, prison is rarely the best place for an offender. In most cases, rehabilitation is a better solution. Fortunately, MA’s drug courts make this a possibility. With the help of a skilled defense lawyer, you may qualify for an alternative sentencing option; in most cases, this keeps you out of jail and keeps your record clean. Addiction is a disease, and punishment is not the cure. If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, we can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.


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