In an age when it seems that legislatures are constantly increasing punishments, it's good to a see the North Carolina General Assembly take a step toward treatment and rehabilitation.
Raleigh, NC (PRWEB) December 01, 2011
Recent changes to North Carolina law improve the availability of drug treatment programs for people convicted of drug crimes.
Until now, judges had the discretion to offer drug treatment courses, in lieu of a conviction, to people who wished to enter the 90-96 deferral program (N.C.G.S. 90-96). If a judge or District Attorney decided that a defendant was not entitled to enter the program, then the person had no right to enter the program.
But the new law expands the availability of the deferral program, said Raleigh criminal lawyer. As of January 2012, anyone who commits a covered drug related offense in North Carolinaand has no prior felony convictions and no prior drug convictions is eligible for participation in the 90-96 drug deferral program.
"Judges and prosecutors no longer will have discretion over who can participate in the program, so long as the person is eligible under the statute," said Raleigh drug lawyer Damon Chetson.
If a person successfully completes the program by completing the required drug education classes, not testing positive in drug tests, and not committing a new offense during the deferral program, that person would be granted a dismissal of the charge.
"By making the 90-96 program mandatory, the legislature has taken important step in focusing on drug treatment and rehabilitation, rather than punishment," said Raleigh criminal lawyer Damon Chetson. "Not only will this reduce the total cost to the criminal justice system, but it will save potentially thousand of people from tarnished criminal records that can limit their ability to get into college, or get good jobs."
Prosecutors have expressed concerns that the new law will encourage defendants to go to trial in cases where a drug diversion program is mandatory, since if they're convicted, they will automatically be required to participate in a drug deferral program, rather than face a conviction.
"Certainly, there is a chance of increased trials for first time offenders, but given that a trial might be months in the future, most defendants are likely to choose to simply enroll in the program to get the matter finished as quickly as possible," added Mr. Chetson.
Some of the changes to N.C.G.S. 90-96 limit program availability, including a new restriction that limits eligibility by excluding anyone who has previously been convicted of a felony of any kind.
Mr. Chetson, however, lauded the changes to the program.
"In an age when it seems that legislatures are constantly increasing punishments, it's good to a see the North Carolina General Assembly take a step toward treatment and rehabilitation," said Mr. Chetson.
Disclaimer: While The Chetson Firm works hard to achieve the best possible results in every case it handles, no outcome can be guaranteed. Past results do not guarantee future results. Each case is different. If you are facing a criminal investigation or arrest, seek the immediate assistance of a criminal lawyer licensed in your state. The Chetson Firm's lawyers are licensed to practice in the state courts of North Carolina and in the federal courts of the Eastern District of North Carolina.