Question: Are there alternative or therapeutic courts available in Maryland?
Answer: It’s done county by county. Anne Arundel County has a DUI court, Howard County has a DUI and drug court; there are other jurisdictions that are testing out this idea. I do find it extremely beneficial to people who have a true issue with alcohol or drugs. The issue with these drug courts and DUI courts are, it’s sort of extra probation. I mean, it is very intensive—you have to show up multiple times, they will not allow you into the program unless you have no violence on your record, and you need to have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, whether a couple DUIs or a couple drug possessions, that kind of thing.
Where it’s beneficial is that it’s treating alcoholism and drug use and drug addiction as a disease, as opposed to just throwing somebody in jail. Whereas if somebody’s just on probation for a DUI or drug offense and they fall off the wagon, instead of just throwing away the key and putting them in jail for the remainder of whatever jail sentence was suspended, they really, the judge and the DUI court tests them constantly and the drug court tests them constantly—they have a positive test, instead of just putting them in jail as would happen if they were on probation, the judge has the option to do additional punishments, whether it be more community service or, say, a weekend in jail, and they can continue in the program until they’ve proven that they can’t pass the program.
I’ve seen many individuals from my days as a public defender go into the drug and DUI court and be successful graduates. So I do think that it is worth community resources to put money into these drug courts and DUI courts, because a drug addict doesn’t want to be a drug addict. If they are truly ready to get clean or if an alcoholic is ready to be clean, I think we need to give them every possible resource to do so.