Lee County Felony Drug Court Program
The Felony Drug Court Program is a court-supervised drug and alcohol treatment program for individuals involved in the criminal justice system with a substance abuse problem. This program is designed to divert cases from the traditional court system while helping participants recover from drug and alcohol addiction, stay in recovery and become productive members of society. The program provides immediate and concentrated treatment, which includes supervision and monitoring by a drug court team, which includes a drug court judge.
The drug court team works with and helps the participant to comply with requirements, but participants must be committed to recovery to be successful in this program. Entry into the program is completely voluntary, but compliance is required while in the program and the participant does not decide to stay or leave the program. This handbook is designed to detail what is expected of a participant and provides a general overview of the program. Participants are encouraged to share this handbook with family and friends.
A potential participant must have a pending non-violent felony charge or be on probation for a non-violent felony charge and have a violation of probation pending. The potential participant must not have a current charge that carries a minimum mandatory sentence. In addition, there could be other factors, at the discretion of the State Attorney's Office, which may preclude entry into the program. The potential participant must also be screened by an addiction specialist indicating the participant is amenable to substance abuse treatment and deemed appropriate for the program.
The State Attorney's Office has the sole discretion to decide which participants will be approved for the Felony Drug Court Program and, when approved, will make an offer depending on the outcome of the score sheet and the treatment needs. If convicted of a drug crime, the driver's license will be suspended for a period of 1 year in accordance with Florida Statute.
Participants who enter the Felony Drug Court Program enter a plea and will be supervised by the Department of Corrections. The participant must sign a Probation Agreement and enter a guilty or no contest plea to the charges, depending upon the plea agreement agreed upon by the participant, counsel and the State Attorney's Office.
The drug court program does require many court appearances before the judge. The drug court team attends each court session to discuss the participant's progress and makes recommendations to the drug court judge. The team consists of representatives from the State Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's office, Pretrial Services, the Department of Corrections, the treatment provider and the drug court judge(s).
During court, the participant and the judge communicate to discuss any problems the participant might be having. If doing well, the participant will be rewarded and encouraged to continue working on his or her treatment plan. If not in compliance, the judge will determine the consequences.
Throughout the program, the participant will be tested for the presence of drugs and alcohol, as drug and alcohol tests are the foundation stones to demonstrating sobriety. The tests may be required at scheduled times, but will usually be random and without warning, and can be required at any time by a drug court team member.
An individualized treatment plan will be developed, which will change from time to time as the participant progresses through the program. Some of the treatment plan may also consist of instructions from the judge, treatment provider, the pretrial officer or probation officer or any other member of the drug court team. The participant will always know exactly what is expected and must do everything required by the treatment plan.
The drug court program views participant fiscal responsibility very seriously and utilizes this as an indicator of the overall health of one’s program of recovery. Therefore all participants are required to pay a monthly drug court fee of $65 to the treatment provider. Investing in one’s own recovery is an important proven participant motivator that helps to ensure one’s program success. It is the participant’s responsibility to pay the fee to avoid getting in arrears. Failure to make consistent regular payments can result in the participant being held back from progressing in the program by not being eligible to phase to the next level. The participant will also be required to pay for an Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) test or lab confirmation with a positive result. Participants may also be ordered to complete random labs at their own expense. In addition, participants must pay a $100 cost of prosecution fee. Participants who plead guilty or nolo contendere to a violation of any provision of Florida Statute 893.13 may be required to pay a $100 fee to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The judge will exempt cost of supervision fees and allow the participant to work off the fine and court costs by doing community service with a credit of $10 for each hour worked. The participant will be required to work off or pay the fine and court costs, and pay restitution, when applicable. Willful and substantial failure to pay fines, court costs or restitution will be considered a violation of the program and the participant may be sanctioned or terminated from the program and the judge may determine that the participant violated probation. Additionally, participants who are represented by the Public Defender’s Office must pay the $50 fee for the Application for Criminal Indigent Status and a $100 Public Defender attorney fee.
The length of the program is partly dependent on the participant. In general, the participant is expected to complete the requirements between fourteen and a half and twenty-four months, unless recommended otherwise by the drug court team. There are four phases, each of which must be completed before advancing to the next phase and all of which must be completed before graduation.
Upon graduation, if the participant is in the program for a substantive charge(s), the State Attorney's Office will dismiss the charge(s). Upon graduation, if the participant has a charge of violation of probation after a prior plea and probation sentence, the violation of probation affidavit will be dismissed, the probation will be terminated and the original conviction that was imposed will remain. Adjudication originally withheld will be upheld upon graduation. If the participant pled to a charge(s) for which the participant has not previously been placed on probation, the participant will be allowed to withdraw the plea of guilty or no contest upon graduation, the sentence will be vacated and the charge(s) will be dismissed by the State Attorney's Office.
The participant's family and friends will be welcomed to join the participant and the drug court team in court on the day of expected graduation. This will be the first day of a new life, a life that is free of substance abuse.
The Honorable Leigh Hayes and the Honorable Josephine Gagliardi preside over the Felony Drug Court Program. Court is typically held on Mondays and Thursdays at 1:00 p.m. on the 5th floor of the Justice Center in courtroom 5G. Potential participants are encouraged to observe court sessions for a better understanding of the program and its intent.
For more information about this program and/or to make a referral, please contact Lee County Pretrial Services at (239) 533-8400. A referral form (downloads) may also be submitted to the following:
Administrative Office of the Courts
Lee County Pretrial Services
1700 Monroe Street
Fort Myers, FL 33901