Admission to the Drug Recovery Court Program

Overview:

To start the application process for participation in the Drug Recovery Court, please review the Participant Handbook and please click here to begin the process.       


Once the initial information has been submitted, the Office of the District Attorney will conduct an initial review of the charges and criminal history, if any.  The applicant will then be evaluated by the Drug Recovery Court staff to ensure that he or she meets the other eligibility criteria.     


After a person has met the basic qualifications for admission, the Court will decide whether the applicant should be admitted to the program.  The Court's decision will be based on the program's admission guidelines below.     


The Court will typically require several documents to be reviewed and signed by an applicant before final admission to the Drug Recovery Court.  Those admission documents may be found here.

Apply Here:

Click here to begin the application process:

CLICK HERE TO APPLY
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Admission Guidelines

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a sound and consistent foundation for the operation of the Hamilton County Drug Recovery Court.  


These guidelines are intended (i) to be consistent with statutory law establishing the Drug Recovery Court, as well as with research-based best practices; and (ii) to identify elements that are correlated with desired results and outcomes.  Importantly, these guidelines are not rules of procedure and have no effect of law.  They do not provide a basis of appeal by any Drug Recovery Court Applicant.


These admission criteria are intended to be applied to all Applicants to the Drug Recovery Court program, and the Court recognizes that deviation from these criteria can result in unintended exclusion of groups that are represented in the local arrestee population.  

However, under extraordinary and compelling circumstances, the Court may waive the eligibility criteria, and admit an Applicant to the Drug Recovery Court program who may not meet these criteria, so long as such admission does not violate the Drug Court Treatment Act of 2003.  The Court anticipates and intends that the circumstances under which any such waiver could occur would be especially rare.

Decision to Admit Participants

The decision as to whether to admit an Applicant into the Drug Recovery Court program shall be reserved to the judge presiding over the Drug Recovery Court and shall be based upon the objective criteria set forth herein.  In making such a determination, the judge shall consider and give weight to recommendations made by the Drug Recovery Court Coordinator, by the Office of the District Attorney, and by counsel for the Applicant.          


The Court will always permit an Applicant to be heard and to address the Court, either personally or through legal counsel, as to whether the Applicant should be admitted to the Drug Recovery Court program. However, no Applicant has a legally enforceable right or expectation to be admitted into the Drug Recovery Court program.   


As such, apart from having the ability to address the Court personally, an Applicant does not have the right to an evidentiary hearing to establish eligibility for the Drug Recovery Court program or to contest a decision declining to admit the Applicant into the program.

Minimum Admission Criteria

Before being admitted to participation in the Drug Court program, the Court shall be satisfied that each Applicant objectively meets the following minimum criteria for admission:      


A. THE APPLICANT’S AGE AND RESIDENCY


  • The Applicant is over the age of 18 years.


  • The Applicant is (or will be) a resident of Hamilton County, Tennessee, or a contiguous county in Tennessee or Georgia.      


B. THE APPLICANT’S SUBSTANCE USE AND DESIRE FOR PARTICIPATION


  • The Applicant is presently substance abusing, chemically dependent, or both.     


  • The Applicant is willing to participate in a treatment program.    


  • The Applicant has agreed to comply with the rules of the Drug Court, as those rules are set forth in the Participant Contract, the Participant Handbook, and other orders of the Drug Court.   


  • The Applicant has voluntarily and knowingly executed all documents and consents required by the court.      


C. RISK AND NEEDS ASSESSMENT     

The Applicant is determined to be a high risk / high need offender as measured by a validated risk and needs assessment that:   


  • has been approved and validated for use by the State of Tennessee;    


  • has been validated for use with members of historically disadvantaged groups that are represented among the candidates for the program; and  


  • is administered by a person, including the Drug Court Coordinator, who has been trained and qualified to administer the instrument.       


D. THE APPLICANT’S CURRENT CRIMINAL CHARGES


  • The Applicant seeks admission following (i) conviction and sentencing of a felony criminal offense; or (ii) full revocation of a felony probationary sentence.   


  • The conviction offense(s) for which admission into the Drug Court program is being considered is eligible for probation pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-303(a).   


  • The Applicant does not have unresolved criminal charges or unresolved probation violations pending in Hamilton County, Tennessee or in other jurisdictions.  The conduct supporting the instant conviction offense(s) (or probation revocation(s)) for which the Applicant is being considered for admission into the Drug Court:    

    • does not result in the Applicant being a violent offender as defined by Tenn. Code Ann. § 16-22-103(4)(A);  or    

    • is not an offense involving the distribution or sale of controlled substances where the primary motivation was financial gain.        


E. THE APPLICANT’S CRIMINAL HISTORY      


  • The Applicant does not have a prior conviction for a felony crime of violence involving the use or attempted use of force against a person with the intent to cause death or serious bodily harm. 


  • The Applicant has been (or, upon conviction of the instant offense, will be) convicted of at least two felony offenses, with at least one conviction occurring before the instant conviction offense.

Additional Considerations for Admission

It is the intention of the Drug Recovery Court to admit Applicants who meet the minimum eligibility criteria, generally without regard to other considerations.  In particular, because eligibility for the Drug Recovery Court program is reserved for high risk/high need offenders, no subjective assessment as to an applicant’s likelihood of success in the Drug Recovery Court program shall be used to deny admission to an otherwise eligible Applicant.       


However, because the resources of the Drug Recovery Court program are limited, the Drug Recovery Court may consider denying admission to an otherwise eligible Applicant for the following reasons:   

  1. the Drug Recovery Court program does not have sufficient capacity or treatment resources reasonably available for the Applicant’s needs;

  2. the Drug Recovery Court Staff or program does not have sufficient expertise to address particularized medical or mental health needs of the Applicant, and the Drug Recovery Court is not reasonably able to obtain or develop such expertise within a timeframe necessary to address those particularized needs;

  3. the Applicant’s admission is reasonably believed to adversely affect the participation or recovery of one or more current participants in the Drug Recovery Court program, and reasonable accommodation cannot be made for the participation of both persons during the same period of time;

  4. the circumstances of the offense(s) as committed are such that confinement, and denial of an alternative sentence, would be necessary to avoid depreciating the seriousness of the offense(s); or

  5. the Applicant is a recent former participant of, or graduate from, the Drug Recovery Court program as provided herein.

Admission of Former Drug Recovery Court Participants and Graduates

Although the Drug Recovery Court will not consider subjective assessments regarding the likelihood of success in the Drug Recovery Court program in the admission process, the General Assembly has required that this Court consider the willingness of the Applicant to participate in a treatment program.  The willingness of an Applicant may be demonstrated by the Applicant’s genuine expressions of willingness and from recent circumstances or conduct consistent (or inconsistent) with an Applicant’s stated willingness to participate.      

To that end, if the Applicant is a former Drug Recovery Court participant who was recently removed from the program, the Court may consider the extent and nature of the Applicant’s recent participation as one factor in assessing the Applicant’s current willingness to participate in a treatment program.  In addition, the Drug Recovery Court may consider a recent absconsion from, or failure to report to, the Drug Recovery Court program to be evidence that the Applicant is not presently willing to participate in a treatment program.      


Moreover, one purpose of the Drug Recovery Court is “to reduce the incidence of drug use, drug addiction and crimes committed as a result of drug use and drug addiction.”   The Drug Recovery Court seeks to accomplish this purpose, in part, by helping its participants develop the knowledge and skills to achieve sobriety and to actively live a life of recovery.  To ensure that this impact is broad and far-reaching throughout our entire community, the Drug Recovery Court seeks to assist as many different people as possible to develop and use these skills.         

Although the Drug Recovery Court program has achieved great success in reducing drug use and recidivism among its graduates, the nature of addiction is such that purposes of the Drug Recovery Court program may not be fully realized even among its graduates.  Nevertheless, a participant’s graduation from the Drug Recovery Court program after November 2016 shall be prima facie evidence that the participant has previously obtained the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve sobriety and to live a life in recovery.       

As such, absent extraordinary circumstances, the Drug Recovery Court shall presumptively deny admission to such a former graduate in favor of ensuring available opportunities for new applicants who are beginning their journey in recovery.   Consistent with this principle, however, an Applicant’s graduation from a drug court program other than the Hamilton County Drug Recovery Court program shall not be considered as a basis for admission into, or exclusion from, this Drug Recovery Court program.

Exclusion of Violent Offenders

As required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 16-22-113, the Drug Court shall not consider for admission an Applicant who is, or may be considered to be, a violent offender.   For purposes of this exclusion, the term “violent offender” means a person who:

  1. is convicted of an offense, during the course of which:  (a) the person carried, possessed or used a firearm or dangerous weapon;  (b) there occurred the death of or serious bodily injury to any person; or  (c) there occurred the use of force against the person of another; or

  2. has one (1) or more prior convictions for a felony crime of violence involving the use or attempted use of force against a person with the intent to cause death or serious bodily harm.

In determining whether an Applicant is a “violent offender,” the Court is not bound by the conviction offense(s), and the Court shall look behind any negotiated resolution and consider the true nature of the offense as it was actually committed.  It shall be immaterial to the Court’s consideration that one or more of the circumstances described above is, or is not, an element of the conviction offense.

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