How Do Missouri Specialty Courts Work?
The State of Missouri has a court structure consisting of the supreme court, court of appeals, circuit court, municipal courts, and Administrative Hearing Commission. As the primary trial court, circuit courts have general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. Municipal courts function under limited municipal ordinances jurisdiction. Due to the high rate of crimes involving substance abuse, the judicial branch with exclusive jurisdiction can have criminal or civil cases transferred to another court, known as a specialty court.
The establishment of Specialty Courts resulted from the need to handle unique cases, such as drug abuse, mental health, and domestic violence. Specialty court programs are different from the orthodox model of court proceedings involving judgments entailing fines, penalties, or jail time. The basis of specialty courts in Missouri is to offer an alternate method of handling crimes related to drug use and providing a less severe solution that may consist of charge reduction, modification, or dismissal. Through the union of the supreme court, appellate court, department of social services, department of mental health, and the department of corrections, the specialized court programs focus on public safety protection by preventing a mentally unstable criminal or an offender with substance abuse issues from being a habitual lawbreaker. Specialty courts are also called treatment courts in Missouri, and the courts include:
Missouri Juvenile Treatment Courts
Missouri Juvenile treatment court handles cases involving minors with substance use disorders and mental illness in the juvenile justice system. Research teams, judges, professional court staff, families, and health practitioners partner up to create effective recovery programs for young offenders to become law-abiding citizens of Missouri.
Missouri DWI Courts
A significant number of traffic infractions are as a result of substance abuse. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a severe offense in Missouri that could lead to driver’s license suspension or jail time. Missouri DWI courts offer offenders a path towards recovery from drug or alcohol addiction through specific judicially supervised programs.
Eligible violators get suspended sentences after two years of probation or after a court-ordered treatment program is completed. According to the Missouri statute Title XXXII COURTS, CHAPTER 478 Circuit Courts 478.007, the DWI court exists under circuit court to offer another route towards solving cases related to offenders who drove intoxicated or with high alcohol content in the blood. Other criteria include:
- The offender was operating a motor vehicle with at least fifteen-hundredths of one percent or more by weight of alcohol in the blood.
- The individual has previously pleaded guilty to intoxication-related traffic infractions.
- The offender has two or more former alcohol-related enforcement contacts.
To achieve the successful treatment of DWI offenders, the DWI courts combine a series of tests and sessions. These tests may include drug or alcohol testing and verifiable breath alcohol testing. Asides from strict judicial supervision, there is also continuous alcohol monitoring and substance abuse traffic-offender program. The eligible violator must adhere strictly to the compliance rules and pay a fee for the program’s duration.
Missouri Adult Treatment Courts
Missouri Adult Treatment Courts hear judicial proceedings pertaining to non-violent adults who indulge in chemical abuse involving drugs or alcohol, to achieve a combined treatment and reintegration. Eligible violators are selected through thorough assessments to ascertain dependence or severe substance abuse. For this specialized program to be effective, adult criminals are subjected to frequent random drug and alcohol screenings, weekly meetings with a probation officer, and regular sessions with the judge.
If a party does not comply with court orders, the court will impose a graduated sanction on the violator. On the other hand, the court will reward individuals who complete the treatment program. Rewards may include sentence reduction, dismissal, or public acknowledgment.
Missouri Veterans’ Treatment Courts
Legal residents in Missouri who have been active-duty service members or veterans with a pending eligible misdemeanor or felony offense qualify to have lawsuits transferred to a veterans’ treatment court. However, such culprits must not be guilty of a felony involving violence or sexual crimes. To be qualified, the offenders must have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder or suffer from substance abuse. Psychiatric disorders for the veterans’ treatment court include post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, or other mental illnesses. Eligible defendants have to participate willingly and agree to the strict requirements and penalties for violating those requirements, therefore helping the veterans to reintegrate into civilian life.
The process involves referral by a staff of the veterans’ treatment court. The initial referral is followed by a referral order signed by a family court, circuit court, or district court. The process ends after completing a risk and needs assessment by a veterans’ treatment court staff to confirm an individual’s veteran status and criminal history.
Missouri Family Treatment Courts
Family treatment courts are different from family courts in Missouri. Family treatment courts handle domestic nature matters, including substance use disorders, by parents that can hinder a child’s welfare. The program works towards reuniting kids with recovered parents or achieving other permanent homes. Mostly, this type of legal case starts with a child neglect petition.
To be admitted into any treatment courts, defendants must have a referral from a judge or a prosecuting attorney. Other criteria involve being a citizen of any Missouri county, being over the age of 18, and having one or more felony charges under the non-violent category as stipulated by Missouri’s statute.
According to Missouri statute Title XXXII COURTS, CHAPTER 478 Circuit Courts 478.005 to 478.006, stipulates that all circuit courts shall create the conditions for referral proceedings of eligible criminals to the treatment court division. Full access shall also be granted solely to the treatment court staff of any county or local government entity relevant to any program partaker’s treatment. In other words, treatment court records are confidential records. The statute governs the judicial system of providing an alternative for handling legal cases that stem from substance use. To visit the Missouri treatment courts, use the find a court feature to locate the court of interest.