Ohio Drug Courts   

Drug courts play an important role in today’s judicial system, which aims to help drug users recover from their drug addictions, abuse, and use, rather than simply punishing users for this type of criminal activity.

The attorneys at Joslyn Law Firm welcomed the legislative changes that created Ohio drug courts. As Cincinnati drug crimes lawyers, we defend those who face charges related to drug and narcotic crimes. We know the state laws that define various drug offenses, including possession, sale, trafficking, and distribution of controlled substances, and we know the defense strategies that can result in our clients’ charges being dismissed or reduced.

Our successes also draw on the unique courtroom experience of our drug crime attorneys. Attorney Ryan Shafer worked for more than five years in the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office and now applies the knowledge he gained there to help our clients at Joslyn Law Firm. Attorney Mark Wieczorek served Hamilton County as an assistant prosecuting attorney. His experience from the other side of the courtroom serves to round out our defense strategies for everything from drug possession to drug trafficking.

Brian Joslyn’s pursuit of justice for the criminally accused arises from his personal experience as a teen when police falsely accused him of a crime, cracked his skull, and violated his constitutional rights. Joslyn’s passionate commitment to protect others from what he endured continues to drive him to this day.

Joslyn is nationally ranked as a “Top 10 Attorney” by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys. The esteemed Super Lawyers attorney rating service designated him a “Rising Star.” Joslyn appears in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers where he has earned the AV Preeminent award, a recognition reserved for only those attorneys who show the highest measure of legal expertise, ethical standards, and communications skills. 

Our Hamilton County Lawyers Understand Ohio Drug Courts 

Drug courts offer multiple benefits. Primarily, they present an opportunity for offenders to receive treatment for their drug use—and to do so without having to endure incarceration. As a participant in drug court, an alleged drug user must abstain from drug use, thereby reducing recidivism and facilitating the participant’s development into a healthy, contributing member of society. The former drug user wins, and society wins.

These courts also benefit the city of Cincinnati and the state of Ohio in that they significantly lessen the burden and costs of processing non-violent drug offenders through judicial and correctional systems throughout the city, state, and nation. 

Many of the 20,000 criminal cases our firm has handled in Ohio were drug cases. The results we have been able to deliver depend greatly on our legal team’s in-depth knowledge of Ohio courts, judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and courtroom staff. 

We know that to be effective, drug courts depend on strong cooperation between defense counsel and the prosecution. Our lawyers know how to collaborate with judges, prosecutors, social workers, and treatment center professionals to promote credible, positive outcomes for everyone involved—especially our clients. 

The legal team at Joslyn Law Firm is eager to help you navigate your drug crime charge. We are here to protect your rights, not to judge you. Call us today for a private, no-obligation case review at (513) 399-6289.

Information Center for Drug Courts in Cincinnati, OH 


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Overview of Ohio’s Drug Courts 

The most important thing you need to know about Ohio’s drug courts is that if you qualify to participate in one of these programs, and you complete the program, the charges against you could be either reduced or dismissed. Our attorneys know Cincinnati’s court system—its judges, prosecutors, and staff—and we have a strong sense of how to navigate our clients through the process that could help them with their drug use and lessen the consequences for their charged drug offenses.

Ohio drug courts emerged over the past several decades as an alternative to traditional courts when dealing with drug-involved offenders. Generally, the drug court model aims to help these offenders through treatment services and regular monitoring by the state’s judicial system. At a higher level, these programs hope that by addressing users’ dependency on drugs, the cycle of recidivism will stop.

The origins of the state’s drug courts trace back to 1996 when legislators brought forth the notion of “truth in sentencing” via the Ohio Senate Bill (S.B.) 2. One outcome of the new law was to grant probation—rather than prison terms—to fourth- and fifth-degree drug offenders. The effects of this legislation were bolstered in 2000 with the “Intervention in Lieu of Conviction” statute. This law led to the development of today’s drug courts.


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Types of Drug Courts in Ohio

According to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), the majority of participants in Ohio’s drug courts have opioid or heroin dependencies. This agency describes three types of drug courts in the state of Ohio:

Criminal Drug Courts

Courts of common pleas or municipal courts supervise these programs, which handle adult offenders. Criminal drug courts aim to cut down on the number of “high-risk/high-need addicted offenders” who occupy Ohio’s state prison system. Participants engage in the program within their own communities so that they can continue being involved with their families and contribute to their communities’ economic success. 

Juvenile Drug Courts

These courts function similarly to their adult-based counterparts. The programs strive to reduce the number of adolescents who are committed to the Department of Youth Services. They also set goals to improve participants’ performance in school and to make families function better.

Family Drug Courts

If a parent is charged with child neglect, abuse, or dependency of their children, this court steps in to help the parent recover from their addiction. The goal of the program is to improve parenting skills, reunite more minor children with their parents, and cut the need for out-of-home placement for neglected, abused, or dependent children. 

Hamilton County Drug Court

The Drug Court of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas takes on fourth-degree and fifth-degree felonies. The first drug court in the state, this court monitors the progress of program participants in a non-adversarial manner by overseeing status review hearings and treatment team meetings. The program hinges on participants’ voluntary commitment to resolve their drug use and addictions to create better lives for themselves and usher in an era of greater public safety. 


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How the Drug Court of Hamilton County Court Works 

As this is a treatment-based program, participation in this drug court requires an initial assessment to determine appropriate treatment. A person who wants to participate in the program must appear before the Drug Court Judge. 

Several factors dictate whether you would be eligible for this drug court—some legal and some treatment related. Eligibility requirements include the following:

  • Your offense must be a felony of the fourth or fifth degree.
  • You may not have any violent felony convictions.
  • Your record may not show a history of drug trafficking.
  • Your offense may not be tied to using weapons in the commission of a crime, sex offenses, or to pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity or incompetent to stand trial.
  • You demonstrate persistent offending that does not stem from a mental health disorder or trauma.
  • You abuse a substance.
  • You have the ability to comprehend and volunteer for treatment via this program.
  • The program is likely to meet your treatment needs, and you show a willingness to participate. 

As the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services reports, drug court programs typically take around 18 months to complete. 


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Resources for Drug Courts in Cincinnati, OH

Drug Court of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas

Located in the Hamilton County Courthouse, 1000 Main Street, Room 500, in Cincinnati, Ohio, this drug court is the only full-time drug court in the state. It was also the first such court established in the state. 

The court offers treatment for and supervision of defendants who committed criminal acts related to their abuse of a substance. The court will evaluate you to determine which treatment program might be most effective for you, and then continue to monitor your progress and performance. 

Mental Health & Recovery Services Board - Hamilton County Drug Court – ADAPT

Drug Court Services Alcohol & Drug Addiction Partnership for Treatment (ADAPT) represents a partnership between the Central Community Health Board of Hamilton County (CCHB); the Hamilton County Drug Court; and community drug treatment providers, like Talbert House. The program offers substance abuse treatment for non-violent felony drug offenders. It serves as a conviction and/or incarceration alternative for eligible offenders.

Title 21 United States Code (USC) Controlled Substances Act

Ohio adheres to the drug schedules that the federal government has established via the Federal Controlled Substance Act. Visit the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s website to understand how the state and the federal government categorize controlled substances into five schedules, according to their medical properties and addiction rates.

Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act

In September 2018, the U.S. Senate passed Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s opioid legislation, the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act. The purpose of this legislation is to “turn the tide” of the opioid epidemic. 

The STOP Act puts a particularly strong focus on cutting the supply of inexpensive and deadly synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl. One method addressed in the legislation is a revamping of the international mail system, which fentanyl traffickers had used to get the drug into the United States.


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News About Drug Courts in Cincinnati 

August 6, 2021

“Ohio Judge Orders That Man Get COVID Vaccine as Condition of Probation”

A Hamilton County Pleas Court judge made getting a COVID-19 vaccine a requirement for probation. When Brandon Rutherford showed up in court for a fentanyl offense wearing a mask, Judge Christopher Wagner questioned the defendant about whether he had been vaccinated. Rutherford explained he did not intend to get the vaccine, and the judge responded by ordering the defendant to get it within two months, as a condition of his probation sentencing.

Rutherford later questioned the judge’s authority to order this condition. Judge Wagner then provided a statement wherein he explained Ohio’s laws that favor probation over prison for certain offenses and that ordering the vaccine was in line with the court’s responsibility to try to improve a defendant’s physical and mental health.


June 23, 2021

“Hamilton County Drug Court Gets Failing Review, Judge to Rebuild”

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that National Drug Court Institute evaluators called out multiple failures of the Hamilton County Drug Court. The team noted several inadequacies with regard to the drug court’s practices and standards. Of particular concern, the evaluators said that drug offenders who are in greatest need of court-based help are not getting this assistance. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Nicole Sanders promises to change things for the better. 

May 20, 2021

“Pandemic Created Perfect Storm for Addiction to Flourish”

The author of this article in The Cincinnati Enquirer suggests that unemployment, financial losses, and social isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted a worsening of addictions in Hamilton County. 

The writer, Judge Nicole Sanders of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Drug Court Division, gives a verbal nod to Ohio’s oldest drug court, which exists in Hamilton County, touting the court as “problem solving.” The judge reveals that she asked the National Association of Drug Court Professionals to review the county’s drug court programs and says she is committed to developing a quality program. 

February 13, 2020

“As Meth, Fentanyl Rise, Drug Court Gives Second Chances”

This short video clip features Common Pleas Court Judge Kim Burke, who presides over drug court. Burke speaks to the types of drugs, especially the increase in heroin and fentanyl offenses. She describes the drug court’s effectiveness in giving offenders second chances. 

February 9, 2019

“This Local Drug Court Cut Rate of New Felonies by More Than Half”

Dayton Daily News offers this exploration of local drug courts and the effect they have had on the community. The article goes into great depth about the cost effectiveness of drug treatment programs funded by tax dollars, analyzing new, lower recidivism rates and lower costs when compared with housing prisoners. The coverage also provides detailed information on locations throughout the state where drug courts exist and the types of drug courts offered in these locations.  


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FAQs About Drug Courts in Hamilton County 

Q. What Is Drug Court in Ohio?

  • In Ohio, drug court is a specialized docket session that addresses offenses involving drug use, abuse, and addiction. These courts provide treatment and supervision of eligible program participants.

Q. Who Is Eligible for Drug Court in Ohio?

  • Several factors weigh into whether an offender is eligible for drug court in Ohio. First, the offense of issue must be a fourth- or fifth-degree felony. The offender must show a willingness to participate in and complete the program. A participant cannot have prior convictions for drug trafficking or violent crimes, or multiple prior felonies. The charges cannot be gun- or sex-related. 

Q. Will Drug Court Cause My Ohio Case to Be Dismissed?

  • If you successfully complete your drug court program, it is possible that the drug charges against you could be dismissed, or at least reduced. 

Q. How Long Does Ohio Drug Court Last?

  • Drug court programs can vary, but offenders generally take around 18 months to complete these programs. Treatment occurs in phases, with participants “graduating” to their next phase after meeting requirements at each level.

Q. What Are the Three Types of Drug Courts in Ohio?

  • Ohio has the following types of drug courts:
    • Criminal drug courts for adult drug offenders
    • Juvenile drug courts for adolescent drug offenders
    • Family drug courts for drug offenders who are parents charged with child abuse, neglect, or dependency of a minor child

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Defense Lawyer for Drug Courts in Cincinnati, OH 

Ohio’s creation of drug courts represents a definite move in the right direction for the people of Ohio who have drug dependencies. Although these courts offer an alternative to conviction and/or incarceration, offenders must still meet with the judge, and these proceedings must be handled carefully.  

Our attorneys have a strong and successful history of representing Ohioans charged with drug crimes. We know how these relatively new drug courts work, and we know the people—judges and prosecutors, for example—with whom an effective collaboration must take place for you to benefit from this program.

Let Joslyn Law Firm serve as your defense counsel so we can put our years of experience—and our passion for helping the accused of Cincinnati—to work for your benefit. We are not here to judge you. We want to see you through the judicial process so you can resume your life as a productive member of society. 

Call Joslyn Law Firm today for a free consultation: (513) 399-6289.


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