As of December 2022, the Fifth Judicial Circuit possesses the most Problem-Solving Courts in the State of Florida. With 24 Problem Solving Courts, our circuit takes pride in our opportunities for rehabilitation for those who qualify. These courts include Mental Health court, Veterans Court, Drug Court for Marion, Citrus, Lake, Hernando, and Sumter counties. Problem-Solving Courts are offered for minor non-violent crimes and provide support services like counseling, medication and therapy to help rehabilitate offenders. Our circuit has seen success in these comprehensive approaches to recovery and significant progress as a result. We are proud that our circuit offers these courts to better our community and constituents.
The State Attorney’s Office recognizes that some low-level drug offenders, charged with certain non-violent offenses, may benefit from participating in a diversion program like drug court. Drug court provides offenders with an opportunity to receive treatment, counseling and support, under the supervision of judge, while their criminal case is temporarily placed on hold. A successful drug court participant will have his or her charges dropped, and if eligible, can then apply to have their record expunged. The specific requirements of drug court, including the length of the program, may differ depending on the county, judge and crime charged.
Sometimes it is difficult for veterans who return from combat to adjust to civilian life. A veteran charged with certain crimes, and who otherwise meets the program requirements, may be eligible to participate in veterans court. Veterans court, like drug court, is a collaborative effort between the State Attorney, judge, public defender, and local veteran’s groups designed to rehabilitate rather than punish. A veteran who successfully completes veterans court will have his or her charges dismissed by the State Attorney and may be eligible to have their record expunged.
Juvenile offenders, who have committed minor offenses, may have their cases referred to Teen Court rather than to the State Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Teen Court is unique, as it allows a delinquent teen to be judged by his or her peers and decide what the sentence should be based on the seriousness of the offense. A juvenile who completes teen court will have no criminal/delinquent record.
Mental Health Court, like other problem-solving courts, allows eligible offenders to enter a court supervised treatment program while their case is temporarily placed on hold. If admitted, a participant would receive support services such as counseling, medication, therapy and rehabilitation as part of a comprehensive approach to stabilization. Like drug court and veterans court, a successful participant in Mental Health Court will have their charges dismissed when they complete the program.