The law is always evolving. Sometimes, the Indiana Court of Appeals and/or the Supreme Court of the State of Indiana issue opinions on cases that parties appeal, and the holdings in those cases create a new precedent for trial courts to follow. Other times, the Indiana General Assembly may draft legislation that their constituents ask for or that addresses an issue that has come about since the legislature last was in session. Fortunately, many counties in Indiana are implementing what is a growing trend by establishing what are generally called “problem-solving” courts. This blog post addresses what these courts do in a broad sense and examines some of the ways that these courts can help individuals and families struggling with a variety of issues.
What are “problem-solving” courts? Generally speaking, problem-solving courts are courts that not only serve adjudicative roles but also allow judges, attorneys, individual litigants, and others to collectively work toward a desired outcome. These courts help implement programs to not only address civil and criminal matters but also to help with underlying issues that the litigants before the courts may face, such as substance use disorders, mental health issues, domestic violence, issues common among veterans, and other such issues. In the past fifteen (15) years, the number of these special problem-solving courts has increased from approximately fifteen to one-hundred.1 These courts are present in fifty of Indiana’s ninety-two counties, including the following2:
- 43 Adult Drug Courts
- 27 Veteran’s Courts
- 10 Re-entry Courts
- 8 Family Recovery Courts
- 7 Mental Health Courts
- 2 Juvenile Problem-Solving Courts
- 1 Adult Court
- 1 Domestic Violence Court
- 1 Juvenile Drug Court
These courts not only adjudicate matters but work with professionals such as judges, prosecutors, public defenders, private attorneys, probation officers, health care providers, case managers, recovery coaches, and others who can help an individual who is facing certain issues get their life on track and avoid committing offenses that may land him or her back in court.
How do “problem-solving” courts work? Each problem-solving court in Indiana may have its own procedures and goals, but it may be helpful to take a general approach to see how the most common problem-solving courts, adult drug courts, work. Generally, drug courts provide intensive supervision and treatment programs for non-violent criminal defendants who have substance use disorders.
The benefits of these programs may include little or no incarceration time, residential work release, home detention time served, specialized driving privileges instead of license suspension, sobriety, and ongoing substance use recovery and support. The programs typically are relatively long in duration – sometimes fifteen (15) to eighteen (18) months. The programs may include regular (sometimes weekly) court appearances, frequent meetings with a case manager, random drug and alcohol screens, treatment services from outside providers and agencies, and possible communication with employers and family members where consent is given. These programs do require a substantial commitment from the individuals who are participating, there is a lot of work involved, and there is some cost associated with the programs – however, these programs offer a great and affordable solution for individuals to address underlying issues of substance use.
Certain requirements to get into these programs may vary, but treatment is a key component in most if not all of the programs. These programs do, generally, seek to incorporate defendants who have at least one prior conviction or more than one case pending that involve an element of substance use. Participants may include those who have tried recovery programs before. Some acts, such as committing a violent crime, may exclude someone from participation.
While these programs are not easy, they do offer individuals the opportunity to obtain positive legal outcomes and to change their lives for the better. The attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. are committed to providing their clients with the best options for them as they go through the legal process, and sometimes, exploring the possibility of seeking eligibility for a problem-solving court program may be a great choice for certain individuals. This blog is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who are familiar with problem-solving courts in Indiana and handle a wide variety of civil and criminal matters throughout Indiana. This blog is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.