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The Superior Court launched an Expedited Drug Case Management (EDCM) project in 1993, and received a small grant from the State Justice Institute to develop a Drug Court to both expedite drug cases and enhance offender outcomes by tying treatment directly to the Court through the Treatment Access Center (TASC).
The Superior Court has statewide original jurisdiction of criminal and civil cases except equity cases and domestic relations matters. The Court has exclusive jurisdiction over felonies and drug offenses (except possession of marijuana cases and most cases involving minors). The Court also serves as an intermediate appellate court.
The Drug Court establishes the judge as the central figure to facilitate the effective implementation of sentences imposed. That is, the judge maintains involvement with the offender until completion of the sentence. Using his or her authority, he ensures that treatment and supervision are delivered in a coordinated and effective manner. In some jurisdictions, special courts are established to maintain regular, direct contact between the judge and offenders in treatment. This structure is designed to actively conduct and support the notion of compulsory treatment -- utilizing the criminal justice system to facilitate offender retention and successful outcomes in treatment.
TASC performs initial assessments at the earliest possible time after identification and provides a preliminary treatment recommendation to the Court and attorneys for use in disposition. After disposition, TASC ensures that treatment placement occurs in a timely fashion. TASC also works with treatment providers and probation officers to ensure effective service delivery and continuity of services as offenders move through both the criminal justice and treatment systems. The judge receives regular progress reports on all clients, and receives special reports when additional action needs to be taken on a case. Because the judge is immediately accessible, we have the opportunity to experiment with techniques such as "shock incarceration" (repeated, short periods of incarceration) and other methods to motivate clients in the process of recovery.
There are two criminal divisions in the New Castle County Superior Court; Division I hears primarily drug cases; Division II handles other criminal matters (mostly violent and property offenses). EDCM organized cases in Division I into four Tracks, with one of four judges responsible for each track, to address both the treatment needs of drug-involved defendants and to reduce the time required to dispose of these cases.
In Division I, Tracks I and II constitute the Drug Court. In Track I, which is for cases involving probationers arrested on new drug charges, the new charges and the violation hearing are scheduled for resolution approximately two to three weeks after the new arrest. Track II handles cases in which the defendants are arrested for relatively minor offenses and have minimal or no prior convictions. For defendants who successfully complete the program, the charges are dropped. Track III and IV are now trial tracks. Track III is reserved for defendants facing mandatory penalties, and Track IV manages all other cases involving drug charges as well as cases not resolved in Tracks I and II.
The Attorney General makes determinations regarding track assignments based on probationary status, prior record, seriousness of offense, and whether mandatory sentencing is an issue. Occasionally, cases are moved to another track as the assigned deputy deems appropriate, or if defense counsel has presented the State with mitigating circumstances to warrant the change. Once track assignment is made, the Court schedules hearings within two to three weeks and notifies all relevant parties. The track system is integrated such that new information may result in track re-assignment for disposition.
Please visit Delaware's Drug Court web site for more information.
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