Eighth Judicial District Drug Court
The Eighth Judicial District Circuit Court Drug Court was established on December 16, 2003 by Circuit Judge Vernon R. Cotten. It is the first certified Drug Court in Mississippi and is considered a Hybrid Specialized or Diversion Court that is responsible for certain crimes committed in Leake, Scott, Newton and Neshoba counties. The Drug Court is partially funded by those committing crimes, which substantially reduces the burden for the taxpayer.
Involving predominately drug crimes or crimes that are considered ‘drug driven’ (to include DUI and Probation Violation), the Drug Court is a tool that is used at the behest of Law Enforcement, District Attorney’s Office, Judge and others within the judicial system to allow a participant to make radical, positive changes in their life; this reduces the costs of incarceration, resulting in additional savings to the taxpayers. Those individuals failing the Drug Court requirements are sentenced to the maximum amount of time for their particular crime and ordered into the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. While the Drug Court generally receives cases from the Circuit Court at the Felony Level, local cities and counties have the option to utilize the Drug Court in many misdemeanor cases.
The Drug Court houses its own state of the art drug testing laboratory and uses an Olympus AU 400 Spectrum Analyzer to screen collected samples. With this technology, the Court has the ability to test for any drug or mood altering chemical/substance – even newer synthetic drugs such as Spice, K2 or Bath Salts. The Drug Court Lab also provides drug testing for other local entities, law enforcement agencies and other courts within the surrounding area.
Once approved, the typical participant is placed on probation with the Drug Court for five years and must meet stringent requirements that represent a meaningful, productive and sober lifestyle. Some requirements include (but are not limited to): remaining clean and sober from all mood altering chemicals, obtaining and maintaining a legitimate job, obtaining a diploma, GED and or driver’s license if the participant does not already have one, payment of all fines, fees and restitution. Additionally, the participant must satisfactorily support his or her family. To ensure all requirements are achieved, unannounced drug screens are conducted at least weekly (more often as required) and weekly scheduled court appearances in front of the Drug Court Judge are mandated, along with typical probation monitoring. Graduation and Advancements Ceremonies are held bi-annually for those who successfully complete the program; those meeting certain criteria may also have their charge expunged by the Drug Court Judge.