“Drug Court: The Last Chance That Can Save Lives”

The Michigan criminal justice system has continued a trend of an array of specialty courts to serve our community. The leader of these courts is “Drug Court,” which allows those with addictions to drugs and alcohol to potentially preserve their futures. The goal of “Drug Court” is to offer an option to incarceration for those that are genuinely in need of help and desire to make a change. How are “Drug Courts” handled across the state depends on several factors.  The goal today is to provide insight into how “Drug Court” works and the requirements involved.

When we look at “Drug Court” from a broad perspective, it is not an easy program to become a part of. There are strict requirements, and the participants are held to very high standards. If one does not graduate from “Drug Court,” they are generally faced with severe punishment. The point of harsh punishment is to motivate the participants to strive towards success in the program. While Michigan speaks of uniformity of law, the application of drug court and specialty courts, in general, is different from county to county. We talked to different several of the top attorneys in the State of Michigan to gain their insight into the issue.

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is known as the top criminal defense lawyer in Washtenaw County and provided insight into the issue when he said, “Drug Court is a great opportunity. When we have a client that is a good fit for Drug Court, we approach it in a far different view than most other attorneys. We have a 6-point plan that we put into effect, and our success rate in helping clients has increased since Matthew McManus developed the concept.”

Matthew McManus is the founder of McManus and Amadeo and is known as one of the top criminal motion writers in the State of Michigan and the federal court system. When asked about his approach to “Drug Court,” McManus said, “This is when the term counselor becomes more important than the word lawyer. When we developed the 6-point plan, there was one goal in mind, and that was to help protect the client and their community. The view of drug court applicants has extremely different views from county to county. Jennifer Kelley did a lot of research on this topic when we became involved in these programs.”

Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate at McManus and Amadeo. Kelley became in developing a program to help those in need from her work as a top divorce attorney in the State of Michigan. Kelley spoke on the issue when she said, “What I found was that doing divorce work and criminal law had some overlaps that needed to be addressed. The needs of different communities required experience in different courts, and that has allowed us to be effective.  What works in Washtenaw County is not what is expected to work in Shiawassee County.  Knowledge of different courts allows us to help clients across the State of Michigan.”

When dealing with a specialty in courts, the attorney needs to be able to adapt. The days of simply filling out a form and making a request for entry into a specialty court are over. We have to remember that this type of creative options is a privilege and not a right. To earn that privilege, the attorney needs to go the extra mile. The 6-point plan and an understanding of the needs of each court gives the defendant the best opportunity to turn their life around.

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