Juvenile Drug Courts Overview

Juvenile drug court programs provide the intensive judicial intervention and intensive community supervision of juveniles involved in substance abuse that is not generally available through the traditional juvenile court process.

With the growing prevalence of substance abuse among juveniles and the complexity of their treatment, which must involve both the child and his or her living environment, the traditional juvenile justice process may be unable to deal effectively with the whole problem that leads juveniles to commit drug offenses.

The juvenile drug court approach is designed to fill this gap by providing immediate and continuous court intervention in the lives of children using drugs or involved in family situations in which substance addiction is present. This intervention includes requiring the child, and often the family, to begin treatment, submit to frequent drug testing, appear at regular and frequent court status hearings, and comply with other court conditions geared to accountability, rehabilitation, long-term sobriety, and cessation of criminal activity.

The enhancements introduced by the juvenile drug court process include:

  • Immediate intervention by the court and continuous supervision by the judge of the progress of the juvenile and his or her family;
  • The development of a program of treatment and rehabilitation services that addresses family problems, not simply the child's;
  • Immediate response by the court to the child's needs and situation, as well as to noncompliance by either the child or the family with the court's program conditions; and
  • Judicial leadership that brings together schools, treatment resources, and other community agencies to achieve the drug court's goals.1

California's first juvenile drug court began in Tulare County in 1995. Today there are forty-eight juvenile drug courts in California.

1Excerpted from American University, Juvenile Drug Courts: Preliminary Report (May 1, 1997) p. 2

Resources on California Juvenile Drug Courts

Briefing: Juvenile Collaborative Court Models: Juvenile Drug Court

Changing Behavior: Incentives and Sanctions in Juvenile Dependency Drug Court Fact Sheet