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Office Number: (03) 9077 4834
After Hours Number: 0434 701 484

Drug Court in Victoria: A Path to Rehabilitation and Recovery

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This article Drug Court in Victoria:  A Path to Rehabilitation and Recovery is written by Emma Turnbull, Director, Emma Turnbull Lawyers, Specialist Criminal Lawyer.
A passionate and fearless advocate, Emma appears regularly in all courts across the Victorian criminal law jurisdiction defending clients charged with any level of crime; from driving offences to homicide. Emma is the managing partner of the firm and prides herself on sharing her wealth of experience and knowledge in a way that her staff and clients can easily comprehend.

Introduction:  Drug addiction is a complex issue that affects individuals, families, and communities. In Victoria, addressing this problem goes beyond punitive measures. The state has established specialized courts known as “Drug Courts” to provide an alternative approach to justice. These courts prioritize rehabilitation and support for individuals with substance abuse issues, aiming to break the cycle of addiction and reduce recidivism.

The Objectives of Drug Court

  1. Rehabilitation Over Punishment: The primary goal of Drug Court is to address the root causes of offending behaviour – addiction. The court seeks to help them overcome their substance abuse problems through treatment and support.
  2. Reducing Recidivism: Drug Court aim to break the cycle of addiction-related offending. By addressing the addiction itself, they hope to reduce the likelihood of participants reoffending.
  3. Community Safety: Through rehabilitation, Drug Court work to enhance community safety by reducing drug-related crimes. A successful participant is less likely to commit further offences.

The Process

When an individual with a drug addiction issue is identified as eligible for the program, they can voluntarily opt for the Drug Court process. This process involves several stages:

  1. Assessment: Participants undergo a comprehensive assessment to determine the severity of their addiction and other associated needs.
  2. Treatment Plan: Based on the assessment, an individualized treatment plan is developed. This plan includes counselling, therapy, drug testing, and other support services.
  3. Regular Monitoring: Participants are closely monitored throughout the program to ensure compliance with treatment and court orders.
  4. Rewards and Sanctions: Drug Court employ a system of rewards and sanctions to encourage compliance. Positive behaviours are rewarded, while non-compliance results in removal from the programme.
  5. Graduation: Successful completion of the program leads to graduation. Charges may be dropped or reduced upon graduation, depending on the individual’s progress.

Benefits of Drug Court

Drug Courts have shown several positive outcomes:

  1. Reduced Recidivism: Studies have indicated a lower rate of reoffending among Drug Court participants compared to those going through traditional criminal justice processes.
  2. Cost-Effective: It’s often more cost-effective to provide treatment and support through Drug Court than to incarcerate individuals, making it a financially responsible approach.
  3. Restored Lives: Many participants credit Drug Courts with helping them turn their lives around, reconnect with their families, and contribute positively to society.


Victoria’s Drug Court represents a progressive and compassionate approach to addressing drug addiction within the criminal justice system. By prioritising rehabilitation over punishment, these courts have the potential to break the cycle of addiction-related offending and create safer and healthier communities. While challenges remain, their overall impact on reducing recidivism and transforming lives makes them a valuable asset in Victoria’s approach to criminal justice.

Please note that the information provided is a general in nature, for information and advice specific to your circumstances contact our office.

About the Directors:

Emma Turnbull is a passionate advocate for justice, equality, and empowerment. With her deep commitment to making a positive impact, she has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of individuals facing prosecution by the State and promoting social change.

“I firmly believe that each and every one of us has the power to create meaningful change. It starts by finding our voices, standing up for what is right, and ensuring that everyone, whether they have a five day or three month jury trial, receives a fair hearing. My goal is that win or lose, every client feels they have received a fair trial, with their voice heard and their best defence put forward.”

Adrian Lewin is a seasoned criminal lawyer renowned for his unwavering dedication to defending the rights of individuals facing legal challenges. With his extensive experience and expertise in criminal law, Adrian has successfully represented clients in a wide range of complex cases. Known for his strategic thinking and meticulous preparation, he tirelessly fights for justice, ensuring that every client receives the strongest possible defence.