Drug courts combine criminal justice and medical treatment models to deal with drug crimes. They recognize that incarceration may not be the most effective method for breaking the cycle of drug addiction and crime, especially for first-time and low-level offenders. Drug courts emphasize a cooperative approach between the prosecutor, defendant and court, and they favor rehabilitation over jail. Successful completion of drug court programs can result in reduced charges or sentences, or dismissal of charges altogether.
The most common challenges in drug cases relate to how the evidence was obtained. If the police violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights or Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, the court will suppress the drugs or statements as being unlawfully obtained. Without this evidence, the prosecution may not be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and the case may be dismissed as a result.
Federal and state sentencing guidelines are standards used by the court to determine the punishment for a convicted individual. They have been adopted in an effort to increase consistency in sentencing. The length of a sentence is based on two factors: the severity of the crime and the defendant's prior criminal history, and the guidelines specify a minimum and maximum range the court can give. In certain circumstances, the judge may depart from the specified range.
Forfeiture is the government seizure of property connected to criminal activity. In criminal forfeiture, the government takes property after obtaining a conviction, as part of the defendant's sentence. In civil forfeiture, a criminal charge or conviction is not needed; the government only needs to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was used to facilitate a crime. In theory, criminal forfeiture is a punishment, while civil forfeiture is remedial. Most forfeiture actions are civil.