Treatment Courts

There are five felony treatment courts in Queens County, all of which are post-plea, and include linking clients with available services and resources, judicial monitoring, drug and alcohol testing, graduated sanctions, and a minimum treatment mandate of one year.

Queens Treatment Court was established to address the increasing number of substance-abusing and dependent defendants in the court system who are charged with felony drug offenses and certain non-drug felony offenses. Clients must plead guilty to enter QTC, and then they are placed in treatment programs. At subsequent court appearances, the court gets updates on the clients’ progress in treatment. Clients are drug tested at their programs and on their court date. Defendants must complete a treatment program, remain drug-and-alcohol-free, obtain a high school diploma or GED, and gain employment or participate in vocational training. Upon completion of the requirements of QTC, the plea is vacated and the case is dismissed in the interest of justice and sealed. If the defendant fails to complete QTC, then an alternative jail sentence is imposed under the plea agreement.

Queens DWI Court targets defendants with alcohol or substance issues who are charged with felony-level DWI offenses, and follows the above treatment court model. Clients entering QDWI must plead to both a felony and a misdemeanor count of DWI and agree to treatment, the wearing of an alcohol monitoring bracelet for ninety days, attendance at a Victim Impact Panel, and other requirements similar to the QTC model. Upon successful completion of QDWI, the felony court is dismissed and the defendant is sentenced to three years’ probation, a one-year license revocation, and installation of an ignition interlock device. If the defendant fails to complete QDWI, then the felony remains and an alternative jail sentence is imposed under the plea agreement.

Queens Mental Health Court employs the treatment court model to focus upon defendants with severe and persistent mental illness who are facing felony charges. Once referred, candidates for QMHC are screened by the District Attorney’s Office for criminal eligibility and then undergo a clinical mental health evaluation. All participants are required to plead guilty and sign a plea agreement that requires them to follow a treatment plan prepared by their case manager and abide by the QMHC rules and regulations. All pleas are conditional and are on a case-by-case basis, with successful completion involving a non-jail disposition and failure calling for an alternative sentence of incarceration.

Queens Veterans Court was created in recognition of the service of veterans to our country and the special problems they face in the criminal justice system. Emphasis is placed on ensuring that clients receive appropriate services to restore them to healthy and productive lives in the community. After screening and evaluation, a conditional guilty plea is necessary to enter QVC, with requirements similar to the above courts. Here, too, dispositions are on a case-by-case basis, depending on the severity and nature of the charges and any prior criminal history. 

Queens Drug Diversion Court was created following the enactment of Criminal Procedure Law Article 216 in 2009. The legislature recognized the success of treatment courts and the need to extend them to more defendants. QDDC is similar in concept to the Queens Treatment Court (QTC) above, except that consent of the District Attorney is not required. Since the granting of diversion is within the discretion of the judge, it is called “judicial diversion”. All procedures are governed by statute, eligibility is broader, and dispositions are on a case-by-case basis. 

Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court, known as QMTC, is one of New York’s problem-solving courts. The goal of the court is to provide court-mandated substance abuse treatment to eligible non-violent offenders. The court employs a collaborative approach to treatment with the goal of increasing offender engagement and accountability and ending the cycle of addiction and recidivism. Entry in the program is voluntary, and the rules of the program are clearly defined at the outset. The judge, along with an Assistant District Attorney, Defense Attorney, Project Director, Resource Coordinator and Case Managers all trained in the issues unique to substance abuse, work together to provide the best possible chance of success to all participants. The QMTC Treatment Program is structured in three phases. Each phase has a focus, objective, and requirements that must be met before graduation to the next phase. A participant graduates from QMTC when all three phases have been successfully completed. Phase Two: Focuses on stabilization in treatment and planning for re-entry into the community through education, employment or vocational training Phase Three: Focuses on community re-integration and preparation for graduation.