What Are Alabama Specialty Courts?
Alabama Specialty Courts are courts that seek to address the root cause of crime by providing initiatives aimed at rehabilitating individuals involved in the state’s criminal justice systems. The state of Alabama has the following specialized courts and programs:
- Drug Treatment and Mental Health Courts: Drug treatment courts are judicially supervised courts that work towards treating non-violent substance-abusing offenders. These courts provide comprehensive treatment and recovery services to participants. Participants in this program are typically non-violent misdemeanor offenders that have been charged with substance abuse or have co-occurring disorders.
- Veterans Treatment Court: The Veterans Treatment Court is a specialized court that tries cases involving minor offenses committed by veterans of the United States Armed Forces and other militaries. Particular attention is paid to veterans that have been diagnosed with service-related illnesses.
- Environmental Courts: These courts handle cases that involve individuals and businesses that have failed to comply with city ordinances related to environmental cleanliness.
- DWI/DUI Courts: These courts organize programs aimed at treating individuals who have pled guilty to driving while intoxicated or impaired. The programs they provide include mandatory screenings, court visits, and incentives and sanctions where necessary. Participation in this court typically lasts for a minimum of one year.
- Court Referral Education Programs: These are specially designed drug treatment programs that seek to reduce substance abuse and dependence among participants. The goals of this program include:
- Providing participants with information on state laws related to alcohol and drug offenses
- Providing participants with information on alcohol and drug abuse, and its effects on the body, behavior, the participant’s family, and the community
- Helping participants create personal change plans to avoid future problems with alcohol and substance abuse
- Helping participants evaluate their own use of alcohol/drugs
- Helping participants strengthen their coping skills. This includes stress reduction, alcohol/drug refusal, communication skills, and anger management skills
- Helping participants maintain their sobriety and stay drug-free
- Reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related crimes in the state.
The Alabama court referral education program is divided into four categories, based on the participants and their level of substance dependence as evaluated by a court referral officer. These categories are:
- Level 1: Participants in this category are offenders deemed not to have a substance abuse problem after evaluation by a court referral officer. There can be no more than 35 participants at a time, and each participant will be required to pay a fee of $145. This level involves a presentation that includes an orientation to the court referral program, the effects of alcohol/drug abuse, laws, consequences, and steps to move forward. Participation in Level 1 lasts for a minimum of 12 hours.
- Level 2: Participants in this category are offenders that have either been determined or presumed to have an alcohol or drug abuse problem. Level 2 is limited to 15 participants at a time with one instructor or 18 participants with two instructors. These participants will be required to pay a fee of $295. Level 2 is more interactional than Level 1 and lasts for a minimum of 24 hours. In addition to the information presented in Level 1, this level also includes presentations on family and support systems, patterns, alcohol/drug use, and coping skills. Participants at this level are required to complete four mandatory self-help meetings before the last session.
- Youth and Juvenile Level: This level is for offenders that are not older than 21 years old that have been identified as either high-risk youth or were involved in alcohol and drug-related crimes. This level includes an orientation on the program and state laws relating to substance abuse offenses, and presentations on the physical, psychological and sociological effects of alcohol and drugs. There are also presentations on addiction, coping skills, consequences of alcohol/drug abuse, conflict resolution, and community resources. This level is limited to a maximum of 12 participants at a time and lasts for a minimum of 12 hours. Participants will also be required to pay a fee of $125. Though this level is for offenders not older than 21, individuals between the ages of 18–20 may be assigned to Level 1 or 2 programs. This is done at the discretion of the court referral officer.
- Level 3: This is a treatment level. Depending on the severity of the alcohol/drug abuse problem, participants referred to Level 3 are typically sent to a community mental health center for a full assessment. These individuals are then transferred to inpatient treatment or intensive outpatient programs.
Contact information on Alabama court referral programs and court referral program officers can be gotten via this online map.
In addition to this, the Alabama judicial system also has the Court of the Judiciary. This is a specialized court created by the Supreme Court of Alabama that hears cases involving complaints of alleged violations by an Alabama judge. This includes allegations of failure to perform judicial duties, misuse of office, judicial office misconduct, and inability to perform judicial duties. This court can suspend, censure, or remove from office any judge that is found guilty of the alleged allegations. The Court of the Judiciary can also suspend or retire judges that are deemed physically and mentally to perform their judicial duties.
The Alabama Court of the Judiciary is composed of the following individuals:
- An intermediate appellate court judge selected by the Supreme Court of Alabama; this person shall serve as the Chief Judge of the court.
- Two circuit court judges, selected by the Alabama Circuit Judges’ Association.
- A district court judge selected by the Alabama District Judges’ Association
- Two members of the Alabama State Bar, selected by the state bar’s governing body
- Three non-lawyers appointed by the state governor. (These individuals position on the court is subject to confirmation by the state senate).