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What Are Florida Specialty Courts?

Florida Specialty Courts are also referred to as problem-solving courts. These courts focus on specific case types and address the root causes of crime and behavioural instigators of criminal activity. They use a non-adversarial approach, such as specialized dockets and multidisciplinary teams. Florida Specialty Courts include:

  • Adult Felony Drug Court
  • Mental Health Court
  • Criminal Justice, Substance Abuse, and Grant Mental Health Court
  • Felony Forensic (916) Court
  • Veterans Treatment Court

Adult Felony Drug Court

The Adult Felony Drug Court is an alliance between the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court, the Public Defender’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office, the Alachua County Department of Court Services, Clerk’s Offices, defense attorneys, and treatment providers. Defendants who have been apprehended or charged with substance abuse-related offenses may file for hearing at the Adult Felony Drug Court. This court is available to qualified participants as a Pre-Trial Diversion or Post-Plea program.

The idea behind the program is that rehabilitating persons with substance abuse issues will reduce recidivism. The program also provides an alternative to imprisonment and is based on a therapeutic model rather than a punitive. The Adult Felony Drug Court offers the following services:

  • Group and individual therapy
  • Random drug testing
  • Support groups
  • Case management

Generally, the length of the Adult Felony Drug Court is between 14 and 16 months. Successful completion of the Pre-Trial Diversion program will result in the participant’s charges being dismissed by the State Attorney’s Office or resolved by agreement for participants admitted into the Post-Plea program.

Mental Health Court

The Mental Health Court is an alliance between the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court, the Public Defender’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office, the Alachua County Department of Court Services, Clerks Offices, defense attorneys, and treatment providers. The treatment provides work for persons charged with qualifying misdemeanors, approved third-degree felonies, and certain criminal traffic offenses. The court caters to persons who are mentally ill or intellectually disabled. 

The primary aim of the Mental Health Court is to offer defendants unrestrictive treatment, training, and support services required to reduce recidivism and ensure public safety. Also, the program is structured to prevent mentally ill and intellectually disabled defendants from going to jail. The court accelerates legal case processing for these persons.

Defendants are directed to the Mental Health Court by Judges, the State Attorney’s Office, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement officers, mental health providers, and the Forensic Program Director of the Alachua County Jail. Only defendants diagnosed with a significant mental health illness or a developmental disability are accepted into the program.

Mental Health Court is a Pre-Trial Diversion program. Participants qualified for this program are not declared mentally unfit to proceed. The estimated length of the Mental Health Court is between 9 –12 months. After the Mental Health Court’s successful completion, the defendant’s charges will be dismissed, and the criminal case closed. Note that participation in the Mental Health Court Program is not mandatory.

Criminal Justice, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Grant (CJMHSAG)

This is a grant that the Meridian Behavioral Healthcare obtains from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). It is dedicated to Alachua County services, and is part of a statewide program referred to as the CJMHSAG Reinvestment Grant Program. The motive of this grant is to:

  • Help counties plan, execute or enlarge initiatives that increase public safety.
  • Prevent increased spending on criminal and juvenile justice systems
  • Improve the accessibility and efficiency of treatment services for adults and juveniles who have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder and who are in, or at risk of entering the criminal justice system. 

Felony Forensic (916) Court

Felony Forensic Court is an alliance between the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court, the State Attorney’s, Department of Corrections, the Public Defender’s Office, Clerks Offices, defense attorneys, and treatment providers. This court was initiated to ensure that the criminal justice system adequately manages mentally ill defendants. The Felony Forensic Court works with felony defendants that are found to be: 

  • Not Guilty because of Insanity (NGI)
  • Incompetent to Proceed (ITP)

Defendants on probation and are required to observe the mental health court conditions. This court ensures that the defendant’s criminal case is resolved as fast as possible. It also schedules ongoing court hearings to monitor their progress while receiving mental health treatment.

Veterans Treatment Court

The Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) is an alliance between the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Alachua County Department of Court Services, the Public Defender’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office, treatment providers, and other community stakeholders. The court admits service members and military veterans arrested for certain non-violent misdemeanors and felonies.

Veterans Treatment Court is available to qualified veterans as a Pre-trial Diversion program or as a Post-Plea program. They both utilize a holistic treatment-based approach focused on the specific needs of veterans. Candidates are linked to appropriate services and tools in the community to provide the needed support at the end of the program. Every candidate in the program gets a veteran mentor who acts as an information source and support during the program. The estimated length of the Veterans Treatment Court is 12 to 14 months. 

Interested persons may contact the Veterans Treatment Court Mentor Coordinator at (352) 222–8837 (cell) or yakmarine@aol.com. 

For more inquiries on any of the Specialty Courts offered in the Eighth Judicial Circuit, call the Specialty Courts Manager at (352) 384–3094 or via email  brownes@circuit8.org.

The locations of the Specialty Courts include:

Criminal Justice Center

220 S. Main Street

Gainesville, FL 32601–6538

Family & Civil Justice Center

201 E. University Ave

Gainesville, FL 32601–3456

Baker County

Baker County Courthouse

339 East Macclenny Ave

MacClenny, FL 32063–2294

Bradford County

Bradford County Courthouse

945 North Temple Ave

Starke, Florida 32091–2110

Gilchrist County

Gilchrist County Courthouse

112 South Main Street

Trenton, FL 32693–3200

Levy County

Levy County Courthouse

355 South Court Street

Bronson, FL 32621–6520

Union County

Union County Courthouse

55 West Main Street

Lake Butler, Florida 32054–1600

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Florida Specialty Court