The San Mateo County Drug Court was formed in 1995, to address the problems of drug abuse and recidivism with a model that recognizes drug abuse is an illness and that recovery is a process with setbacks as well as successes. Drug Court gives participants the opportunity for substance abuse treatment rather than jail time as the program is an alternative to traditional criminal justice prosecution for drug-related offenses.  Drug Court combines close supervision of the judicial process with resources available through alcohol and drug treatment services.  This treatment court addresses the needs of nonviolent drug offenders.  This specialized court includes a courtroom-based team approach with a strong judicial leadership role in the processing and treatment of drug cases.  With the Judge acting as team leader, probation officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and treatment professionals work collaboratively to develop a strategy that is in the interests of both the defendant and society.

The San Mateo County Drug Court is a collaborative effort between the San Mateo County Superior Court, the District Attorney’s Office, San Mateo Private Defender Program, Probation Department,  Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) through the Alcohol and Other Drug Services Division (AOD), and Sheriff’s Office.

The goal of Drug Court is to achieve reduction in recidivism and mitigation of the effects of substance abuse on the participant, the justice system, and society by working with defendants in a judicially-supervised, team-based, and treatment-grounded modality.

Program Eligibility

To be eligible for Drug Court, the defendant must be charged with a violation of any of the following listed charges, enter a plea to the charge(s) [for pre-plea consideration, see below], admit any priors, and be assessed by the Drug Court team as eligible for Drug Court. Charges for drug sales, possession of drugs for purpose of sale, manufacture of drugs, and other heightened H&S violations are not eligible for Drug Court. The eligible charges are as follows:

  • H&S §11350 Possession of Controlled Substance
  • H&S §11377 Possession of Controlled Substance
  • H&S §11358 Cultivation of Marijuana for Personal Use
  • H&S §11173/§11371.1 Prescription by Fraud
  • H&S §11174/§11371.1 Prescription by Fraud
  • H&S §11550 Under the Influence of Controlled Substance
  • H&S §11368 Forged Prescription or Obtain Drugs by False Prescription
  • B&P §4324 Forged Prescription or Obtain Drugs by False Prescription
  • PC 415 Disturbing the peace
  • PC 476 Forgery
  • PC 460(b) Second Degree Burglary\
  • PC 647(f) Under the influence in public
  • PC 666 Petty Theft with Prior
  • VC 23103/23103.5 Alcohol related reckless driving with priors
Additional Drug Court Eligibility Criteria
  1. Defendant is a San Mateo County resident.
  2. Within the last ten years the defendant does not have a violent (per 667.5 (c) P.C.) or serious felony conviction (per 1192.7 P.C.), or a prior conviction for the sale or possession for sale of a controlled substance.
  3. The defendant does not have a past conviction, or pending charge, involving use or possession of a firearm or deadly weapon.
  4. The defendant is not taking any controlled substances medication unless specifically authorized by the Drug Court team. All defendants are expected to sign releases to allow the Drug Court assessment team to discuss any medical issues affecting substance abuse recovery with any treating physicians.
  5. The defendant is not currently on parole, felony probation, Post Release Community Supervision, or mandatory supervision, other than the case(s) for which he/she is being considered for drug court.

AOD Assessment and Referral to Treatment

If ordered into Drug Court, the defendant is referred to the AOD specialist for an alcohol and drug assessment and referral to treatment.  The DPO reviews the “Notice for Supervised Probation in Drug Court” document with the client which outlines the rules of Drug Court.  Participants return to court for status reviews, typically every four to six weeks with the DPO submitting review reports for participants. 

AOD will complete an American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Assessment with a copy of the assessment provided to the judge, DA, DPO and participant’s attorney.  A referral to treatment, if deemed necessary, is completed by AOD.

Pre-Plea Consideration

In certain cases, a defendant may qualify for pre-plea consideration for entry into drug court. These individuals must have an extensive personal case history of substance abuse, have no or minimal criminal history, and be facing a criminal offense on the list of eligible offenses. They must be assessed as eligible for Drug Court by the Drug Court team and participate in the full term of Drug Court program conditions. They must waive DEJ and Proposition 36 for all time on the case they are facing. Individuals entering Drug Court do so, on a “zero tolerance” basis: if they violate any Drug Court rule, they will be required to enter a plea to continue in Drug Court.

Required Conditions/Expectations

  • Abstain from drugs, alcohol, and all narcotic controlled substances
  • Not possess or be in the company of those possessing or using drugs, alcohol or weapons
  • Abstain from poppy seeds or other opiate products, or ephedrine-based medication, unless approved by the Probation Department
  • Obey all laws
  • Appear in court as required, appropriately dressed, and on time
  • Submit to urine, blood and/or breath testing as required
  • Cooperate with and attend required meetings with Probation and follow all probation conditions
  • Attend required meetings of Narcotics Anonymous and/or Alcoholics Anonymous, and/or self-help, with a minimum of two meetings per week
  • Cooperate and participate in assessments and follow-up contacts with AOD
  • Enroll in, participate in, and complete the treatment program as ordered
  • Pay all fees and fines imposed by the Court and Probation.

Program Fines and Fees

Participant fees and fines are determined by the Court in cooperation with the Probation Department.

Incentives and Sanctions

Drug Court is based on the principles of immediate and progressive sanctions and appropriate incentives. Participants must enter into a contract with the Drug Court program and agree to conditions of diversion or probation, including a treatment plan (which includes participating and completing a substance abuse treatment program), and specific performance expectations for successful graduation. Incentives include gift cards to various vendors, promised case dispositional orders, and participant fines and fees are deleted upon successful completion of the Drug Court Program.

Sanctions are actions, which will be considered violations, and include, but are not limited to: positive test results from the urine drug screen. failure to attend class or counseling sessions, failure to comply with individual contract requirements, and/ or rearrested for a new drug offense. Once a violation has occurred, sanctions will include the following:

  • Community service work
  • Jail time
  • Time in a detoification program
  • Placement in another drug/alcohol treatment program
  • Termination of participation, and/or reinstatement of criminal proceedings

Wendler Fund

This fund was established in 2006, to supplement the County of San Mateo's costs for substance abuse treatment and services. These funds help defendants as well as provide rewards and incentives for good performance in the Drug Court Program. 

On a case-by-case basis, possible use for funds may include partial payment for:

  • Health care / Dental needs
  • Educational training
  • Job placement
  • GED Fees
  • DMV Fees
  • Housing assistance
  • Food and clothing

How do I graduate from Dug Court?

Upon successful completion of the Drug Court Program (including completion of treatment, remaining clean and sober, attending required meetings of Narcotics Anonymous and/or Alcoholics Anonymous, self-help, and remaining crime-free), the participant will be recommended for graduation. Graduation ceremonies for successful participants in the Drug Court program are held throughout the year. Upon graduation, participant fines and fees are waived by the Court.

If you have questions about a court case, contact the San Mateo County Courts.
If you want to know which Deputy Probation Officer is assigned to your case, call (650) 363-4244.