For many people charged with drink driving and drug driving offences participating in the government funded MERIT (Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment) Program is a positive step towards demonstrating their commitment to rehabilitation for an alcohol or drug dependency, and is looked on favourably by the magistrate of a local court.
If you have been charged with a drink driving or drug driving offence and need to appear at a local court we may recommend that you complete the MERIT Program. Agreement to join the MERIT Program is not an admission of guilt.
To be eligible to join the MERIT Program you must comply with the following:
You must be an adult
You must not be on bail
You must be eligible for bail
You must have a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse or be suspected of misusing drugs and/or alcohol
You must not have been charged with sexual or indictable offences, or have any of these offences pending
Treatment under the MERIT Program is usually undertaken prior to the commencement of your court case. It may be necessary for your criminal lawyer to attend court to adjourn your case to give you time to complete the Program.
The kinds of treatments available under the MERIT Program are:
methadone and other pharmacotherapies
individual and group counselling
case management and numerous forms of welfare support and assistance
Once you have completed the MERIT Program your case will be heard in court. The Magistrate hearing the case will be provided with a report from the MERIT Team detailing your participation in the treatment and its successful completion. The MERIT Team report may also make further treatment recommendations.
The MERIT Program also provides an aftercare program to help people continue their rehabilitation once they finish the Program.
Successful completion of the MERIT Program has some bearing on your sentence. In sentencing the magistrate will take into account your voluntary completion of the Program and any recommendations MERIT has made for further treatment.
There are numerous centres across NSW you can attend to join the MERIT Program. Find one near to you.
If you have been charged with a drink driving or drug driving matter it is imperative that you talk to us before you talk to the Police. It may be possible to defend the charge.
William Vahl is an accredited criminal law specialist with decades of experience appearing in court for people charged with drink driving and drug driving matters. Call him on 0400 446 424 for an initial free telephone consultation to assess your case.