What is the MERIT Program?
The MERIT (Magistrate’s Early Referral Into Treatment) program is a drug rehabilitation program that is monitored by the court during court proceedings for a criminal offence.
A team of drug rehabilitation professionals will monitor your MERIT program participation, which will include counselling, social support and skills training, urinalysis testing and providing reports to court on your progress.
Who will be eligible for MERIT program?
To be eligible for the MERIT program you must:
- be over 18 years of age,
- be eligible and suitable to be on bail,
- have a demonstrable and treatable drug problem (excluding alcoholism, although this may be an associated or secondary problem);
- usually reside where they can participate in treatment programs;
- be charged with a drug-related offence,
- not be charged (currently or outstanding) with strictly indictable (including drug) offences;
- not be charged with offences involving sexual assault or serious violence offences.
What are the benefits of participating in the MERIT Program?
The benefits of participating in the MERIT program include:
- Demonstrating to the court your willingness to rehabilitate,
- Getting treatment for your drug problem,
- Counselling to help with social support and help in obtaining skills for work,
- The benefit of demonstrating attempts at rehabilitation to the court dealing with your case.
How do I get into the MERIT Program?
Your lawyers, yourself, the Police and the Magistrate can refer you to the MERIT Program before you enter your plea. Once referred, your case will be adjourned for a comprehensive assessment to determine whether you are suitable for the program. Your case will then appear before the courts and be adjourned for you to complete the program.
What happens if I do not complete the MERIT Program?
If you have tried, but did not complete the MERIT Program, you will usually be given some credit for your attempt. However this will depend on how much of the program you completed, and the report that comes back to the Magistrate from the MERIT team.
If I complete the MERIT Program, am I guaranteed to stay out of jail?
No. Whilst it will assist your case if you show demonstrated willingness to rehabilitate, and a good report of your completion of the MERIT Program, this does not mean that you will definitely stay out of jail. However, Magistrates place a lot of weight on a successful completion of the MERIT Program, and it will go a long way to securing a sentence alternative to full time imprisonment.
Call LY Lawyers, experts in Drug offences, on 1300 595 299 for a free consultation.