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COUNTY CONSIDERING DRUG COURT

Orleans County is considering a new drug court designed to help substance abusers "break the cycle of addiction," county officials said.

If the court is approved by the County Legislature, town justices will be empowered to refer cases to the new court.

Meanwhile, legislators have raised concerns about both funding and the possible erosion of judicial power from the towns.

"The drug court has met with wide acceptance throughout the country," said Joseph Cardone, Orleans County district attorney. "We realize there is some expense to that."

Cardone said the drug court would operate during night hours at the Orleans County Courthouse.

Under the plan, the county would apply for a three-year federal grant worth $129,534 each year and for $44,000 in county funding.

He estimated that the court could handle 10 to 15 cases in the first year. Defendants not eligible for court intervention would be alleged sexual abusers and those accused of using a weapon or other acts of violence.

Cardone said people referred to the court could be eligible for at least one court appointment a week. The court would be empowered to require drug tests of the defendants, who could be under the court's jurisdiction for up to 16 months.

Cardone, who also said a drug court coordinator would have to be hired, pointed to a similar court in Buffalo that is credited with helping the city save $6.3 million.

Legislators say they need more time to study the issue, even though the deadline to apply for federal money is May 22.

"There is going to be an impact on the towns' budgets," said Richard Bennett, county legislator. "How is that going to impact? I'd hate to have 10 supervisors on my case."

"We are taking over the responsibilities that they are doing in town courts," Bennett added.

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