What is a Pre-Trial Diversion program?
Getting arrested is scary, especially getting arrested for something petty. Don’t panic too much, there are programs for certain defendants that can completely expunge that particular arrest off your record. These programs are called Pre-Trial Diversion or Pre-Trial Intervention programs. These programs have been created by the state legislature and signed into law (O.C.G.A. 15-18-80). Basically, these programs “intervene” or “divert” away from the prosecution of a person’s case, with the end result being a dismissal of the charges and an eligibility to expunge your criminal record. Because diversion programs are created by the prosecuting attorney of each jurisdiction, the program requirements vary by county. For instance, the diversion program and requirements may be different between DeKalb County and Fulton County. In this article we will discuss the diversion programs in Fulton and DeKalb County, Georgia.
- DeKalb County Diversion Programs
The DeKalb County State Court and the DeKalb County Superior Court offer a variety of Pre-Trial Diversion programs to eligible individuals. Eligibility and entrance for the program is analyzed on a case by case basis, and determined by the prosecutor. Generally, you must have little to no prior criminal history. Also, as part of the program, you may be asked to complete community service at a non-profit organization, attend a class appropriate to the underlying issues of your charge, complete a substance abuse evaluation, attend court weekly, pay restitution, and maybe more. If you decide to participate in a diversion program and you successfully complete the terms of your particular diversion program agreement, your charges will be dismissed.
In DeKalb County State Court, defendants charged with shoplifting, disorderly conduct, affray (fighting in public that disturbs the peace), or other minor offenses, with little to no criminal history, will be eligible for the programs. Fees are assessed depending on what program the defendant is admitted into and range between $150.00 – $350.00. The length of the program can last between 6 months to 1 year. The program offered will be based on the the specific charge of the defendant. For instance, someone charged with Possession of Marijuana will have to enroll in a drug related diversion program where they will be subject to drug related courses and continuous drug screening.
DeKalb County Superior Court also offers a Pre-Trial Diversion Program. In order to be eligible for this program, you must have no prior offenses and be accused of a non-violent crime. The program lasts a minimum of 6 months. There is a one-time administration fee, a monthly probation fee, and weekly fees for the course(s) that you are required to take. The specific charge of the accused determines the required course(s) and the amount to pay.
Mental Health is important to both Courts. Both Courts offer a Mental Health Diversion Program that is slightly different from other programs offered. The Mental Health Diversion Program requires the defendant to enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere before being admitted into the program. Once you complete the program, the guilty or nolo plea will be erased from your history. This program last from 1 to 2 years with mandatory court every Thursday at 9:00 am. In order to graduate from the Mental Health Diversion Program, you must complete courses, complete drug testing, meet with a specialist, and attend weekly group meetings.
- Fulton County Diversion Program
Fulton County also offers Pre-Trial Intervention Programs. Fulton’s Pre-Trial Intervention includes the Behavioral Health Treatment Court, Felony Adult Drug Court, and VETS (Program for Veterans). Each of these programs has an extensive course requirement that lasts a minimum of 6 months. Eligibility is based on a case by case analysis. However, criminal history is not a huge factor in determining eligibility for these programs. Most offenders accepted into the programs are repeat offenders. The main goal of the Fulton County Intervention Program is to provide rehabilitation.
To successfully graduate from the programs, defendants are required to adhere to a rigorous set of rules governing their behavior for a minimum of 18 months. During this time, defendants are required to actively participate in an intensive out-patient rehabilitation program or to participate in some other court-approved treatment program. Defendants are also required to appear regularly before a Judge to review their progress and may be required to provide urine samples for random drug screening. To graduate from any program, defendants must refrain from using drugs and/or alcohol for a minimum of six months, be employed or enrolled in school full-time, pay a program participation fine of $750 and successfully complete all requirements of the program.
Fulton County State Court also offers a diversion program. This new program is titled the Pre- Arrest Diversion Program (PAD). This program is a partnership between law enforcement and social service providers that allows police officers to divert offenders into services instead of arresting them. In order to be eligible, the defendant’s activity needs to likely be related to untreated mental illness, addiction, and/or extreme poverty. After an officer makes an arrest for a petty crime, a PAD Navigator will arrive to the scene within 30 minutes in a mobile unit to conduct an intake interview of the suspect. If the suspect is accepted into PAD, the Navigator will connect the offender to housing options, mental health treatment, drug treatment, job training, and more, but not jail. Unlike other programs, there is no costs or fines associated with PAD, and offenders with a prior criminal history are not excluded from the program.
What happens if you don’t complete your Pre-Trial Diversion Program?
Pre-Trial Diversion programs are voluntary and no one is required to participate. If the defendant decides not to take part in a Pre-Trial Diversion, your case will simply be returned to the trial division for prosecution either through a trial or a guilty plea. For more information about alternative sentencing options, contact the trained legal professionals at Bixon Law.