If you’re a first-time, non-violent offender, it may be possible for you to get a second chance at a clean record. Many jurisdictions across Alabama offer pretrial diversion programs for those facing their first non-violent felony charge, or who have a “light” criminal record. If you qualify, you can apply for the program, and upon completion, the charges against you will be dropped.
Pre-trial diversion programs vary across the state, but in general you must plead guilty to your crime in order to participate. This way, the state has leverage against you if you fail to complete the program. In jurisdictions where you must plead guilty, you waive your right to trial. Your plea is initially set aside, but if you fail to complete the program, the judge will enter your plea and you will automatically be convicted. In other jurisdictions, you must make a full confession in order to apply for the program. If you fail to complete the program in these jurisdictions, your case will go to trial, and the prosecutor can use this confession against you.
The purpose of these programs is to give criminals who show remorse a path to recovery. Committing a crime does not make someone a career criminal. Often times, people make mistakes and understand they should have made a different decision, and these people should not have to deal with the lifelong consequences of having a felony on their record.
There are several types of crime-specific pre-trial diversion programs. If you have a history of mental illness or behavioral issues, you may have your case handled in mental health court and be eligible for mental health counseling. Many jurisdictions have veterans programs to help those who may be suffering as a result of their sacrifice to our country. There are also programs for domestic violence, theft counseling, gun crime diversion, nonviolent sexual diversion (ie. statutory rape), and DUI diversion.
Pre-trial diversion programs do have catches, however. To fulfill the requirements of many programs, you must pay a monthly fee. Programs typically last at least 2 years. In Jefferson County, you must complete a 2-year offense specific treatment, undergo random drug testing, and perform 48 hours of community service. Not everyone is eligible for pre-trial diversion programs, for example if you hold a commercial driver’s license and have been convicted of a traffic offense. It’s important to remember that your sentencing has not been cancelled, just postponed. If you slip up at any time during the program, you could still go to prison.
If you are considering applying for pre-trial diversion, it is essential to hire a lawyer. Whether these programs are granted often depends on how well your attorney can negotiate with the judge. Specific facts of your case might be important to emphasize, and even if there isn’t a program specific to the type of crime you committed, an experienced attorney may still be able to get you into a program. It is also possible to have monthly fees waived if you have low income, or to pay the fees in smaller installments over time. Hiring a lawyer may be invaluable to ensure that you comply with all the requirements and get your charges dropped. If for some reason you cannot or do not comply, your attorney still may be able to get your sentence shortened, since it is at the judge’s discretion.
Reid Law Firm understands that people are not perfect, and that we all make mistakes. If you find yourself in a difficult situation and think you might be eligible for pre-trial diversion, the staff at Reid Law Firm can help.