What Is Pre-Trial Diversion?

What Is Pre-Trial Diversion
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Pre-trial diversion (PTD) refers to an alternate resolution for criminal cases in which certain offenders are diverted from standard criminal justice processes into a form of supervised release administered by the State of Florida through the Department of Corrections.

Defendants who successfully pass the program get their charges dismissed, while those who fail to meet certain conditions of PTD are prosecuted for the original offense.

What Is the Pre-Trial Diversion Program?

Florida understands that not every individual charged with a crime is a bad person or benefits from incarceration. Plus, the stigma of having a criminal conviction on their record can negatively affect their personal and professional lives.

PTD is a way for certain offenders to avoid prosecution if they meet specific criteria and conditions set by the court. Typically, an offender is arrested, gets charged for a crime, and either pleads guilty and receives a sentence or pleads not guilty and has to go through a trial.

PTD halts the traditional criminal justice process steps between arrest and trial and allows certain defendants to avoid jail time and other penalties by meeting certain conditions involving education, community service, probation, and counseling.

The purpose of PTD programs is to provide non-violent offenders with an opportunity to rehabilitate and move their life forward without having a criminal charge or arrest record tarnishing their future. PTD programs also free up the local courts so they can focus on major crimes instead of low-level offenses.

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Who Is Eligible for Pretrial Diversion Programs?

Generally, pre-trial diversion programs are for defendants who are not a threat to public safety — I.e., first-time offenders or those convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor or third-degree felony.

Specifically, according to Florida Statutes § 948.08(2), those who meet the following criteria may be eligible for a pre-trial diversion program:

  • The defendant is a first-time offender or hasn’t been convicted of more than one non-violent misdemeanor
  • The defendant is charged with a misdemeanor or third-degree felony
  • The defendant is approved for a pre-trial diversion program by the program administrator and consent of the victim, the state attorney, and the judge who presided over the initial hearing

Those arrested for drug possession charges, who do not have a “victim” in the traditional sense, may still be eligible for PDT as long as they do not have any prior records and their offense did not involve violence.

How Do Pretrial Diversion Programs Work?

The PDT program a defendant has to complete tends to be tailored to their specific offenses.

For example, if an individual is charged with a drug possession crime, they may have to undergo random drug tests throughout the program and complete a substance abuse program. Or, if the defendant is arrested for a domestic violence charge, they may have to take anger management classes as part of the PDT.

Some elements will be common in all PDT programs. These include:

  • Length of supervision and monthly reporting
  • Completing certain hours of community service
  • Avoid being arrested for another crime for a specific length of time
  • Program fees and/or restitution
  • Counseling sessions depending on the crime
  • Zero contact with any victims
  • Required attendance in pre-decided educational programs

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What Happens After Completing a Pre-trial Diversion Program

Once you enter a diversion program, you must satisfy all the conditions to complete the program successfully.

Failing to complete the program means your case resets and resumes from the point before you enter the diversion program. Your attorney may enter plea negotiations with the prosecutors, or you may plead not guilty, and the case will proceed to trial. You will face no additional penalties for not finishing your PTD program.

If you finish all the sanctions imposed in your PDT program, you will have your misdemeanor or third-degree felony charges dismissed. After this point, you can truthfully state in job applications and other avenues that you were not convicted for the said crime.

But note that your arrest will stay on your record. For example, if you were charged with a DUI in Florida and completed the PDT program you were enrolled in, your record will show you were arrested for DUI even though you weren’t charged for it. This can still impede career opportunities and your eligibility when applying for loans or mortgages.

But, in Florida, you have the opportunity to get your arrest records sealed or expunged if it didn’t result in a conviction. Sealing a record means your arrest record is sealed from public access, but some government agencies may still be able to access it. Expunging an arrest record is a court order directing all government agencies that have your record — the State Attorney, the Police Department, the Clerk of Courts, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — will destroy the physical record of your arrest.

A pre-trial diversion lawyer can help with every step involved in the sealing and expungement of your records.

Please call Bogin, Munns & Munns to schedule a free initial consultation if you’re interested in learning more about Florida’s pre-trial diversion programs and how they may apply to your case.

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