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Diversion Programs in Florida

If you have been accused or charged with a crime, you will most likely be seeing court, as well as potential jail time. Any crime has specific consequences attached to it. However, there are some cases where there is another option. There is another way out of the cell—diversion programs. Diversion programs are about as old as the justice system itself. It is a way to bypass jail time and to provide offenders with necessary services that can get to the root of the underlying problem that caused them to commit a crime in the first place. Such criminal behavior includes alcohol and drug abuse. Diversion is used in hopes that it will grant defendants to establish a normal lifestyle without the crucial burden of a criminal record.

If you have been charged with a crime and you believe that a diversion program can apply to your case, it is imperative to reach out and contact an experienced defense attorney. With the right legal help, you can avoid jail time and keep your criminal record clean. Mistakes do happen, and it is not worth ruining your future over one poorly made decision. However, getting subjected to a diversion program is no DIY project. Receiving the advice and legal help of a strong defense attorney team can make the difference of experiencing serious charges and coming out of court with a clean slate.

What is a Diversion?

A diversion can be described as any variety of programs that apply strategies to avoid the more formal processing of a defendant by the justice system. If a person has been accused of a crime, the typical diversion program will direct them to a care or treatment program as an alternative to criminal prosecution and imprisonment.

One area that diversion programs are used for is nonviolent drug offenses. Courts provide nonviolent substance abusing adults with the services necessary to avoid long term incarceration and try to change their behavior. Researchers have found that these types of treatment in lieu of jailtime can reduce criminal behavior, substance abuse, and recidivism. There are different forms of diversion, and different variations of diversion programs, which will be discussed further on.

Diversion programs are also popular as an alternative to processing juvenile cases. Any youth who has been charged with a misdemeanor or non-violent third-degree felony as a first offence can be eligible for one of the many diversion programs offered. Diversion programs are given as an alternative to especially young people, as it would be difficult to prosecute them, and the overall goal is to get them the correct services to prevent future problem behaviors.

Diversion programs are also implemented for individuals whose offenses are rooted in their untreated mental illness. If you would like to read more about mental health courts, you can do so here.

Forms of Diversion

There are two key forms of diversion—formal and informal. Formal diversion is when there is a program that the defendant must complete as a condition. The treatment offered to the defendant is a voluntary sanction that justifies closing the case once it is completed. An example of this would be if there was a person charged with a domestic violence charge. They may be sent to an anger management program to combat the issue and to ensure it does not happen again. The criminal case would then be dropped if the defendant successfully finishes the program.

An informal diversion occurs when the official decides that the case would be better kept out of the justice system altogether. These types of decisions occur daily. An example of this is if the police have a traffic violation suspect that is a minor. If the minor had been calm and deferential, there is a chance that the officer diverts the charge before it’s even given.

Enrolling in a diversion program can be seen as a treatment, which forgoes prosecution of the defendant, especially if they are a first-time offender. The basic aim of diversion programs are to help the defendant avoid jail time, whether it be while awaiting trial or altogether. Avoiding jail time is obviously a considerable outcome for a criminal charge. Imprisonment has multiple downfalls, including the loss of jobs and disruption to families.

Types of Diversion Programs

MIP – Misdemeanor Intervention Program

The Misdemeanor Intervention Program is a diversion program set for first-time offenders. The State Attorney Office must give consent for a defendant to partake in the Misdemeanor Intervention Program. This diversion program gives a person who has been charged with a first-time offense an opportunity to seek rehabilitation and divert their case from the criminal court system. Generally speaking, the defendant should complete the program within 3-6 months with proper monitoring, fees, classes and/or community service. The requirements for the MIP differ depending on the type of offense. Examples of these conditions are as follows:

  • If a person has been charged with a misdemeanor for the possession of marijuana, they must provide several random urine tests. If any of these come back positive, the person must then undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and complete follow-up treatment.
  • If a person has been charged with a misdemeanor of shoplifting or petit theft, the defendant must agree to attend classes on how to prevent future shop lifting acts.
  • If a person has been charged with assault or battery, they may have to attend anger management classes.
  • If a person has been charged with domestic battery, they may have to attend up to 26 weeks of intensive courses referred to as “Batterer’s Intervention”.
  • If a person has been charged with lewd and lascivious acts, the standard terms they must follow are STD screenings, staying away from the location of the offense, and 16 hours of community service.
  • If a person is charged with carrying a concealed weapon, they must forfeit the weapon—unless they hold a concealed weapons permit—and 16 hours of community service.
  • If a person is charged with soliciting prostitution, they may be screened for health tests, stay away from the location of the soliciting, and attend the Johns Awareness Diversion Education program,
  • If a person is charged with resisting without violence, they may have to write an apology to the law enforcement officer, and complete 24 hours of community service.
  • If a person is charged with vandalism, they may have to complete 16 hours of community service.

PTI – Pretrial Intervention

The Felony Pre-Trial Intervention program is a diversion program run by the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC). This program is meant to allow first time felony offenders an alternative to divert their case from the trial court process. If a defendant had been charged with a third-degree felony, they can be approved of this program. The PTI program provides defendants the opportunity to avoid the reprehension of a criminal conviction.

Felony PTI is more intensive, expensive, and more time-consuming than the misdemeanor intervention program (MIP). It is an 18-month long program that is supervised by the DOC. The PTI program can appear to be similar to probation, although the main difference is that probation is court ordered after a plea has been made in front of the judge. The PTI diversion program is made voluntarily after you have seen the judge and have agreed to partake in the voluntary program. If you have been charged with a more serious offense, the prosecutor may agree to reduce the charges to make you eligible for the PTI program.

To be eligible for PTI program in the 13th Circuit, the applicant must have no prior felony offenses with the law. The person must also have no more than one prior conviction for a non-violent misdemeanor. If the person applying for the PTI is under 25 years-old and holds a juvenile record, they may be disqualified for the program.

The standard conditions for the PTI program are as follows:

  • A requirement to report monthly to the Department of Probation.
  • A requirement to attend school and/or work.
  • A requirement of a minimum of 50 hours of community service.
  • No possession of firearms or weapons.
  • A monthly fee for the cost of supervision.
  • Any additional court fees, and payment of restitution, if applicable.

If a person has successfully completed the PTI program after the length of a year, the charges against them will be dropped. If for any reason the program has been violated, a person can be locked up with no bond. In addition, a person could potentially be sentenced to anything the judge would have originally sentenced them to, including 5 years of prison for a third-degree felony.

DPTI – Drug Pretrial Intervention

The Drug Pretrial Intervention program (DPTI) that focuses on the first-time drug offenders who have been charged with drug abuse. This program aims to help these defendants receive treatment for their substance abuse. If the program is completed, the felony charge will be dropped. The length of the treatment can vary depending on the case and the defendant’s needs, but the state of Florida typically requires the supervision be set for one year.

For defendants to be eligible for the DPTI program, they must meet the following criteria:          

  • The person is 18 years or older.
  • The person has been charged with a first-time non-violent felony offense.
  • The person has not been convicted of a prior pretrial intervention or prior felony.
  • The person is willing to participate in the program to completion.

In addition, the court has the following requirements for the applicants of the DPTI program:

  • The person must undergo drug screenings twice a week until graduation.
  • The person must comply with the appropriate treatment.
  • The person must comply with the court orders.
  • The person must stay abstinent from the use of drugs and alcohol.
  • The person must have regular meetings with the Department of Corrections Probation Officer.
  • The person must attend the regular court appearances.

Juvenile Diversion Programs

The Juvenile Diversion Program is for a minor who has been accused of a juvenile offense for the first time. There is an agreement between the State Attorney, the youth, and the parents of the youth that is made where a case will be dismissed after the completion of the agreed program. There are certain juvenile misdemeanor charges that are not eligible for diversion programs, including battery, assault on a law enforcement officer, violation of an injunction, DUI, or racing.

Studies have shown that a minor is less likely to commit the same crime after completing a diversion program. It can significantly reduce the likelihood of the youth entering the juvenile justice system. Allowing early intervention and holding youth accountable in a more educated manner can be a more productive way to deal with a criminal offense accused by a juvenile.

The most used diversion programs for juveniles are as follows:

  • Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program – civil citation
  • Arbitration – before the petition is filed
  • Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program (JDAP)
  • Juvenile Diversion Program (JDP)
  • The Walker Plan – After the petition is filed
  • The Sex Walker Plan – For sexually motivated crimes by a juvenile against a younger child.
  • Juvenile Drug Court

The main goal with any of these diversion programs is to reduce the amount of juvenile crime, and to give the youth a second chance to go down the right path. Providing treatment as an alternative to a jail cell can help to steer young children and young adults towards a better lifestyle.

RIDR – DUI Diversion

The RIDR diversion program stands for the Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism, which is a DUI initiative. This diversion program is an attempt to improve highway safety, reduce impaired driving, and reduce offender recidivism. Recidivism refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior. Ideally, a person attending the RIDR program would be less likely to commit the same offense again.

Some DUI offenses can be reduced to reckless driving as a plea bargain. However, with the RIDR diversion program, the person would be avoiding jail time, as well as going through required sanctions to ensure the same act does not happen in the future. RIDR has positive outcomes, showing that DUI cases can be prosecuted in a more consistent manner, one that allows first-time offenders an opportunity at rehabilitation.

The state of Florida has the following requirements for someone to be eligible for the RIDR diversion program:

  • The defendant was not arrested for DUI with property damage or personal injury.
  • There were no minor passengers in the vehicle at the time of the stop.
  • The defendant has no pending charges for driving with a suspended license, driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident with injuries, or vehicular homicide.
  • The defendant is not participating in any other PTI diversion programs already.
  • The defendant is not currently on probation.
  • The defendant does not have a prior record for any other DUI offense, alcohol-related reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, vehicular homicide, any other DUI diversion program, or any adjunction to a felony within the last 5 years prior to the date of the current offense.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, it is vital that you reach out to an experienced Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney. You may be eligible for one of the above diversion programs depending on the circumstances surrounding your particular case. Finding the right attorney can help you determine whether a diversion program is the best way to resolve your case. If it is the right move, the attorney can help provide you with advice and ensure you can get into a diversion program with the best possible terms. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Criminal Defense have years of experience fighting for the rights of those who have been accused of a crime. Don Pumphrey is prepared to fight in your corner and make sure you get the best possible outcome. Call (850) 681-7777 today and receive a free consultation regarding your case.

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