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First time offenders… Pretrial Diversions

Everybody makes mistakes. Some mistakes can be corrected… with the right strategy.

“Deferred Prosecution Agreement” is for those accused of misdemeanor offenses, and “pre-trial intervention” is for those accused of most third degree, non-violent felonies. Most charged with more serious offenses are not eligible for these programs.

Normally, in Volusia and Flagler Counties, all parties involved must agree to allow the offender into a deferral program – this include the state prosecutor, the judge, the victim and even the law enforcement officer involved in the arrest. If the victim objects to the agreement, the State will usually not offer a diversion program.

Entering one of these programs can occur anytime during the case . Normally, the defense and the prosecutor have already discussed the possibility of entering a diversion program and the attorney has conveyed the terms to the client.

Misdemeanor diversion typically last three to six months depending on the offense while felony pretrial intervention is most often one year. Once enrolled in one of these program, the offender is assigned an officer to report to, sometimes on a monthly basis. They will have certain conditions to meet and certain fees to pay.

For instance, someone charged with petty theft typically must complete 20 hours of community service, an online shoplifting anonymous course and refrain from visiting the business they are accused of stealing from.

Usually, those in a deferral must refrain from drinking and are subject to random drug testing at their expense.

In felony cases, however, the state will require the defendant to plead no contest to the charge at the outset. In that case, if they don’t complete the program successfully, there will be no issue as to the guilt or innocence of whether they committed the offense. The issue will be what type of sentence they receive. The prosecutor’s office policy requires some defendants to enter pleas because if the defendant fails the program they may have a difficult time locating witnesses and cannot then prove their case.

If the person, as in many cases, does not enter a plea, their case begins anew if they fail to complete the deferral program.

Some crimes are not eligible for deferral, including most felony violent offenses. In Volusia and Flagler counties, DUIs are not allowed to be deferred. (while Orange county in Orlando may allow first time DUI offenders into pretrial DUI diversion). Some drug crimes, like those involving marijuana, are often admitted to these programs. Methamphetamine and cocaine offenders, however, are less frequently allowed into felony intervention programs.

There is a separate pre-trial diversion program for some first time offenders of Domestic Violence Pretrial Diversion Program with more conditions to complete, such as 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling. Please keep in mind that almost all diversion programs, as mentioned below, are subject to negotiation between your attorney and the prosecutor.

If the subject completes the diversion or intervention program, the state will dismiss the charges, and the subject has avoided getting a criminal conviction on his record. Many times, they may also be eligible for a sealing or expunction of the original arrest if they have no criminal convictions in their past or no adjudications of guilt.

Every case is different, and the details are often negotiable. That’s where a good attorney educating the prosecutor as to the unique facts of a particular case can be extremely helpful.