If you are charged with a crime, particularly if you are a first-time offender or an individual with a "light" criminal record, you may be provided an opportunity to participate in some form of counseling where, upon successful completion, you may be able to avoid a criminal conviction. This is extremely important because it may allow you to seek the expungement of your criminal record and because you will not have a conviction if you successfully complete these programs. A common feature of these programs is that the person must be willing to admit their responsibility for the crime.
There are two basic types of programs although different courts call them by different names.
The first type of program is what we will refer to as an “adjudication withheld” program. Under these programs the person must appear in front of a judge and plead guilty but, unlike a regular case, the judge will not accept the person's guilty plea. The person is directed to complete an appropriate counseling program. If that person successfully completes the program their case will be returned to court and the judge will set aside the previously entered plea of guilty; this means the person's charges will be dismissed and there will be no conviction.
The second type of program is a diversion or “pre-trial Intervention program”. In programs of this nature, the accused must provide a written confession to the prosecution. By pre-agreement with the parties, this confession may be used against the accused if they fail out of the program. Because the prosecutor is permitted to introduce a person's confession, in most cases, should the case be prosecuted, a conviction is assured. Under these programs the person also must successfully complete a counseling program and, upon successful completion, the charges are dismissed.
The primary difference between an “adjudication withheld” type program and a diversion program is what happens if a person fails to successfully complete the program. If a person fails to complete a diversion program, the cases returned for prosecution and the prosecutor is permitted to use the person's confession against them should the case proceed to trial. In an adjudication withheld program, there is no need for a trial since the accused has already pled guilty; when a person fails an adjudicated withheld program, all that remains is for the court to impose a sentence. In many instances the person is aware of what the consequences are should they fail out of the program. While no one should enter any of these programs if they don't intend to complete them, the consequences for failing and adjudication withheld program tend to be more severe.
There are now a wide variety of intervention and diversion programs in Alabama which are tailored to the specific needs and circumstances that may be involved in an individual case. While not exhaustive, here are some of the types of programs available:
Mental health court
Some people suffer from some mental or behavioral health issues and, may be given an opportunity to continue or complete appropriate counseling to deal with the underlining behavioral or mental health issues.
It is not at all uncommon that people with behavioral/mental health issues wind up in the criminal justice system. Punishment is not always the best world the most appropriate resolution under the circumstances and, fortunately, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a resolution that allows you to get appropriate counseling and avoids a conviction.
Many judges and prosecutors are of the opinion that our veterans not only deserve some sort of a “break” for their service to our country but recognize they may suffer from problems related to their service in the military. These problems may be post-traumatic stress issues or physical issues as a result of injuries.
If you are a veteran in your accused of a crime, this may be an option that enables you to avoid a criminal conviction.
Domestic violence programs
There are a variety of programs available to help resolve issues involved in domestic violence cases. It's not unusual for the accused to be residing with the alleged victim. Sometimes it is best to resolve any underlying issues through counseling and to avoid a conviction.
If this is an option that might be appropriate for you, you should be sure to discuss this with your lawyer.
Theft counseling programs
There are a variety of programs available to people who are accused of theft crimes. Almost all of these will require restitution to whoever suffered a loss. Successful completion of a theft diversion or counseling program will result in the charges being dismissed.
Sex crime diversion
While relatively rare, in appropriate circumstances, a prosecutor may offer an individual accused of a sexual crime an opportunity to avoid a conviction by attending appropriate counseling. These types of programs are usually offered only in low-grade and nonviolent sexual offense charges. There most often offered in case of statutory rape where there is no issue of force involved and the matter is only a crime because of the age difference between the parties, even here, the prosecution will look at the age difference so, for example, an 18-year-old boy who has sexual relations with his 15-year-old girlfriend would be far more likely to be granted diversion than a 60-year-old man who had relations with his 15-year-old girlfriend.
For those few fortunate enough to be offered an opportunity to avoid a conviction for a sex crime by attending counseling, this is often a blessing.
both municipal and state courts have diversion programs available for people accused of driving under the influence. The admission requirements and the nature of the programs do vary considerably depending upon the jurisdiction in which you are charged. For example, in Huntsville Municipal Court if you have a blood alcohol content above a certain level you will not be permitted to participate.
Of course you should talk to a qualified lawyer not only to determine if you are qualified but, because even if you do not qualify in one court, your lawyer may be able to negotiate and maneuver your case such that you still can resolve your case by doing some form of counseling.
Gun crime diversion
surprisingly, even some individuals accused of gun-related charges are occasionally allowed to participate in diversion and intervention programs. Usually, these counseling programs are offered only in less serious criminal offenses involving guns such as carrying a pistol without a permit or having an expired pistol permit. In appropriate circumstances, the person may be required to successfully complete a gun or hunting safety class as a condition of the charges ultimately being dismissed. It is also not unusual for the prosecution to seek the forfeiture of the weapon involved.
Other diversion programs
Occasionally there is not a specific diversion program in place that “fits” the nature of the crime.
This doesn't mean that the person is forbidden from doing some sort of a program to avoid a conviction. It does mean that your lawyer will need to come up with and suggest a creative resolution for your case that would be acceptable to first the prosecutor and ultimately to the judge.
Alabama First-Time Offender Lawyers
At Segal and Segal, we've helped many people obtain admission into various types of counseling programs and allowed countless people to avoid the pain of a criminal conviction.
If you successfully complete one of these programs, you may have the added benefit of being eligible to seek the expungement of your criminal arrest history; in other words, you may be able to erase your case and thereby protect your future.
If you'd like us to evaluate your case for free, just give us a call at (256) 533-4529 or send an online message to schedule an appointment. At a minimum, you will leave more well-educated about your case and you will have our opinion as to the best strategy for your case.
We defend in all of the courts in North Alabama including Madison, Morgan, Marshall, Limestone, and Jackson counties. We also defend in all municipal courts in North Alabama including, Huntsville Municipal Court, the Municipal Court of the city of Madison. The municipal courts of Athens, Scottsboro, Albertville, Lacey Springs, Newhope, Wall Triana, Guntersville and other North Alabama Municipal Courts.
Legal Information for First Time Offenders in Alabama
- Eligibility Requirements for Madison County First-Time Offenders
- Details of the Huntsville First Time Offender Program
- Serving First Time Offenders in Huntsville