The state of Alabama has established pretrial intervention programs. These programs permit some people to avoid prosecution and conviction if they successfully complete a course of counseling and treatment. The idea behind these programs is to allow individuals who have been accused of criminal acts and who are willing to accept responsibility for their actions to avoid the harshness of a criminal conviction.
While the specifics of these programs vary in different jurisdictions there are some common themes. Most of these programs are limited to first-time offenders although, occasionally prosecutors will permit an individual who has a light prior record (typically for an unrelated charge) to participate in these programs. As a general rule, the less serious the offense and the less serious a criminal background the greater the odds are of being accepted into an intervention program. Individuals charged with serious crimes are excluded and individuals with any type of significant criminal record will not be permitted to participate.
What are the basic types of programs?
While there are many specific programs geared towards a variety of crimes and issues, the nature of these programs tend to fall into two broad categories:
Adjudication Withheld Programs:
In this type of program, the person accused of a crime enters a guilty plea in front of a judge, however, at that time, the judge will not accept the person's plea nor enter it upon the record.
While the person has entered a guilty plea, they have not yet been found guilty. This is because even though somebody may enter a guilty plea in front of a judge, the judge has the discretion of whether or not to accept their plea. So while the person has told the judge they are guilty, the judge has not actually found them guilty. The next step is for the person to complete whatever counseling program they are directed to. If that person fails to successfully complete the program, they are returned to court and the judge will now accept the guilty plea They entered on the previous occasion. After this, the judge will sentence them whatever punishment is determined appropriate. The key difference between this and a pretrial diversion program is that failure to complete this program results in sentencing while failure to complete a pretrial diversion program means the case will be returned to court for criminal prosecution.
How do I know if I qualify for one of these programs?
If you have an attorney or if you obtain an attorney, they can determine if you qualify. Just because you qualify this doesn't mean you will be automatically accepted into any available program. This is because these programs are made available at the discretion of the prosecutor. If the prosecutor does not want to permit you to participate in the program, they can refuse to allow you to do so. Because these programs are offered through the prosecution it means they are the gatekeepers to the programs. Your lawyer must negotiate with the prosecution to see if such a program will be made available to you.
What does it cost?
The cost of the program depends on what specific program a person enters into. There may be other fees. For example, if somebody had an appointed lawyer will be required to reimburse the state that lawyers fees; If restitution is owed to a victim that must be paid; there may also be court costs that must be paid.
What if there is no program available in my jurisdiction?
In some jurisdictions, there may not be any specific program.
This does not automatically mean a person can't avoid a conviction by attending counseling. In these situations, your lawyer would need to negotiate an agreement with the prosecution to permit the dismissal of the charges upon your successfully completing some form of an independent counseling program. Whether your lawyer would be successful in doing so depends on the specifics of your case and whatever efforts you may have made towards rehabilitation. It also depends on the individual prosecutor's outlook as well as other factors such as input from law enforcement or other people involved in your case.
Benefits of completing a pretrial intervention or diversion program
In addition to avoiding a criminal conviction and any potential incarceration, these programs open the door to the possibility of removing one's criminal record for a process known as expungement in Alabama. While expungement is permissible for all crimes under Alabama law the manner in which the situations in which it is permitted very. For many crimes, a dismissal means that a person can apply to have the record expunged. However, not all cases that are dismissed may be expunged since expungement law only permits the expungement of certain crimes in the event a person is found not guilty. Most criminal charges that qualify for pretrial intervention and diversion programs are eligible for expungement at some time after a person successfully completes the terms of their program. If you'd like to talk to us about expungement, feel free to do so.
There are programs specifically designed to provide counseling for certain types of crimes or for individuals who fit certain types of categories. Below are some of the more common programs and information regarding these.
Domestic Violence Intervention 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. Most of these require restitution to whoever suffered a loss. Successful completion of these programs will result in the charges being dismissed.
Many judges and prosecutors are of the opinion that our veterans deserve some sort of a “break” for their service to our country. Veterans may suffer a variety of problems related to their service in the military. These problems may be post-traumatic stress issues or physical issues as a result of injuries. For veterans that are accused of crimes, these programs can offer an opportunity to avoid a conviction and obtain appropriate counseling.
For those veterans accused of crimes, veterans court can provide an option to avoid a conviction and obtain counseling.
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 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.
You should talk to a qualified lawyer to determine if you might qualify. Even if you do do not directly qualify, your lawyer may still be able to negotiate your case in a manner where you can resolve your case by doing some form of counseling even if it is not through a recognized program.
Gun crime diversion
Both prosecutors and judges typically treat gun crimes very seriously. However, some individuals accused of less serious gun-related charges Maybe allowed to participate in diversion and intervention programs. These programs are not offered In violent gun crimes, however, they may be offered in nonviolent offenses involving guns such as carrying a pistol without a permit or having an expired pistol permit. Inappropriate circumstances, the person may be required to successfully complete a gun or hunting safety class as a condition of the charges being dismissed. It is also not unusual for the prosecution to seek the forfeiture of the weapon involved.
Mental Health Court Programs
Many people who find themselves in the criminal justice system suffer from some mental or behavioral health issues. Some people have been previously diagnosed and are aware of their behavioral health issues. Some people, investigating the root of their behavior, may learn that they suffer from some sort of previously undiagnosed behavioral or mental health issue.
These programs are a bit different from other diversion programs in that a judge who serves as the "gatekeeper" In determining who may be permitted to participate in these programs. The judge will determine whether or not someone would be a "good fit" for the program. Simply because somebody suffers from some sort of mental or behavioral health issue does not determine if someone will be admitted into one of these programs. Some individuals may suffer from a mental illness where the judge finds they would not benefit from the program. Similarly, some individuals may suffer mental or other behavioral health issues where the judge thinks it's not appropriate to permit someone to participate in the program.
Mental health court programs are usually of an indeterminate length. This is because different people need different treatments and the length of those treatments vary. If the judge is satisfied that a person has demonstrated they are cooperative with their treatment program and there is no further need for supervision the court may determine to release them. In the experience of this writer, most mental health court programs do not last beyond two years.
Mental health concerns often have an impact beyond mental health court programs. Mental health court programs are available only for those people who "fit" the program. Some individuals may suffer some form of mental illness that is too severe to be treatable through mental health court. Other individuals may suffer from issues that are just not deemed appropriate for mental health court.
Mental health issues can manifest themselves in a variety of ways in our criminal justice system. Even if mental health court is not an appropriate disposition, there are a number of important issues to discuss with your lawyer If you, or someone you love, is suffering from some sort of mental or behavioral health problem and they have been accused of a crime. Any behavioral or mental health issues need to be disclosed to your attorney so he may appropriately help you and address those issues.
Pretrial Intervention and Pretrial Diversion Lawyers
If you're accused of a crime and you would like to find out if you might be able to avoid a conviction by attending a pretrial intervention or pretrial diversion program, feel free to give Segal and Segal a call. Your first consultation is free. Call us anytime.