There is a trend in the criminal justice system to treat certain types of non -violent crimes differently than in the past. In part because of overcrowding jails, there are now certain types of resolutions to criminal cases which do not involve incarceration, and also involve resolving cases without any adjudication of guilt.
You may have heard of something called a “Pretrial Diversion Program.” (PTD) What is a PTD and how does it work?
A pretrial diversion program is an agreement which is signed by a Defendant, Prosecutor, and Judge, which says that IF the Defendant does certain things within a specified time, the Prosecutor will ask the Judge to “nolle pros”(not prosecute) the case. PTD’s are generally available in misdemeanor cases, although some Counties in Georgia even allow PTDs in certain drug felony cases.
As an example, many counties now have PTD programs in cases involving underage possession of alcohol. They also have PTD programs involving misdemeanor marijuana possession.
PTDs are usually available to “first time offenders” as a way of allowing a chance to do something which will keep the offender from pleading guilty, being placed on probation, incarcerated, etc. Generally, a Defendant will agree to certain things within 90 to 120 days of signing the PTD agreement. Usually the defendant will pay a “program” fee of between $300 and $600, perform a certain amount of community service, and perhaps complete an alcohol and drug evaluation or DUI Risk Reduction School, as well as complete a certain number of alcohol and drug screens which must come back negative for any alcohol or illegal drugs.
While technically not placed on probation, the offender usually coordinates performance of the conditions of the agreement with a probation officer (PO) of the Court. If the offender completes the PTD satisfactorily, the PO notifies the prosecutor, who then asks the Court to dismiss the case. If the offender fails to complete the program satisfactorily, the PO notifies the prosecutor, and the charges are pursued through the normal court process.
The advantage to agreeing to a PTD is that once everything is completed, your charges are dismissed, AND any arrest record is “restricted” from public access.
While the disadvantage and risk of agreeing to a PTD and failing is minimal, the simple fact is that by NOT complying with the PTD, you have wasted a tremendous opportunity to have a criminal charge totally dismissed.
That is why, in most cases, if a PTD is available I encourage my clients to seriously consider taking advantage of such an opportunity.