What Is a Pre-Trial Diversion Program?
March 21, 2023
Pre-trial diversion programs offer low-level offenders charged with misdemeanor crimes an alternative to court trial proceedings. The case is placed in diversion while the offender completes the requirements of a designated program.
Upon successful completion of a diversion program, the charges may be withdrawn or dismissed and expunged from the offender’s permanent record. Having a criminal record can hinder the ability to gain employment, obtain housing, receive financing, secure licensure, and many other opportunities that require criminal background checks before approval.
In order to avoid conviction, participants must abide to the terms of diversion programs, which commonly include community service, fines, restitution, substance abuse treatment programs, classes, drug testing, and case-related fines and court costs. Diversion programs are overseen by each county’s District Attorney’s Office. Common programs include:
- Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program: The most common diversion program, ARD covers the broadest range of crimes, though each county has different application requirements. Depending on the offense, you may be supervised for a specific time period, required to take courses or treatment programs, pay fines and court costs, or a combination of all. Those with no prior arrests are typically eligible for ARD for misdemeanor offenses, such as bad checks, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence (DUI), theft, simple assault, and simple possession, narcotics or drug paraphernalia.
- Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM) Program: Offenders charged with marijuana possession fewer than 30 grams may qualify for SAM, provided the charges do not include intent to distribute. Typically, participants are required to attend a three-hour class and pay a fine.
- Alternative Misdemeanor Program (AMP I): Offenders with a non-violent misdemeanor offense, with the exception of DUI, may be eligible for AMP I. Participants will likely be required to perform a specific number of hours of community service and pay up to $200 in court costs.
- Alternative Misdemeanor Program II (AMP II): Offenders eligible for AMP II must plead “no contest” to the charges in municipal court. In addition to community service and court costs, participants must also complete either an anger management course or drug and alcohol treatment, depending on the charges.
- Summary Diversion Program: Offenders cited for a summery offense, such as disorderly conduct or underage drinking, may be eligible for this program. Participants must attend a three-hour course and may pay $200 in court costs.
- Section 17 or 18 Drug Program: Not as commonly utilized, Section 17 or 18 is for offenders charged with narcotics possession or other drug-related offenses, such as prostitution or retail theft. Participants typically are placed on six to 12 months of probation, complete drug and alcohol treatment, undergo random drug testing, and pay associated court costs.
- Drug Treatment Court: The most rigorous diversion program, Drug Treatment Court is an option for those charged with felony drug possession with intent to deliver to avoid conviction. Offenders facing charges carrying a mandatory minimum sentence may qualify, which provides assistance to offenders who sell in order to support their own drug habit. Following drug and alcohol evaluation, qualified offenders are placed on probation and assigned a probation officer and caseworker. Participants must complete intensive outpatient drug treatment, undergo random drug testing, meet regularly with the probation officer and caseworker, and pay associated court costs.
Participants who fail to comply or complete the terms of their diversion program can be disqualified and the original criminal proceedings will resume. Charges or convictions of additional crimes during the course of their diversion program will also result in disqualification.
West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes Represent Clients Applying for Pre-Trial Diversion Programs
Pre-trial diversion programs provide an excellent opportunity for low-level offenders to avoid conviction and a mark on their permanent record. For help, contact our West Chester criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes. Call us at 610-431-7900 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients in Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.