Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney for Diversion Programs in Greater Tampa Bay, Florida
While being convicted of a crime may lead to fines, probation, or jail time, the state of Florida recognizes that some criminal offenders are better suited for alternative programs. These alternative programs are called diversion programs. Examples of diversion programs might be drug rehab for a first-time drug offender, or Teen Court for juvenile first-time offenders.
By hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney, a defendant often has a better chance at being accepted into a diversion program. Clearwater criminal defense attorney Charles Holloway, P.A., is very familiar with how diversion programs work and how to negotiate with the State Attorney’s Office for acceptance into these programs. For more information about diversion programs and to discuss other factors in your case, please call (727) 446-8303 to speak to criminal attorney Holloway.
When a case is resolved, whether by a plea or a guilty verdict after trial, the Court will sentence the accused. The sentence is governed by the Florida Statutes and must conform to the rules and restrictions outlined in the law. The extent of each sentence depends on the level of crime (misdemeanor or felony), the degree of crime (first, second, or third), and the type of crime (e.g. drugs, domestic violence, DUI).
While specific sentences may vary from case to case, there are some forms of punishment which remain constant across the board. The forms most commonly include probation, fines, court costs, and where applicable, incarceration. In addition, the Court either withholds adjudication of guilt (i.e. does not officially find the accused guilty) or it adjudicates the accused to be guilty (i.e. does find the accused officially guilty). Whether the Court adjudicates or withholds adjudication, the client is left with a record that includes the charge, the prosecution, and the sentence.
There are alternatives to this traditional outcome. These alternatives are known variously as the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI) and the Domestic Violence Diversion Program (DVP).
By law, the State Attorney is given the authority to act as gatekeeper to each of these programs. Application is made to the State Attorney for acceptance, and the State holds the authority to grant or deny entry to the program. If accepted, the matter passes to the Court for its approval and the accused is ushered into the program. If denied, the matter passes back into the official process of the Court system for either settlement by plea or a trial. Certain charges that are not permitted in the program include 2nd degree felonies and DUI.
The diversion programs (PTI & DVP) share certain features in common. Each requires the accused to participate in a form of probation, lasting from approximately 12 to 18 months. The DVP lasts a total of 12 months and often requires completion of 26 meetings with an anger management or batterer’s intervention program. The PTI program lasts a total of 18 months and may also require additional effort such as completion of drug counseling or the payment of restitution, where appropriate. Occasionally the State Attorney can be persuaded to reduce the length of the program or the conditions to be completed.
The benefits of the diversion programs include the avoidance of fines and court costs, the guarantee of a known outcome, and ultimately, the dismissal of the charge if the program is successfully completed. In addition, the records of certain crimes such as Domestic Violence, can be expunged or sealed if the charges are dropped as a result of completion of the DVP.
A criminal defense attorney can assist in the diversion process by negotiating with the State Attorney’s Office for acceptance into the program. This may include persuading the prosecutor to reduce the crime charged, so that the client will qualify for the program (e.g. reduction from 2nd to 3rd degree felony). A criminal defense attorney may also be able to persuade the State to reduce the length of the program or limit the number of counseling sessions required. When completed, the criminal defense attorney may assist in expunging or sealing the client’s record, where appropriate.
When they are eligible, many criminal defendants prefer diversion programs over traditional sentences. However, being admitted into a diversion program may require the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who understands the laws involved in such programs. Please e-mail or call Clearwater criminal defense attorney Charles Holloway, P.A., to discuss your case and the possibility of a diversion program.