If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Georgia, there are a variety of ways to get the charges dismissed. One road to dismissal is to successfully complete a pretrial diversion program.
“Pretrial diversion” is a generic phrase used to describe programs run by a court system or prosecuting office in Georgia which allow you to have your criminal charges dismissed once you successfully complete the program. Many courts and prosecuting offices in Georgia offer pretrial diversion programs. The purpose of these pretrial diversion programs is to make victims whole by ensuring the victim recuperates any losses related to the alleged crime, to rehabilitate and hold the accused party accountable, to keep the accused party’s criminal record clean by dismissing the criminal charges, and to help minimize the busy court system’s case load.
Although each pretrial diversion program has its own unique criteria for whether or not it will allow a person to participate, these programs are usually offered to people with little or no criminal history who are charged with non-violent offenses. Some programs will not accept people who have previously completed a pretrial diversion program, even if it was completed in another jurisdiction. Many of these programs reject people who are charged with crimes involving large dollar amounts, such as theft or damage cases in which the victim is alleging thousands of dollars in losses.
The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office runs its own pretrial diversion program, for example. This particular program accepts people who it considers first-time, non-violent offenders. It requires that the victim agree to the accused party being accepted into the program. It also rejects theft and damage cases which involve monetary losses it considers too high. As of August 2015, that cap was any alleged loss exceeding $2,500. These are just a few of the requirements to qualify for this pretrial diversion program.
A non-exhaustive list of pretrial diversion programs in the Atlanta metro area:
The downside to entering a pretrial diversion program is its cost and time commitments. Again, each program varies, but the majority of them require the accused party to do some combination of the following: community service (usually approximately 40 hours at an approved non-profit), pay a fine, pay restitution to the victim, and/or complete a rehabilitative course. Fees to participate in these pretrial diversion programs are often several hundred dollars. (Some pretrial diversion programs will waive the participation fee if the accused party has little or no income.) The pretrial diversion program cost is in addition to paying costs associated with attending any rehabilitative courses required by the pretrial diversion program.
The rehabilitative courses you are required to complete often take into account the criminal charges you are facing. For example, a person charged with stealing merchandise from Walmart may be required to complete an anti-shoplifting course, whereas a person charged with public intoxication or DUI may be required to attend a series of alcohol abuse courses. Regardless of the course, the accused party is usually responsible for paying. Most, if not all, of the pretrial diversion programs also require that the accused party pay the alleged victim for any losses the victim has sustained.
Some pretrial diversion programs, such as the DeKalb County Pretrial Diversion Programs in both State and Superior Court, will accept people at any point throughout the legal process prior to trial; however, some programs in other jurisdictions will not allow people to participate if formal charges have been brought by the State.
Even if you are actually innocent, you might still have circumstances that make participating in a pretrial diversion program the right decision for you. For example, in some jurisdictions it can take more than a year to resolve a case should you want a trial. But completing a pretrial diversion program only takes a few months. If you are trying to get a job, it may be in your best interest to resolve the case quickly through a pretrial diversion program so you can report to prospective employers, if asked, that you have no pending criminal charges.
It is wise to speak to a lawyer about your case as soon as possible once you have been arrested, charged with a crime, or expect that you may be charged with a crime in the near future. A criminal defense lawyer will best be able to guide you through these processes and advise you about the available options.
If you need legal representation in a criminal case, I encourage you to hire an attorney as quickly as possible. Call the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026 to speak with me, Alex Merritt, or send me an email directly at email@example.com.
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