Facing criminal charges can be stressful and overwhelming, particularly if it is your first experience in the criminal court system. However, being charged doesn't always have to mean a conviction. A diversion program may be an option for you if you are a first-time offender facing misdemeanor charges related to drug and/or alcohol abuse. These programs allow you to complete a certain set of requirements set forth by the courts, and once you have met these, the charge will be dismissed.
There are generally two types of diversion programs. The first is what is referred to as a pretrial diversion program. If this option is available to you, you will have to waive your right to a speedy trial and begin the court's requirements. You do not need to enter a plea under this option. For drug and alcohol offenses, the requirements may include having to submit to random drug tests, complete a substance abuse treatment program and/or paying any restitution or fines as required by the courts, but the exact terms will vary.
The other common diversion program is deferred adjudication. Under this option, you will need to enter a guilty or no contest plea. After that, instead of the court returning a verdict and sentence, you will be given a set of conditions. Once you have satisfied these conditions, the charges will be dismissed and will not be a part of your criminal record.
It's important to understand, however, that if you do not satisfy the terms and conditions of your diversion program, you will be placed back into the court system. For the pretrial diversion program this means you will likely go to trial, and for the deferred adjudication, you will be convicted and sentenced because the guilty or no contest plea will already be on file. If you have questions about Florida's diversion programs and whether you may qualify, contact attorney D. Scott Rieth.