We all make mistakes. And, we all deserve a second chance. But after an arrest, it can seem so hopeless, as our so-called justice system can be overwhelming to those not familiar with the process. Since 1993, John Guidry has been defending people who find themselves facing criminal charges for the first time.
There is hope. First offenders can have all charges dropped through several different programs called either diversion, intervention, or drug court. An Orlando first offense lawyer can explain how this works.
How to Qualify for Diversion Programs
As a first time offender, you may qualify for various programs commonly referred to as “diversion programs.” In Orange County, one such program is called PTD, or Pretrial Diversion. Whether or not you qualify for the program depends on the accusations–not all crimes qualify. And, even if the crime qualifies, acceptance into the program can be difficult to negotiate or sometimes not even available (for example, Orange County now has a diversion program for DUI cases, yet a DUI case where the driving pattern was considered dangerous will not be accepted into the program). In Osceola County, the diversion program is called CDP, or County Diversion Program (Osceola County also has a Drug Court program similar to Orange County’s). CDP’s requirements are similar to the diversion programs of Orange and Seminole.
The beauty of diversion is simple. Complete the diversion program, and your criminal charges will be dropped. Completing the diversion program is pretty simple. It involves roughly 12 months of supervision, including random drug testing, community service, various classes–and then dismissal! As a side note, please be aware that dropped charges are not automatically expunged or erased, but we can expunge the criminal history as well. You’d be amazed at how many people think that just because their charges were dropped, that the criminal history was erased as well. Not so, unfortunately.
Diversion program requirements vary depending upon the crime charged. Most cases require an amount of community service, on the low end typically around 50 hours. A drug possession charge will require random drug screening and possibly a drug evaluation/treatment/counseling, whereas a Petit Theft charge may require an Impulse Control Seminar. Diversion programs also require a certain amount of supervision, conducted as a monthly meeting with a county probation officer (even though you’re not technically “on probation”). Of course, completing these programs means all charges against you will be dropped, which may then open the door to a later expungement.
Can a Person With Criminal Priors Qualify to First Offender Programs?
We’re throwing around the term “first offender” quite a bit here, but the fact is, most diversion programs will permit entry even with a few criminal priors–so long as the old cases are nothing serious. If, for example, a client does not qualify for pretrial diversion due to a prior criminal history, it is often possible to get dismissal through another program like pretrial intervention, or drug court, or veteran’s court.
Orange County, Seminole County, and Osceola County all have programs other than PTD, and most of the alternatives to pretrial diversion involve some sort of drug treatment, even though the actual charges need not be drug related (theft cases, for example, may enter into drug treatment diversion programs). The most popular drug treatment diversion program is Drug Court, and it’s requirements are more intense than those of the PTD program, but Drug Court programs also provides for dismissal upon successful completion. The requirements of these programs are extensive, so be sure to call our experienced criminal attorney (me?) to discuss your options.
Seminole, Orange, and Osceola County now have Veteran’s Court diversion programs. This program requires some sort of drug problem, which will be handled through a partnership between the court system and the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Speak with a Trusted Attorney Today
At the Law Firm of John P. Guidry II, our Orlando first offense lawyers have been defending criminal cases and first time offenders since 1993. Everything from misdemeanors to felonies, throughout central Florida, in cities such as Orlando, Sanford, Kissimmee, Winter Park, Longwood, Oviedo, Ocoee, Altamonte Springs, Maitland and Windermere.
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