Pre Trial Diversion Guide for Georgia Courts
Many clients qualify for what is called "pre trial diversion" programs but may not be informed by the prosecution that this is an option available to them. In this guide, I will go through the following: who qualifies, what is required for diversion programs, and why you should consider them.
Who Qualifies for Pre Trial Diversion?In most Courts in Georgia, if you are facing misdemeanor charges and this is your first arrest, you likely have a diversion program available to you. The exceptions being, DUI charges and most traffic offenses. For example, simple assault, battery, family violence, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, criminal trespass and almost all shoplifting offenses have alternate sentencing available. The most common felony charges which have diversion programs are first time drug possession offenses. Some courts are more lenient than others and may offer diversion even if this isn't your first arrest, as long as your previous charge is several years old and not the same as the charge you are currently facing (for example, a ten year old criminal trespassing charge and you are now facing possession of marijuana under one ounce).
What is usually required for the program?Typically, the Court wants the program that defendants participate in to fit with the crime committed. If you are facing drug charges, the Court may require that you attend an alcohol and drug evaluation, seek treatment for substance abuse and submit to random urine screens for drugs. Alternatively, if you are facing simple assault or battery charges, the program may not have drug screens but instead you would be asked to attend family counseling or complete an anger management program. In order to complete diversion, you will be placed on probation, this is often times between 6 months to one year in length.
Why should I consider Pre Trial Diversion?The benefits of this program are that once you have completed the requirements and finished probation, if you have not re-offended or failed some of the steps in the program, your case is officially dismissed by the Court. If your case occurs after 2008, now, in the State of Georgia, your criminal record is automatically restricted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. Although any law enforcement official, or Judge or Prosecutor will be able to see the previous case on your history, a background check conducted by most civil organizations (think of a background check by a potential employer) will not show the arrest.