Being convicted of a crime can have lifelong consequences. For instance, those with criminal records may have difficulty seeking employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Fortunately, in Florida there are a variety of diversion programs available to first offenders. These programs offer an alternative to jail time, probation, and a permanent criminal record. If you or a loved one has been charged with a first offense or a minor crime, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with and can take advantage of these programs.Pretrial Diversion Programs
In many cases, the completion of a pretrial diversion program can result in the dismissal of charges. These types of programs often require community service, drug testing, and drug or alcohol counseling, although each program’s requirements will in large part be dictated by the type of crime with which a person is charged. For instance, a case involving battery may require anger management therapy rather than drug counseling.
Florida also has additional diversion programs aimed at helping specific individuals, including veterans and those with mental health problems.Mental Health Diversion Programs
Mental health diversion programs are sometimes offered to defendants with mental health problems. If successfully completed, such programs can help eligible defendants receive the help they need while also avoiding jail time. Proving eligibility can be difficult in such cases because courts require medical documentation showing a history of mental illness. Required evidence usually includes the following documentation:
- A record of diagnosis;
- Medical charts;
- Proof of treatment or hospital stays; and
- Letters from medical professionals.
Those admitted to mental health diversion programs are usually required to be active participants for twelve months. This includes regularly meeting with therapists and providing status updates to a case manager.Veterans Diversion Program
Many veterans experience depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder after being released from the military. Sometimes, these issues lead to acts that result in criminal charges. However, successful completion of a veteran’s diversion program can lead to the expungement of a criminal record or a dismissal of charges.
In order to be eligible for admittance into the program, the defendant must satisfy the definition of a veteran or a service member. A veteran is a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service who:
- Was discharged under honorable conditions; or
- Belatedly received an upgraded discharge under honorable conditions.
A veteran must have also served in specific campaigns or during a specified period of wartime service. A service member is any person actively serving as a member of the United States Armed Forces.
To be eligible for the program, a veteran must also suffer from a military service-related mental illness, such as a:
- Traumatic brain injury;
- Substance abuse/addiction problem; or
- Psychological problem.
Additionally, the veteran cannot have committed a violent felony, such as kidnapping, a sexual offense, child abuse, or burglary, in order to be eligible for admission into the program. Graduation from the program requires the completion of community service, drug or mental health counseling, the payment of restitution to victims, and regular meetings with case managers.
Criminal records can have a serious effect on any person’s life. If you or your child are being charged with a first offense, suffer from a mental health issue, or are a veteran, you may be eligible for admittance into a diversion program. Successful completion of such a program can lead to the expungement of your criminal record or a dismissal of charges so, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.