If you are accused of a crime, make sure you know all of your options. Speak with a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia for answers and information on how a diversion program may be right for your legal situation.
Diversion programs are a form of sentencing that enable offenders of criminal law to avoid charges and a criminal record. They are often run by a police department, court, district attorney’s office or outside agency. If programs are completed successfully they will often lead to a dropping or reduction of charges, whereas program failure may bring back or heighten the penalties.
Diversionary Program Requirements May Include:
- Victim Restitution of the offense
- Community service hours completion
- Education to prevent future offenses by the offender
- Situational avoidance for a specified period that may lead to committing another such offense
The purpose is generally to relieve the courts, police department and probation office for better outcomes compared to direct involvement in the court system as well as an opportunity for the offender to avoid prosecution.
Problem-solving courts typically include a diversion program.
Main Philadelphia Diversion Programs
Philadelphia is home to more than a dozen programs designed to help individuals accused of a crime participate in rehabilitation programs and, most importantly, provide an avenue for expunging the case and keeping defendants’ records clean.
Most defendants—and most defense attorneys—are not familiar with all of these options.
Accelerated Misdemeanor Program Tier I & II (AMP I & AMP II)
A defendant is eligible for AMP I and AMP II if the charges against him are non-violent misdemeanors.
AMP I, a defendant does not have to enter a plea to the charges and his case is never decided by a judge or jury. Instead, the charges will be dropped in a matter of weeks if the defendant completes a community service program and remains arrest free.
As a rule, the Commonwealth will not fight expungement of the charges if the defendant completes the program.
AMP II, the prosecutor may request that the defendant be found guilty of the charges or enter a similar plea called a “no contest” plea. Once that part is complete, the defendant starts a rehabilitative-intensive version of probation for several months.
Some participants in AMP II are eligible to have their records expunged.
Typically, AMP I is only open to defendants who are facing their first criminal charges, while AMP II is for those who have a criminal history. The rules are flexible and an experienced criminal defense attorney will know that often prosecutors allow defendants into AMP I even if they have a record.
Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD)
In the ARD program, a defendant serves between 6 months and two years of probation.
At no time does the defendant admit to any crime, nor does a judge find that the defendant has committed a crime. Instead, after completing the agreed-upon term of probation and complying with other conditions, such as the payment of restitution and community service, the charges are dropped.
By law the charges must be expunged.
To be eligible for ARD, a defendant cannot have any prior convictions. And oftentimes the prosecutor will reject applicants from ARD if he has prior arrests, even if they did not result in convictions. But the prosecutor decides who does and does not get into ARD, and an experienced criminal defense attorney will know what kind of information is more likely to persuade the prosecutor to accept a defendant into ARD.
Often, when a defendant can show that they are employed and has been a productive member of the community, the prosecutor will allow the defendant into ARD even when he would not normally be allowed in.
Am I Eligible for Drug Treatment Court?
If charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and has multiple prior convictions, they are still potentially eligible for Drug Treatment Court.
Once accepted into drug treatment court a defendant pleads no contest to the charges, but that plea is not finalized. And over the course of the next year, the defendant is monitored by the probation department and undergoes drug and mental health treatment.
If the defendant successfully completes that year of probation, the judge will withdraw the plea and all of the charges are dismissed with prejudice.
Drug treatment court is important because it can keep a felony charge off of your permanent record and in order to qualify for the program you do not need a lean criminal history.
Am I Eligible for DUI Treatment Court?
Defendants who are charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (“DUI”) and who have no more than two previous DUI offenses are eligible for DUI Treatment Court.
Defendants facing a 90-day mandatory sentence need only serve 10 days in county custody and are permitted to serve the remained on house arrest with a concurrent period of two years probation. Defendants may work and go to substance abuse treatment while on house arrest. Defendants facing a one-year mandatory sentence serve only half of that—six months—in custody followed by six months house arrest with a concurrent period of three years probation.
A defendant could spare himself six months of jail time just by making sure his attorney knows about DUI Treatment Court. Read our Philadelphia DUI defense guide
Am I Eligible for Veteran’s Court?
Any defendant charged with a non-violent misdemeanor crime who is also an active of former member of the military is eligible for Veteran’s Court.
Once accepted into the program, defendants can either enter a “no contest” plea or be found guilty by a judge. But once that portion of the program is complete, the defendant is matched with a mentor from the Veteran’s Administration and goes through a personalized mixture of any of the following: drug and alcohol treatment; mental health treatment; medical referrals; as well as housing; and employment training and assistance.
Once a defendant completes his obligations under the program, he goes through a graduation ceremony and is eligible for expungement.
Other Philadelphia Diversionary Programs
These programs can help a defendant turn their life around, save months of jail time, and keep his record clean. With an experienced criminal defense attorney, a defendant has a great chance of finding an appropriate program that can make a world of difference.
- County and State Intermediate Punishment
- Project Dawn
- The Choice Is Yours
- Mental Health Court