Felony Diversion Programs in Florida
By Jonathan Blecher on December 1, 2016
In Florida, our jails and prisons are overflowing with convicted criminals and as most Floridians are aware, this places a heavy burden on American taxpayers. By the nature of Florida’s location, it’s a hotbed for drug-related activities. From minor marijuana possession to full-blown drug trafficking, the state has been notorious for its illegal drug operations.
As border patrol officials, local and state law enforcement agencies try to manage the state’s daily arrests, lawmakers are trying to figure out how to find a balance so Florida’s jails and prisons are not oversaturated with minor criminal offenders.
Additionally, judges and state prosecutors are concerned about keeping cases moving through the courts. This way, prosecutors can shift their focus to more serious prosecutions, instead of tying up the court’s time with lesser criminal charges, such as those for prescription drug fraud or marijuana possession.
So, what types of solutions have the Florida legislature come up with to lessen the burden on Florida’s jails, prisons and criminal courts? They came up with diversion programs, which were specifically designed to divert certain offenders toward “specialized programs.”
About Florida’s Diversion Programs
In Florida, state legislatures created statutes or laws as a cooperative effort between agencies, such as State Attorney Offices, the Department of Corrections, and the criminal courts to help first-time offenders avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction – a huge bonus for criminal defendants.
One such program is the felony Pretrial Intervention Program, which places offenders under the supervision of the Department of Corrections.
With this program, the individual must successfully complete requirements set forth by the court, such as community service, victim restitution, anger management counseling, substance abuse treatment, etc. Upon successful completion of the program, the state agrees to drop the charges.
Florida also has a separate felony Drug Court Program, which was designed to help people who commit drug offenses; people who commit their first felony drug possession offense may be eligible to participate in the program.
The participants are monitored by the Department of Corrections and the court as they take steps to deal with their addiction. A participant in this program may be required to commit to a residential drug treatment facility and out-patient treatment.
The diversion programs in Florida, include:
- Truancy Diversion Program (for parents who fail to have their children attend school)
- Misdemeanor Diversion Program (MDP)
- Felony Pretrial Intervention (PTI) (for first-time felony offenders)
- Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Diversion Program
- DWLS Diversion Program (Driving While License Suspended)
In order to participate in one of the above programs, the offender must be meet the eligibility requirements first, because exclusions do apply and not everyone will qualify.
For instance, with the felony PTI program, if the offender is charged with a felony of the second degree or higher, any weapons charge, any type of violent crime, a DUI, or possession of LSD, cocaine, or heroin, then they do not qualify for the PTI program. Only those charged with a “qualifying felony” may participate in the program.
If you are facing criminal charges in Miami, it would be worth it to see if you qualify for one of the above diversion programs. To learn more from a former prosecutor, contact my Miami criminal defense firm for a free consultation!