Pennsylvania is one of many states that has acknowledged that not all crimes deserve the harsh consequences that are oftentimes carried out by the criminal justice system, particularly crimes that are committed for the first time or aren't violent in nature. The state understands that sometimes counseling and rehabilitation are more effective solutions for some crimes than punishment.
The development of diversion programs by the state legislature has proven to be a useful alternative on all fronts. Depending on the criminal charge, these programs “divert” defendants from the criminal justice system to counseling and rehabilitation early in the process. In some cases, a defendant doesn't even have to plead guilty or no-contest to qualify for diversion programs. Other systems, however, may require the defendant to formally admit guilt, but suspend or alleviate punishment until a defendant completes the program. Ultimately, diversion aids in deterring recidivism while giving defendants the opportunity to compensate victims.
The most common diversion programs in Philadelphia include:
- ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) Program
- Summary Diversion Program
- AMP I (Alternative Misdemeanor Program I)
- AMP II (Alternative Misdemeanor Program II)
- Drug Treatment Court
Completing Diversion Programs in Philadelphia
In order to partake in a diversionary program, a defendant must qualify. Each of the programs mentioned above has various eligibility requirements for entry. Once admitted, it is up to defendants to follow the rules to successfully complete a program. Each program offers different outcomes when completed.
The ARD program is a pre-trial intervention alternative that solely extends to non-violent, first-time offenders. Once this program is completed, the original criminal charges will be dismissed and eligible for expungement.
Summary Diversion Program
The summary diversion program entails for defendants charged with summary offenses to attend an event on a weekend in the Criminal Justice Center. Upon successful completion of this program, the defendant will not be required to appear in court for the matter. The defendant's summary arrest record will be automatically expunged.
AMP I and II
Defendants accepted into either one of these programs are required to complete community service hours and pay court costs within five weeks of accepting the terms. If completed, the prosecution is withdrawn and defendants will be waived from future court dates. The defendant is also not required to return to court or register with probation.
Drug Treatment Court
Drug treatment court is an intensive program that covers four phases over the course of a year. Each phase represents a step toward sobriety. Upon the completion of the four phases, defendants graduate, whereupon their no contest plea is withdrawn and charges are dismissed with prejudice. The case is marked closed at that point. Lastly, if a defendant remains crime-free and drug and alcohol-free during the following year, their case will be expunged.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Philadelphia, you may be eligible for entry into one of the city's many diversion programs. Consult with experienced criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for more information about how you can get approved. Contact him today online or by phone at (215) 535-5353.