As a criminal defense attorney, I believe that good people are capable of making bad choices. However, they shouldn't have to pay for these choices for the rest of their lives. Once a person has been arrested, charged and convicted of an offense, a criminal record is created. And its creation will haunt you for the rest of your life. A criminal record has been known to hinder people from landing potential careers, preventing them from joining the military or being accepted into schools, and limiting their access to important resources and benefits provided by the government.
Fortunately, Pennsylvania has a number of diversion programs - programs that allow perpetrators to fulfill certain requirements in exchange for a criminal trial and possible conviction. These programs take on a more rehabilitative approach to crime. For the purposes of this article, I will address some of the program options offered to offenders in the state of Pennsylvania.
Types of Diversion Programs
There are several types of diversion programs offered in the state of Pennsylvania. They include:
ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) Program
ARD is pre-trial intervention program prospectively available to qualified applicants throughout in all Pennsylvania counties. ARD is almost solely offered to first-time offenders (rare exceptions may be made). The program routinely accepts individuals charged with nonviolent minor crimes. Once a person is granted acceptance, he or she is generally given a year to fulfill the requirements imposed by ARD. The requirements consist of being placed on supervision (unofficial probation), the completion of drug and alcohol counseling, community service, random drug tests and paid restitution. Once an alleged perpetrator completes the requirements by the end of the ARD period, the courts will dismiss the case and expunge the criminal charges.
Access to entry into the ARD program is limited, therefore interested applicants can increase their likelihood of being admitted with the help of an attorney.
AMP (Alternative Misdemeanor Program)
Unique to Philadelphia, individuals charged with nonviolent misdemeanor crimes may also be eligible for the AMP program. Prior arrests, convictions, and run-ins with law enforcement are not taken into account when determining eligibility. If accepted into the AMP program, individuals are required to complete up to 18 hours of community service and pay court costs.
Interested applicants must submit an application, with the help of a criminal defense attorney, to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office.
Drug Treatment Court Program
Drug treatment court is a rigorous program that is designed to help individuals charged with felony drug possession with intent to deliver (PWID) evade a criminal conviction. In order to qualify for this program, an individual cannot have any prior convictions or be facing PWID charges that will warrant a mandatory minimum sentence. At its core, it's meant for people who sell drugs to support a drug habit and are seeking rehabilitation. Entry into drug treatment court is solely at the discretion of the District Attorney, who requires that applicants must have an attorney submit an application on their behalf, and undergo an alcohol and drug evaluation. If an applicant qualifies, there are a number of phases he or she must complete to finish the program. The phases entail attending out-patient drug treatment, receiving random drug tests, paying court costs, and meeting with a caseworker and probation officer. Once all the assigned phases have been completed, participants will be celebrated by attending a graduation ceremony with staff and other graduates. But most importantly, the felony PWID charges they once acquired will be withdrawn and expunged from a person's record.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime and wish to avoid a criminal record, you should immediately consult with an attorney. Skilled legal professional Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience getting his clients admitted into diversion programs that upon completion, dismissed their charges and expunged their criminal record. You deserve a second chance. Contact him today for help.