Of the adverse outcomes that could potentially come with criminal charges, the creation of a criminal record is arguably the worst. A criminal record in and of itself warrants repercussions that extend far beyond legal penalties and into a person's post-conviction life. With a record oftentimes comes severely limited career prospects, ineligibility for some government programs, reduced chances of acceptance into colleges and universities, and in some cases, less constitutional rights. It's evident that the barriers created by a criminal record in society, known as collateral consequences, make staying out of legal trouble much more difficult going forward. The good news is that charges for a criminal offense don't have to be the end of the road.
In Philadelphia, diversion programs are a saving grace for defendants who qualify. They are essentially a form of sentencing that allows criminal offenders to avoid a criminal record. Diversion programs are run by either a district attorney's office, the court, the police department, or an outside entity. If a program is successfully completed, charges may be dropped or lessened, while the failure to complete one may result in re-sentencing or heightened penalties. The most common diversion programs available 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
Diversion Program Eligibility Requirements
Each diversion program has different requirements that defendants must meet in order to join.
The ARD program is a pretrial intervention program that is solely extended to first-time non-violent criminal offenders. There are some conditions that will make an applicant ineligible right of the bat, like prior criminal convictions, a case involving an injury, previous accusations of domestic violence and sex crimes, and the presence of a minor child as a passenger during an arrest.
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. It costs $200 to join. However, candidates who've acquired charges that involve cruelty to animals, criminal mischief, or deadly weapons may not apply.
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. AMP I only accepts non-violent first-time offenders charged with misdemeanor crimes. AMP II, however, accepts non-violent offenders with a “limited” criminal history.
Drug Treatment Court
Deemed as an intensive program, drug treatment court covers four phases over the course of a year. Each phase represents a step toward sobriety. If a defendant is granted entry into the program they will undergo mandatory drug and alcohol treatment programs, regular urine screenings, monthly progress listings, and routine meetings with case managers. Defendants accepted into this program are typically non-violent drug or drug-related offenders with no more than any two previous non-violent adult convictions.
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.