Broward Misdemeanor and Felony Diversion Program Attorney.
Never accept a “deal” without hiring a lawyer first.
When I was a prosecutor, I used to think that I was doing defendants the biggest favor in the world when I would offer a misdemeanor diversion program, often called MDP or PTI (Pre Trial Intervention) in some jurisdictions. I used to say “This is an amazing deal. What a gift I am giving you” and I honestly believed it at the time. Now that I have been practicing Criminal Defense work for years I realize that MDP/PTI is not always as cracked up as people make it. This is especially true when a criminal defendant goes to court and accepts the program without first consulting with a criminal defense attorney. Oftentimes defendants are railroaded into accepting a program offer even when it’s against their interest.
Many times the railroading begins at the scene of the arrest. I can tell you that dozens if not hundreds of my clients tell me that they are already told about the diversion programs and other court programs the moment the officer gives them the ticket or places them under arrest. It’s like the police officer planting a seed in the and convincing the very person they are arresting that they are somehow doing a favor. Really, the information being provided to the arrestee is to keep them calm and confused while being railroaded.
The next step is the court appearance which occurs some weeks after the contact with police. At this point, the defendants have in their head that the program is good and that they will get their case dismissed, no harm no foul. “The police told me that I can do a program to get my case dismissed. I want to do that, it’s the best thing for me.”. Not usually.
What the defendants are not being told is that the court programs have strict rules and can cost hundreds of dollars. That diversion program usually begins with an application to the state attorneys office and then there is an approval process. During this process the defendant could be required to appear in court a few times, missing work or school. Then if the person is permitted to enter the program, they are hit with hundreds of dollars in fees and costs which nobody took the time to explain to them. Many times, after finally being explained the entire process, defendants realize that it might be too expensive or time consuming for them.
Most people who are arrested are ordinary working people with families and tremendous financial pressures. Entering into a diversion program may seem like a good idea but it doesn’t always work out for the best. At the point when that decision is made, there is often a lot of time wasted and some rights waived. The rights to discovery and the right to a speedy trial come to mind immediately.
Through the years, I have received calls from people charged with crimes in misdemeanor and felony court who after an entire application process are then rejected from the program. These rejections come because of any number of reasons. The reasons are most commonly prior arrest or convictions for other offenses or because of “victim disapproval”.
Before even attempting to enter a diversion program in felony or misdemeanor court, you really need to contact an attorney to determine whether the program is your best option. We don’t want you to lose out on a potential defense because the state attorney is dangling a “generous” offer in front of your face. There have been many situations in my career where I have made and have been made an offer of diversion when the case is weak and would likely result in a not guilty verdict at trial.
DIVERSION PROGRAMS ARE NOT ALWAYS FOR EVERYONE
The Diversion Programs offered by the State Attorneys Offices throughout Florida are not always for everyone. Sure it sounds great, pay some money and maybe do some community service hours and the case will be dismissed. Great Right? What if you are totally innocent of the charge? What if the police broke the law when searching you? What if the police pulled you over illegally? What if the evidence against you just isn’t strong enough for a conviction? Should you be forced or coerced into accepting the “gift” of a diversion program? Another thing that police and prosecutors don’t always tell you is that in order to enter the program, you almost always have to write a statement confessing to the crime you are charged with. Still think diversion is a gift?
Of course there are consequences for anyone facing any criminal charge. However, if you are a licensed professional like a doctor, lawyer, public accountant, nurse or other professional licensed by the state of Florida, you could face serious consequences as a result of your case. These consequences could still affect your license after entering and completing a diversion program because some employers or licensing entities consider it an admission of guilt. Sometimes these programs require that you give consent to contact your place of employment to confirm you are currently working. These and other issues are very important considerations before you decide to enter a diversion program without first retaining an attorney to ensure that it’s the best possible outcome for you.
The Office of Dell & Schaefer has been representing criminal defense clients since 1979. Lead Attorney Grant Schwarz is rated as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by National Trial Lawyers, and ready to represent you and start fighting to defend your rights today. Contact the office of Dell & Schaefer if you or someone you know has been charged with an offense and is considering a diversion program as a potential resolution for the case.