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Is a pretrial diversion program an option?

It's critical to understand all of your defense options anytime you are facing criminal charges, but even more so when they involve felony offenses. While pretrial diversion programs are not available for every case and are largely offered at the prosecution's discretion, they can be an option worth exploring if your defense attorney believes one could be beneficial for your particular situation.

Pretrial diversion programs are designed to reduce the number of offenders that are unnecessarily sentenced to jail time, which also saves the state money for the costs it would otherwise incur housing, feeding and providing medical care to these inmates. Defendants who go through pretrial diversion programs also save the courts the time and money involved in a trial. Because of this, they are often a win-win option for both defendants and the state.

These programs do have some stipulations on both who is eligible and the requirements for successful completion, however. Those who have already been convicted of two or more felonies are not eligible unless the convictions did not involve drug related crimes or violent offenses. If the felony convictions are unrelated to these, the defendant may be able to get a special exception from the U.S. Attorney's Office that would allow the person to participate in the pretrial diversion program.

Whether or not a pretrial diversion program is a good option — or even a possibility — for you depends on the specific circumstances surrounding your case. Only a Missouri criminal defense attorney familiar with these types of programs and their requirements can help you understand the benefits and potential pitfalls.

Source: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, "Pretrial Diversion," accessed June 10, 2015

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