Youthful offender, diversion, and other methods of resolving your criminal case without hurting your record
So, you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime. Maybe it is only a misdemeanor offense, but it could really hurt your reputation and ruin your record. These minor misdemeanor offenses can make it difficult to get a good job or secure a promotion. If you work on Redstone Arsenal, these charges can affect your security clearance as well. Luckily, there are many options in Alabama to resolve criminal charges in ways that keep convictions off your record and keep that record sealed. It is important to know that these options are available in both city and county courts, but the procedures vary, so be sure to call us so we can help you navigate all the options available.
Pre-trial diversion, or the pre-trial intervention plan, is a program offered primarily to first-time offenders that allows defendants an opportunity to have the charges against them dropped. This program involves appearing in court or with your counselor when asked, providing drug screens, attending rehabilitation and/or victim’s impact classes, paying fines and costs, and other similar requirements. Diversion programs for felonies and misdemeanors in county jurisdiction last anywhere from six months to two years; application fees range from $250–$300, and weekly fees range from $10–$40 depending on your disposable income. The city diversion program only handles misdemeanors and the application fee is more costly at about $500, but the program only lasts a few months; programs for misdemeanor domestic violence charges last 15–18 weeks.
To be accepted into a diversion program, you must first enter into a “conditional” guilty plea, admitting to the crime. If you complete the diversion program, this guilty plea is removed and this case is dismissed. However, if you are removed from the program, then the plea becomes final and the terms of the sentence are imposed. Click here for further information and for a sample application and cover letter for the program run through Madison County.
Youthful offender is a status granted by a judge to a person 18 years or older and younger than 21 who has been charged with a criminal offense. Having youthful offender granted by a judge DOES NOT mean your case is resolved. Instead, being a youthful offender means:
- Your record of arrest and disposition are sealed, regardless if you are convicted or plea guilty.
- The maximum length of sentence for a youthful offender is three years in prison. Often times, the sentence is less than three years and allows for the sentence to be served while on probation.
- The judge acts as the jury at trial.
If your initial charge is a felony offense, then you will have to make an appointment with an officer at the local probation office to participate in an interview about your background, living situation, employment, education, family history, etc. The officer will then draft a report for the judge to consider when hearing arguments about why you should or should not be given youthful offender. If the initial charge is a misdemeanor, then a report will be made simply from a background check and an interview is not necessary.
If youthful offender is granted, your record of arrest is sealed to the public, meaning future employers will not see your arrest or how the case ended if they conduct a background check. If youthful offender status is granted and you plead guilty, then you can still answer “no” if asked about being convicted or pleading guilty to a misdemeanor or felony offense on an employment application. In that scenario, you have pled guilty to being a “youthful offender”, which is a separate and distinct status from a misdemeanor or felony. Youthful offender is a great option for promising young adults who do not want to have their record tarnished forever by one or two bad choices.
In Madison County, Drug Court is a rehabilitation program run by judges in District Court, assistant district attorneys, support staff, and qualified counselors. You are required to participate in drug treatment on many different levels, meet with your counselor, remain drug free, and appear in court once per week for at least two to three hours each time. There is not a set time frame for completing drug court because your finishing depends on your own personal progress rather than a set timeline. But, most folks complete drug court within 18 to 24 months, if not sooner.
Like diversion, you are required to admit guilt and enter a conditional guilty plea, so that if you are removed from the program, then the guilty plea becomes final and the sentence is imposed. Completing drug court means your guilty plea is removed and the case is dismissed.
Stipulate & Appeal (City Court Only!)
In city court, procedural rules allow a person to appeal their conviction and other issues from a criminal case to the Circuit Court of the county in which the city lies. The rules also allow defendants to “stipulate” to the charges solely for the purposes of appealing to Circuit Court. In essence, the person pleads guilty not because they are in fact guilty, but in order to move the case to a different jurisdiction where you can have the case heard by a jury, which is not an option in city court.
- Drug Screens: This probably seems like common sense, but do not use illegal drugs if you have an on-going criminal case. Many times, district attorneys will give better deals or even drop a case if the defendant can provide a clean drug screen.
- Restitution: A willingness and ability to pay a victim back for out-of-pocket expenses or for the value of stolen items can help get a case resolved. Do not try to pay the victim directly, but instead let your lawyer coordinate with the state’s attorney to handle getting that money to the victim.
- Rehab & Anger Management: Even if diversion is not an option, enrolling in rehab or anger management classes (depending on the nature of your charge) can help your case. Showing the district attorney that you have an interest in healing yourself may help secure a better plea deal or persuade the state’s attorney to consider a dismissal.
Contact our experienced Huntsville, Alabama, criminal law attorneys today to set up a face-to-face or phone consult about all the alternative options available to help resolve your criminal case.