Experienced St. Petersburg Criminal Defense
In all locales throughout the Bay area, including St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Tampa, pre-trial diversion is usually an option for first time offenders. It is commonly referred to as "Pre-Trial Intervention", "Pre-Trial Diversion", or simply "Diversion" depending on the location, but the underlying concept is the same: the accused person, at the discretion of the State Attorney's Office (and with the accused's person's consent), enters into a contractual agreement with the State Attorney. In exchange for the client's agreement to meet certain pre-determined conditions over a period of time, the State Attorney's Office agrees to dismiss (in Pinellas and Pasco counties) or nolle prose (in Hillsborough county) the charge or charges. Whether dismissed or nolle prossed, the accused person is released from probation and the charge is dropped. Thereafter, the person may be eligible to have his or her record sealed or expunged. For more information on this, see the Sealing and Expunging section of our website.
Practically speaking, PTI supervision is no different than probation and both "types" of supervision are often run by the same agencies: in the case of a misdemeanor, supervision is handled by the sheriff's office or The Salvation Army and in the case of a felony, it is handled by the Florida Department of Corrections. The accused person is required to meet with his or her probation officer once a month, pay a monthly fee for the cost of supervision, and perform certain specified conditions. These conditions vary depending on the nature of the case. In a theft case, for example, the person will usually be required to attend a shoplifter's awareness class. In a battery case, the person may be required to attend an anger management class (if domestic related, the requirement will include family violence counseling, which is 26 weeks in length). If the case involves the use of alcohol or drugs, a substance abuse assessment and the completion of any recommended treatment will likely be required. In most cases, the completion of community service, payment of restitution, and no new law violations are standard requirements.
An experienced St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or Tampa area criminal defense attorney can negotiate a diversion disposition on a client's behalf and, moreover, can negotiate for the implementation or elimination of the conditions that are ultimately made part of the agreement.
Applicable Florida Statutes
Pre-trial intervention programs in Florida are authorized by statute and set forth in section 948.08. This section outlines eligibility criteria, disqualifying factors, and other important considerations that you should be aware of.
Its provisions are set forth below:
- (1) The Department (of corrections) shall supervise pre-trial intervention programs for persons charged with a crime, before or after any information (charging document) has been filed or indictment has been returned in the circuit court. Such programs shall provide appropriate counseling, education, supervision, and medical and psychological treatment as available and when appropriate for the persons released to such programs.
- (2) Any first offender, or any person previously convicted of not more than one nonviolent misdemeanor, who is charged with any misdemeanor or felony of the third degree, is eligible for release to the pre-trial intervention program on the approval of the administrator of the program and the consent of the victim, the state attorney, and the judge who presided at the initial appearance hearing of the offender. However, the defendant may not be released to the pre-trial intervention program unless, after consultation with his or her attorney, he or she has voluntarily agreed to such program and has intelligently waived his or her right to a speedy trial for the period of his or her diversion. The defendant or the defendant's immediate family may not personally contact the victim or the victim's immediate family to acquire the victim's consent.
- (3) The criminal charges against an offender admitted to the program shall be continued without final disposition for a period of 90 days after the date the offender was released to the program, if the offender's participation in the program is satisfactory, and for an additional 90 days upon the request of the program administrator and consent of the state attorney, if the offender's participation in the program is satisfactory.
- (4) Resumption of pending criminal proceedings shall be undertaken at any time if the program administrator or state attorney finds the offender is not fulfilling his or her obligations under this plan or if the public interest so requires. The court may not appoint the public defender to represent an indigent offender released to the pretrial intervention program unless the offender's release is revoked and the offender is subject to imprisonment if convicted.
- (5) At the end of the intervention period, the administrator shall recommend (a) that the case revert to normal channels for prosecution in instances in which the offender's participation in the program has been unsatisfactory; (b) that the offender is in need of further supervision; or (c) that dismissal of charges without prejudice shall be entered in instances where prosecution is not deemed necessary. The state attorney shall make the final determination as to whether the prosecution shall continue.
- (6) For purposes of this subsection, the term "non-violent felony" means a third degree felony violation of chapter 810, or any other felony offense that is not a forcible felony as defined in Fla. Stat. § 776.08. Notwithstanding any provision of this section, a person who is charged with a non-violent felony and is identified as having a substance abuse problem, or is charged with a felony of the second or third degree for purchase or possession of a controlled substance under chapter 893, prostitution, tampering with evidence, solicitation for purchase of controlled substance, or obtaining a prescription by fraud; who has not been charged with a crime involving violence, including but not limited to murder, sexual battery, robbery, carjacking, home invasion robbery, or any other crime involving violence; and who has not previously been convicted of a felony is eligible for voluntary admission into a pre-trial substance abuse education and treatment intervention program, including a treatment based drug treatment program established pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 397.334, approved by the chief judge of the circuit court, for a period of not less than one year in duration, upon motion of either party or on the court's own motion, except (a) if a defendant was previous offered admission to a pretrial substance abuse education and treatment education program at any time prior to trial and the defendant rejected that offer on the record, then the court or the state attorney may deny the defendant's admission into such program; or (b) if the state attorney believes that the facts and circumstances of the case suggest the defendant's involvement in the dealing and selling of controlled substances, the court shall hold a pre-admission hearing. If the state attorney establishes by a preponderance of the evidence at such hearing, that the defendant was involved in the dealing or selling of controlled substances, the court shall deny the defendant's admission into the pre-trial intervention program. While enrolled in a pre-trial intervention program authorized by this subsection, the participant is subject to a coordinated strategy developed by a drug court team under Fla. Stat. § 397.334(4). The coordinated strategy may may include a protocol of sanctions that may be imposed upon the participant for non-compliance with program rules. The protocol of sanctions may include, but is not limited to, placement in a substance abuse treatment program offered by a licensed service provider as defined in Fla. Stat. § 397.311, or in a jail based treatment program, or serving a period of incarceration within the time limits established for contempt of court. The coordinated strategy must be provided in writing to the participant before the participant agrees to enter into a pre-trial treatment based drug court program or other pre-trial intervention program. Any person whose charges are dismissed after successful completion of the treatment based drug court program, if otherwise eligible, may have his or her arrest record and plea of nolo contendre to the dismissed charged expunged under Fla. Stat. § 943.0585. At the end of the pre-trial intervention period, the court shall consider the recommendation of the administrator pursuant to section 5 above, and the recommendation of the state attorney as to disposition of the pending charges. The court shall determine by written findings whether the defendant has successfully completed the pre-trial intervention program. Notwithstanding the coordinated strategy developed by a drug court team pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 397.334(4), if the court finds that the defendant has not successfully completed the pre-trial intervention program, the court may order the person to continue in education and treatment, which may include substance abuse treatment programs offered by licensed service providers as defined in Fla. Stat. § 397.311 or jail based treatment programs, or order that the charges revert to normal channels for prosecution. The court shall dismiss the charges upon a finding that the defendant has successfully completed the pre-trial intervention program.
- (7) Notwithstanding any provision of this section,a person who is charged with a felony, other than a felony listed in Fla. Stat. § 948.06(8)(c), and identified as a veteran, as defined in s. 1.01, or service member, as defined in s. 250.01, who suffers from a military service-related mental illness, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse disorder, or psychological problem, is eligible for voluntary admission into a pre-trial veterans' treatment intervention program approved by the chief judge of the circuit, upon motion of either party or the court's own motion, except: (a) if the defendant was previously offered admission to a pre-trial veterans' treatment intervention program at any time before trial and the defendant rejected that offer on the record, the court may deny the defendant's admission to such a program; or (b) if a defendant previously entered a court ordered veteran's treatment program, the court may deny the defendant's admission into the pre-trial veterans' treatment program. While enrolled in a pre-trial intervention program authorized by this subsection, the participant shall be subject to a coordinated strategy developed by a veterans' treatment intervention team. The coordinated strategy should be modeled after the therapeutic jurisprudence principles and key components in Fla. Stat. § 397.334(4), with treatment specific to the needs of service members and veterans. The coordinated strategy may include a protocol of sanctions that may be imposed upon the participant for non-compliance with program rules. The protocol of sanctions may include, but need not be limited to, placement in a treatment program offered by a licensed service provider, or in a jail based treatment program or serving a period of incarceration within the time limits established for contempt of court. The coordinated strategy must be provided in writing to the participant before the participant agrees to enter into a pre-trial veteran's intervention program or other pre-trial intervention program. Any person whose charges are dismissed after successful completion of the pre-trial veterans' treatment intervention program, if otherwise eligible, may have his or her arrest record of the dismissed charges expunged under Fla. Stat. § 943.0585. At the end of the pre-trial intervention period, the court shall consider the recommendation of the treatment program and the recommendation of the state attorney as to disposition of the pending charges. The court shall determine, by written finding, whether the defendant has successfully completed the pretrial intervention program. If the court finds that the defendant has not successfully completed the pre-trial intervention program, the court may order the person to continue in education and treatment, which may include treatment programs offered by licensed service providers or jail based treatment programs, or order that the charges revert to normal channels for prosecution. The court shall dismiss the charges upon a finding that the defendant has successfully completed the pretrial intervention program.
Additional Information You Should Be Aware Of
Application for the PTI program must be made to the State Attorney's Office either by the defendant or the defendant's attorney. Persons who reside out of the state may apply for PTI but a face-to-face meeting will be required. At the time of the initial interview, the defendant will be required to enter into the PTI agreement between himself/herself, the attorney, and the State Attorney. The defendant must agree to waive his or her right to a speedy trial, agree to be supervised, to be law abiding, and to enter into counseling or participate in any programs for identified problems.
PTI acceptance is based on the results of an investigation. A comment will be requested from the arresting officer. The alleged victim, if any, must give consent for PTI acceptance. Emphasis is placed on the defendant's willingness to assume responsibility for payment of restitution. The defendant is also responsible for court costs, monthly cost of supervision, and other miscellaneous fees, including public defender fees.
PTI is a 12-18 month program (drug offenses are 18 months). During this time, each defendant will be required to report in at least once monthly, normally within the first 15 days of the month. Defendants will be required to participate in various programs (drug treatment, shop lifting awareness, check writing, life management, etc.) depending on the the offense.
Defendants may pay their monetary obligations in full at the beginning of their PTI program. If that is not possible, they must make monthly payments until all obligations are paid in full. PTI will cost an average of $1,000.00 to $1,500.00 plus any restitution due.
The Florida Department of Corrections supervises felony cases. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office now supervises misdemeanor cases.
All defendants will undergo random drug screens. Drug offenders will undergo monthly random drug screens.
Permission to take trips while on PTI are granted on a case by case basis.
All employers must be notified that the defendant is under supervision and must be advise of the nature of the offense. Probation officers will contact employers to ensure notification has been made. All offenders will be seen at home and/or work.
Upon successful completion of all PTI conditions, the charge will be dismissed. If all obligations are met within the first half of the program, early termination is possible, but not guaranteed. Early termination is possible after one year in drug cases.
The following links will provide additional information on PTI programs that are specific to Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. Contact phone numbers for all relevant agencies are also provided.
- Florida Department of Corrections
- Pinellas County Sheriff's Office: Misdemeanor Probation
- Salvation Army Correctional Services: Hillsborough County
- State Attorney's Office (Sixth Circuit): Bad Check Diversion
- State Attorney's Office (Sixth Circuit): Veteran's Treatment Court Diversion
- Pinellas County State Attorney's Office: (727) 464-6221
- Florida Department of Corrections (Pinellas County): (727) 588-3583
- Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, misdemeanor probation: (727) 464-8100
- Pasco County State Attorney's Office (New Port Richey): (727) 847-8158
- Florida Department of Corrections (New Port Richey): (727) 841-4131
- Pasco County State Attorney's Office (Dade City): (352) 521-4333
- Florida Department of Corrections (Dade City): (352) 521-1214
- Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office (Tampa): (813) 272-5400
- Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office (Plant City): (813) 757-3890
- Hillsborough County Salvation Army Corrections (Tampa): (813) 223-3781
- Hillsborough County Salvation Army Corrections (Plant City): (813) 754-4146
- Florida Department of Corrections (Tampa): (813) 233-3480
The Bottom Line
The benefits of being accepted into, and successfully completing a diversion program cannot be understated. Avoiding a criminal conviction, and particularly a felony conviction, can forever alter the course of a client's future – and for the better. Diversion can also avoid life altering collateral consequences. If for example, a non-U.S. citizen is charged with domestic battery, a diversion program is a way of avoiding almost certain deportation. In a drug related case, diversion will avoid a mandatory two-year driver's license revocation which a conviction would trigger.
To discuss the merits of your St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or Tampa criminal case, and what options may be available to you, including the possibility of diversion, contact The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C. today. The initial consultation is always free.
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