What is diversion? (Part III)

This post is the third and final in a three part series that addresses what diversion is in DC criminal law.  The first part discussed deferred prosecution agreements.  Part two discussed deferred sentencing agreements.  This part will discuss the DC Superior Court’s problem solving court options that include Mental Health Court and the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program or “Drug Court.”  These options are available to people charged by the United States Attorney’s Office and if successfully completed can result in the dismissal of one’s case.gavel

In both courts, the central focus is treatment rather than incarceration.  In Drug Court, the focus is exclusively on the person charged getting drug treatment.  In Mental Health Court, the focus is typically on both drug treatment and mental health treatment, which typically go hand in hand where someone suffers from both a mental health illness and a drug addiction.  If someone completes either court successfully, the government will usually dismiss that person’s criminal case.  Not everyone can enter these programs.  For both problem solving courts, the person must be approved by both either the United States Attorney’s Office (“USAO”) or the Pretrial Services Agency or both.  So, it is important, if you are interested in resolving your criminal case through a problem solving court, to have a DC criminal defense lawyer who will advocate on your behalf to help get you into the court that most fits your situation.

The government has the power to veto someone’s entrance into Mental Health Court.  Accordingly, the USAO has specific eligibility requirements before it lets someone into this problem solving court.  Individuals with certain disqualifying convictions on their record may not be eligible.  In addition, if the person has received the benefit of the program in the past, then the government may bar entry.  If the government approves the person for Mental Health Court, the person still may not be eligible.  The Pretrial Services Agency must also screen the individual.  The individual must have a verified mental health illness, be eligible to be supervised by the Specialized Supervision Unit, and be linked to a mental health services provider.  If both the government and Pretrial Services approve the individual for Mental Health Court, then the person will be admitted into the program.

For Drug Court, the government no longer has veto power over an individual’s entrance into Drug Court.  However, Pretrial Services must approve the person.  For entrance into Drug Court, certain violent past convictions may disqualify someone.  In addition, the person must have a drug problem beyond marijuana use.  A typical pretrial condition for someone arrested in DC is to drug test weekly.  If the person’s drug tests come back consistently positive and they meet other requirements, Pretrial Services may approve the individual for Drug Court.  Before entry into Drug Court, the person must complete an Addiction Severity Index or “ASI.”  For an ASI, a Pretrial Services representative will conduct an interview about the person’s drug usage.  The results of which may dictate whether the person gets into Drug Court and what treatment recommendation Pretrial Services will make to the judge.

For both problem solving courts, successful completion requires the person to test negative for drugs, complete any drug treatment options recommended, come to court when scheduled, and (for Mental Health Court) keep up with mental health services.  Supervision is extensive and both programs are relatively rigorous.  However, for individuals in need of services, it is a way to address underlying problems and hopefully get a criminal case dismissed.

If you are charged with a crime, contact Scrofano Law for a consultation to find out what potential options may be available to you for pretrial diversion, including problem solving courts.