Are There Any Diversion Programs For Drug Charges?
Interviewer: People want to know what their options are, what the worst possible scenario is, and start talking to you about what happened. What are some options that they have? Are there diversionary programs, or anything like that?
John Reade: They have something called a conditional discharge. Usually, in a possession case, if the person has no prior criminal record (as far as any type of drug conviction), a conditional discharge basically says if you do certain things within a certain timeframe then at the end of that time, they will dismiss the criminal charge against you; so you will not have a conviction.
Sometimes if someone is charged with possession of a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance, a prosecutor may say, “Well, we’ll dismiss the more serious charge of delivery of a controlled substance if you admit or plead guilty to the possession charge.” However, if there is a motion to suppress issue (i.e. an argument that evidence can not be introduced or admitted) then that needs to be considered as far as the likelihood of winning on that argument and the charge or charges being dismissed.
Interviewer: What kinds of probation are there in a drug case?
John Reade: There is bench probation, where the only requirements usually are that you remain a law-abiding citizen, you pay all fines and fees that you owe, and not use a controlled substance without a doctor’s prescription, etc.
However, if a case/charge is serious enough or the person has a drug problem, they are placed on supervised probation. Supervised probation is where they have a probation officer that they have to report to and the probation officer has the right, if they suspect the person is using drugs, to ask for a urinalysis test; if they have a reason to believe the person is using drugs in their residence, to visit their residence, or to search their residence if they have reason to believe that drugs will be found in their residence.
If a person is placed on supervised probation there are more things that the person has to do, and be aware of, so they do not violate their probation as opposed to if the person was just on bench probation.
A person convicted of a drug crime also may be required to go through a drug treatment program, if a judge thinks they have a drug problem, as a condition of their supervised probation.
Interviewer: Is that drug treatment program going to last as long as probation?
John Reade: A drug treatment program usually will not last as long as the time that the person is on probation for.
Interviewer: From my understanding of probation, sometimes they have conditions where you have to provide a monthly urinalysis. Is that the case with unsupervised probation?
John Reade: If a person is placed on unsupervised probation, also known as court probation or bench probation, usually there will not be any condition that the person provide a urinalysis. However, if the person is placed on supervised probation, there will probably be some random urinalysis testing, or urinalysis testing when a probation officer has reason to believe the person may be using drugs.
Interviewer: What happens if someone were to violate probation on a drug charge?
John Reade: One option is sanctions. What that means is the probation officer says, “All right, I think you violated your probation. This is the reason why. I’m going to recommend the following sanctions,” which you can accept, or request a hearing to contest and say you did not violate your probation.
The sanction could be so many days in jail. If the person agrees to the sanction then there is no probation violation hearing. However, if the person disagrees with the recommended sanction(s), then the district attorney’s office files a probation violation saying the person has violated their probation for certain reasons. The person then has the right to request a hearing to contest the allegations that they violated their probation.