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The Price of a Second Chance After a Crime

January 13, 2017, on Criminal Defense Articles |

A New York federal criminal defense attorney works to help clients get the best outcomes possible when they are accused of criminal wrongdoing. Avoiding a criminal record and jail time are usually top goals for those who have been accused of violating the law. There are different approaches to take to try to avoid or minimize penalties, depending upon the nature of the criminal offense.

For some types of minor crimes, one option which could be available for defendants is pre-trial diversion. According to the New York Times, pre-trial diversion programs are “increasingly being embraced as a way for the criminal justice system to save people from itself.” The problem is, these programs often cost a lot of money, which is a disadvantage for those with limited assets who may complete all of their requirements within the program but who may not be able to afford to pay.

The Costs of Pre-Trial Diversion Creates Hardship for Some Defendants

The New York Times explains that pre-trial diversions are helping to keep people out of jail and prevent low-risk minor offenders from facing life-changing consequences of conviction. While programs work differently from state to state, usually those who participate in the programs will have to do certain things like perform community service and stay out of trouble during the program period. Those who can meet the requirements can have their cases dismissed and their records expunged.

The problem comes, however, because many states are treating diversion programs as a source of revenue.  For a single offense, fees could be as much as $5,000 in some locations and diversion can be revoked when a defendant fails to pay -- even if the defendant truly cannot afford it.

Sometimes, applicants are outright rejected if prosecutors have reason to believe they will not be able to come up with required funds. In other situations, program participants will complete most of their requirements but end up referred to prosecution anyway because of funding shortfalls.

One woman profiled by the New York Times, for example, was told she had to pay $690. She had paid all but $240 of it and could not come up with the rest of the money so she was sent back to court and prosecuted.  Because diversion is a privilege, not a right, there may be little or no recourse for those who end up with criminal records because they simply cannot pay.

While concerns about cost are a major problem when it comes to pre-trial diversion, programs like this that make avoiding a criminal record possible are still an ideal option for many defendants who are eligible.

In any situation where your record is at stake because you have been accused of a crime, you should work with an experienced attorney to try to find the best outcomes in this difficult situation. The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC can help you to explore options available to you based on the nature of your charges. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to begin developing an appropriate trial strategy.

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