If you have been charged with a crime in Massachusetts such as OUI, drug possession or theft, you face the possibility of imprisonment, probation, suspended driving privileges and fines. However, individuals who don’t have significant criminal records or who are veterans may be eligible for a pre-trial diversion program. The District Attorney’s Office typically run these various programs. To discuss your case, and whether or not a diversion program, also referred to as a first offender program, is an option for you please contact Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney Kevin R. Collins.
With an office in Waltham, Massachusetts Mr. Collins serves the Essex County, Middlesex County, Norfolk County, Suffolk County & Worcester County areas. Please call him now for a free consultation.
First Time Offender Programs In Massachusetts
If a case goes through the pre-trial diversion program, the client does not go before a judge. The purpose of pre-trial diversion is to give a defendant the possibility of avoiding the criminal justice system by meeting certain requirements. Massachusetts General Law chapter 276A section 1-11 includes the requirements that allow courts to divert defendants charged with certain misdemeanors.
According to MGL chapter 276A section 2, district courts and the municipal court of Boston have jurisdiction to divert someone charged with an offense for which imprisonment can be imposed and over which district courts can exercise final jurisdiction. However, the defendant must be between 18 and 22, never have been convicted in a criminal court after reaching 18 (except for traffic violations that were not punished with imprisonment), not have outstanding warrants or appeals or cases pending anywhere in the country, and have received a program recommendation that he or she would benefit from the program. A separate code section (section 10) covers pre-trial diversion for adult veterans. Adult veterans must meet other requirements and need not be between ages 18 and 22.
In Massachusetts many misdemeanors are eligible for pre-trial diversion when they are a first offense include shoplifting, marijuana possession, OUI. The court that diverts the defendant needs to have jurisdiction over the charges. Generally, those charged with violent crimes are not eligible for MA first offender programs or diversion programs.
Usually, your attorney must ask for pre-trial diversion before your arraignment. It is important to retain an attorney with experience evaluating who is a good candidate for this type of program as well as experience arranging these diversions. The District Attorney’s Office will consider factors like education, extracurricular activities, and community involvement. Probation officers at the court will also screen defendants in order to enable the arraignment judge to make a determination about whether a defendant is eligible.
Your attorney can also ask the court to delay the arraignment so that there is time to prepare a request to be admitted to the diversion program. A defendant who qualifies for diversion can be given a 14-day continuance to be assessed for whether he or she would get any benefit out of a diversion program. The judge can direct the defendant to a program and inform the program of this action. The judge also has discretion to grant a continuance for assessment to a defendant who isn’t eligible at first because he or she doesn’t meet all the section 2 requirements. The defendant can ask for this, or the judge can take the initiative to grant the continuance. After you’re arraigned, pre-trial diversion is not possible in most cases.
During a stay of proceedings, the program director will submit periodic reports to the court about your progress and report any violations or subsequent arrests. What if you violate the terms of the diversion program, or there is an allegation that you violated a condition or rule of the program? In that case, there will be a hearing before the court at which you will have an opportunity to be heard. However, if the judge determines you violated a program condition or were charged with a subsequent offense, your participation in the program is terminated, and your case proceeds through the traditional criminal justice court system.
Contact A Waltham MA Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are charged in Massachusetts with a first offense misdemeanor, such as an OUI or minor shoplifting, contact Massachusetts Defense Attorney Kevin R. Collins to discuss your case at no cost. By ultimately retaining Mr. Collins you will know that your rights are protected and that the best possible outcome will be obtained for you.
Mr. Collins serves the accused throughout the Boston, Cambridge, Dedham, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Salem, Waltham & Worcester areas.