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Pre-trial diversion may lead to dismissed charges

Drug crimes are taken seriously in Florida, which means that those who have been accused of committing one of these offenses has a lot at stake. Failing to properly defend one's self can result in the imposition of harsh penalties, which may include fines, damage to one's reputation and prison. Therefore, it is imperative that these accused individuals understand the criminal defense options available to them, lest they want their lives to be negatively affected for a long time to come.

One possible way to avoid a criminal conviction on a drug charge is to enter into a diversion program. Under Florida law, those first-time offenders who have been charged with a felony in the third-degree can qualify for a pre-trial diversion. Here, the accused individual will enter into a year-long agreement whereby certain conditions must be met. In a drug case, that may include drug screening and/or drug treatment. If the terms of the agreement are adhered to for the full year, then the criminal charges will be dropped.

There are a few important things to note, however. First, a defendant, prior to entering into the diversion program, will have to enter a guilty plea to the charges. It is only after completion of the program that the guilty plea can be withdrawn and the state will dismiss the charges. Those who fail to complete the diversion program cannot withdraw their guilty plea. So, entering into the program should only be done if an individual thinks that he or she will complete it. Second, only certain drug offenses are eligible for diversion. Those related to drug trafficking, for example, are not. Also, one positive drug screen can lead to dismissal from the program.

Diversion is a real opportunity for many individuals to avoid the hardship and stigma that accompanies a felony conviction. However, it isn't for everyone. Those who want to learn more about the program and whether it is right for them can discuss the matter with their attorney.

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