Recent reforms to the criminal justice system in Rhode Island have truly benefited folks who have been charged with a felony in Rhode Island. One of those reforms has been an expansion of the Diversion Program.
The Diversion Program is exactly what the words suggest it is… a felony case is diverted out of the usual criminal procedure into a program run by the Courts and the Department of Attorney General.
The advantage to this program is that if a client successfully completes the program, all charges are dismissed and expunged off their criminal record.
Think about that for a minute… felony charges are dismissed and expunged like they never happened. In this day/age, any criminal record can prevent a person from getting meaningful employment, a loan or mortgage, or even the ability to chaperone at children’s events.
So how does it work? When a person is charged with a felony, his/her lawyer submits an application to the Diversion Program seeking to be accepted. That application is reviewed by the Court personnel and a member of the Department of Attorney General, and a review date is scheduled.
At the review date, the lawyer for the client can make his/her case as to why the client should be accepted into the Program. This is very different from the way the Program used to operate. Prior to the recent criminal justice reform, only the Attorney General got to decide who got into the Program. They were the only gatekeepers and, frankly, they would only allow very few felony charges past the gates. And, as a matter of policy, they would only allow certain “minor” felony charges into the Program and only if the Client had no prior record whatsoever.
Now, since the reforms took place, the Attorney General is no longer the keeper of the gate. The Court can decide to admit a person into the Program over the objection of the State prosecutors. Further, a prior record is no longer an impediment to entering the program. If the State does object to the application, a Defendant’s lawyer has an opportunity to argue for that client to be admitted and make their case to the Judge.
Once admitted into the Diversion Program, the Defendant will either be required to attend and complete drug/alcohol counseling classes and/or complete community service. The Program usually lasts for 1 year, but Defendants who successfully complete their requirements are often graduated at the 6-month mark.
The Court will review the Defendant’s progress on a regular basis (every 2 months), but as long as the Defendant is compliant, he/she does not have to appear in Court for the review. Once a person graduates from the Program his/her felony charges are dismissed and their criminal records are expunged. It is truly the best possible solution for anyone charged with a felony in the State of Rhode Island.
Yes, only a lawyer can apply on the defendant’s behalf.
If you have been charged with a felony in Rhode Island and would like to apply for the diversion program, contact S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq. today.