In Florida, a person who is facing misdemeanor domestic violence charges may qualify for a diversion program, which offers a way to get these charges dropped entirely. Not everyone will be eligible, however, and there are strict requirements associated with any diversion program. It is important to understand how this works and what to expect, which is why we wrote this blog. Here, we will explain what Florida’s Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Diversion Program is and its advantages/disadvantages.
What Is a Diversion Program?
A diversion program is a type of pre-trial intervention, which basically diverts a criminal case away from a typical sentence. Instead of facing a trial (the outcome of which could result in a sentence that includes jail time and fines), a qualifying defendant may be granted permission to participate in a diversion program. Upon successfully completing the program, the defendant’s charges would be dropped, and the case would be dismissed.
About Florida’s Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Diversion Program
The Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Diversion Program was created to offer defendants a way to participate in a process “aimed at reversing the cycle of domestic violence and keeping the family unit intact.” This includes a 26-week Batterer’s Intervention Program and, if necessary, substance abuse evaluation and treatment.
Florida’s Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Diversion Program works as follows:
- The defendant enters a guilty plea to their misdemeanor domestic violence charges.
- The defendant pays for and completes the 26-week program and any substance abuse treatment, as needed.
- The court vacates the guilty plea, and the case is dropped.
- The defendant can then apply to have their criminal record sealed or expunged.
If the defendant does not successfully complete the Batterer’s Intervention Program, fails a breath or blood test, is arrested, or is charged with a new crime, they will face sentencing for the misdemeanor domestic violence charge they plead guilty to.
Who Is Eligible?
A person who is facing misdemeanor domestic violence charges for stalking, battery, assault, criminal mischief, or disorderly conduct may qualify for the Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Diversion Program. For misdemeanor domestic battery charges, however, the defendant will be ineligible if they caused serious physical injury, used substantial force, choked, strangled, or perpetrated degrading acts against the victim.
- Defendants are only eligible for this program once.
- Defendants can have no prior felony arrests and/or convictions.
- Defendants can have no more than one prior non-violent misdemeanor conviction.
- Defendants can have no prior violations of domestic violence injunctions.
- The victim must consent to the defendant’s participation in the program.
Benefits of the Florida Domestic Violence Diversion Program
Florida’s Domestic Violence Diversion Program can offer some advantages to defendants facing misdemeanor domestic violence charges. It will prevent a trial, which can be costly and time-consuming. It will also offer the opportunity at having the charges dropped and the record sealed or expunged, where it cannot affect employment opportunities, licensing, and the like.
Potential Disadvantages to Consider
Diversion programs are not right for every defendant, and you will need to decide for yourself whether this is in your best interests. You will have to pay for the 28-week Batterer’s Intervention Program and must complete it within 8 months, or you’ll face sentencing. Participating in the Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Diversion Program also requires you to waive your right to discovery and a speedy trial, plus the right to withdraw your guilty plea. You must also waive your right to contest any determination by the State Attorney’s Office of noncompliance with the program.
Talk to a Tampa Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Today
If you have been accused of domestic violence and are considering a diversion program, don’t make any decisions without speaking to your lawyer first. You need to think about the repercussions—both good and bad—of participating. As Tampa domestic violence defense attorneys with thousands of criminal cases under our belts, we at Thomas & Paulk can offer the insight you need to make the right choice. Plus, we offer a free consultation to help you get started. Call (813) 321-7323 today!