Dealing with substance abuse is not only difficult for the user, but for the user’s family and friends as well. Fortunately, the legal system has taken aim at assisting people with substance abuse problems.
Pretrial diversion programs offer a unique legal solution to dealing with substance abuse issues. Instead of seeking to punish through the usual prosecutorial means of the court, the pretrial diversion (PTD) program offers a second chance for a path to recovery. It allows the user to keep any offense off his criminal record, in hopes that the user will be encouraged to stay clean and become a productive member of society.
Another avenue to help those struggling with substance abuse is drug court, which allows a person avoid the consequences of criminal prosecution by undergoing rigorous program requirements.
Eligibility for PTD
PTD is only offered to first time offenders over the age of 18, because the purpose of the program is to lower recidivism rates. It is required that the user admits his guilt, and signs an agreement accepting the terms of the program. The person entering the program will not be accepted if he was involved with a burglary, sale of drug, or other charges that are excluded in the Pre-trial Diversion law.
There are also fees that the person seeking eligibility must pay. First, the person must agree to pay the court fees and any attorney fees prior to completing the program. Second, the person is responsible for any expenses that the district attorney incurs while pursuing the case, such as extraordinary investigative expenses.
The program will admit those eligible so long as long the state believes justice will be served by their admittance. In other words, admittance turns on whether the person is willing to admit their wrong and are willing and ready to make a change. The program also takes into account whether the person’s needs can be met by the program and that they pose no threat to the community. Once the program is completed, the charges are dismissed.
Eligibility for Drug Court
Eligibility requirements for drug court are similar to those of PTD. A person must be facing narcotic charges such as possession of marijuana or cocaine. However, the charge cannot be for distribution or manufacturing. A person that has been convicted of a violent felony such as rape, murder, or robbery is not eligible either. Similar to PTD, a guilty plea must be entered before being accepted into the program, which will last anywhere from 6 to 18 months. 
Once enrolled, the person will be required to take random drug tests, meet weekly with a case manager, and make frequent court appearances for updates. In Alabama, you must call in to find out the date of your next drug test. Weekly meetings with the case manager allow the judge overseeing the case to have consistent updates on the user’s progress.
Once a person completes the program, charges are dismissed. If a person doesn’t finish the program, they will face criminal charges for the original crime.
While PTD is a saving grace for first time offenders and drug court offers a great alternative to criminal prosecution, repeat DUI offenders face harsh penalties with the new bill introduced by Rep. Jones and Sen. Jim Holley. Previously, the court was only able to look back five years to determine if a person is a repeat offender. Senate Bill 90 will double that, allowing the court to look back ten years to determine if the person is a repeat offender.
Ask an Attorney
Both PTD and drug court are great alternatives for those charged with drug possession or a DUI. However, the process of getting into these programs can be tiresome. Filing proper paperwork is required and knowledge of the law is helpful in ensuring that a person is admitted to a program. With the new proposed bill lengthening the look back period for DUIs, having an attorney is essential to help lessen the blow of facing those charges and give yourself the best chance at a bright future.
If you were recently arrested for DUI or drug possession in Birmingham, Alabama and would like to discuss the particular facts of your case, please contact the Reid Law Firm today at 205-913-7406! You can also text us at (205) 913-7406 for a quick answer to any legal question. Chris Reid can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All communication to the Reid Law Firm is protected by attorney client privilege, so any information submitted will be held in confidence. Initial consultations are always free. For a complete list of our practice areas please visit www.reidlawalabama.com.
Pre-trial Diversion law, Act 706, Section 7, Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature, 1978
Special thanks to Dallas Coleman and Katherine Pickle for their help in writing, researching, and editing this article.