What You Need to Know About the Cobb County Pretrial Diversion Program
Most jurisdictions have some kind of pretrial diversion program. Cobb County’s version is a little more limited and a little stricter than some other ones. But aside from these things, it’s also fairly typical.
If you qualify and successfully complete the program, there are some significant advantages. The prosecutor will dismiss your charges. The arrest record remains, but you have no conviction record. In fact, you might also be able to tell people that a case was never filed. The diversion program is not a giveaway, but it is an excellent option for most people who qualify. Read on to see if this initiative is right for you.
Who Qualifies for the Cobb County Pretrial Diversion Program?
A few jurisdictions extend these programs to some violent cases, such as assaults. But for the most part, only certain nonviolent offenses are eligible. In Cobb County, that list is quite short. It includes only:
- MIP (Minor in Possession of alcohol),
- VGCSA (Violations of Georgia Controlled Substances Act), and
- Misdemeanor theft.
MIP is a fairly straightforward offense. VGCSA almost always means possession of marijuana under one ounce. Depending on how they are rolled, an ounce is usually between thirty and fifty joints. It could also be between about twenty and twenty-five dime bags, depending on how they are packed. In other words, an ounce is quite a bit of marijuana.
Misdemeanor theft is a bit more complex. In Georgia, you do not have to take anything to commit theft. It’s possible to commit theft by deception or coercion. Generally, theft under $500 is a misdemeanor. But that rule does not apply if the defendant stole a prohibited item, such an auto part worth more than $100, a gun, or human remains.
What Are the Program Requirements?
The program rules explicitly state that the same requirements apply to all participants. There are never any exceptions for anyone. All participants must pay a $300 fee ($50 if they are indigent). The key requirements are:
- Essay: Defendants under 21 must submit a handwritten (not typewritten) two-page essay detailing why they should be admitted into the program. We can help you write this essay. Don’t worry about content, spelling errors, or anything like that. Length is about the only thing that matters. Most likely, no one will ever actually read this essay.
- Community Service: Most people must perform forty hours of community service. The county is not too picky about the kind of organization. But, there are some very specific requirements in terms of 503(c) status and some other legal stuff. MIP defendants who had a BAC between .08 and .15 must do eighty hours of community service. If you had a BAC above .15 or refused to provide a chemical sample, the requirement is 120 hours.
- Written Confession: MIP defendants must provide the name of the person who supplied the alcohol, and the place where this person obtained said alcohol.
- Clean Drug Screens: All defendants must provide at least three clean screens within the time allowed. The first screen must be within ten days of filing the petition. The other screens must be at least twenty days apart. Diluted screens usually count as failed screens, but we may have some input here. If the first screen is a failure, and any subsequent screens are higher, the defendant is kicked out of the program.
- Drug/Alcohol Evaluation: MIP and VGCSA defendants must complete an evaluation and any required aftercare. These defendants must also complete a S.M.A.R.T program, MADD or other victim impact panel, and — if they are under 25 — a Teen Drug and Alcohol Impact Program.
- Theft Seminar: Theft defendants must complete an approved theft seminar. There are several options, but we usually recommend the Shoplifters Alternative Course.
- An Otherwise Clean Record: According to program rules, any other arrest before or during the pretrial diversion program terminates eligibility. Some offenses are very ticky-tack. Walk home after having too much to drink, and you could be arrested for PI (public intoxication). Some traffic infractions are arrestable offenses as well, such as a no seatbelt violation.
You have twelve weeks to complete most of these requirements. The essay portion is the only exception. Your essay must accompany your petition.
Should I Go Through the Pretrial Diversion Program?
Entering the Cobb County Pretrial Diversion Program is a major decision that should not be taken lightly. Step one in this process is determining if you qualify. Step two is taking an honest look at the program requirements, as well as your other options.
MIP and VGCSA defendants in particular have a lot of hoops to jump through, and only three months to jump through them. If you have a substance abuse problem, are not fully committed to the program, or have a lot going on in your life, pretrial diversion may not be for you. That is not the end of the world. There may be other options available which accomplish basically the same thing, such as conditional discharge or conditional dead docket.
Furthermore, the prosecutor has the burden of proof at trial. Most people have at least one valid defense. If there are procedural questions, the judge may throw out the case. These issues are especially common in possession cases. If the evidence is weak on any point, the jury may have a reasonable doubt. MIP cases wherein the prosecutor relies on circumstantial evidence, like the odor of alcohol or bloodshot eyes, are a good example of these cases.
The bottom line is that Pretrial Diversion is a good option for almost anyone who qualifies. The advantages are that significant. However, if you do not qualify or if the program seems too intense, do not dismay. There are usually some other options available.
A criminal record is a significant disadvantage in life, so it’s always best to avoid one whenever possible. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Convenient payment plans are available.