How Can I Get My Charges Dropped?
There are three main types of programs prosecutors can offer an eligible defendant in North Carolina for the opportunity to have his or her charges dropped and avoid incarceration: deferred prosecution, conditional discharge, and the Drug Treatment Court Program. Special programs also exist for veterans with ongoing substance abuse or mental illness, minors under the age of 18, and civilians with mental illness. Each of these programs requires participants to complete a probationary period with certain requirements before they become immune from prosecution for that charge. Depending on the crime with which you were charged, it may also be possible to expunge the matter from your record entirely.
It is extremely important to note that acceptance into any of these programs is not guaranteed. Your defense attorney negotiates these options with the prosecutor, who is under no obligation to accept the defense’s proposal. This is why it is so critical to have a skilled and experienced defense attorney familiar with the local courtroom players and standards.Deferred Prosecution
A deferred prosecution agreement is something your attorney negotiates with the prosecutor to give you a chance to demonstrate your good conduct. If you complete the probationary requirements of your specific deal with the prosecutor, it results in the prosecutor dismissing your current charges. If the court accepts your deferred prosecution agreement, you will be on a probationary period for up to two years, under which you will be under community supervision.
Individuals charged with a Class H or Class I felony or a misdemeanor are eligible for deferred prosecution, but this does not mean you will be automatically given a deferred prosecution. It is up to your attorney to negotiate such a deal with the prosecutor on your case, starting with the filing of a Motion for Probation.
Other requirements for deferred prosecution other than your written agreement with the prosecutor include:
Each alleged victim of the crime of which you were accused must be notified of your motion for probation and given the opportunity to be heard in court on the matter
You have not previously been convicted of any misdemeanor or felony involving a crime of “moral turpitude” (being intentionally dishonest for personal gain)
You have not previously been put on probation
The court determines that you are unlikely to commit another offense other than a Class 3 misdemeanor (the lowest class of misdemeanor in North Carolina)
The requirements of a deferred prosecution agreement will depend upon the particulars of your case and life, but the minimum requirement is usually that you stay out of further criminal trouble during your probationary period. Depending on the seriousness of your charges, you may be put on supervised probation (versus unsupervised probation) and have a probation officer to whom you regularly report. Random drug testing and counseling (substance abuse and/or psychiatric) are other common requirements for a deferred prosecution probationary period.Conditional Discharge
Conditional discharge is similar to deferred prosecution and has the exact same requirements, except that with conditional discharge the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty of a Class H or Class I felony or a misdemeanor. However, if the judge accepts the agreement your defense attorney reaches with the prosecution, the fact that you pled or were found guilty will not be entered as a court judgment.Drug Treatment Court Program
The Drug Treatment Court Program is a highly structured, intensive, court-sponsored program that operates in Mecklenburg County’s lower district court (which handles traffic and misdemeanor violations) and for certain cases in the county’s superior court (which handles felonies, or charges that carry a year or more incarceration). The program’s components are tailored to the defendant’s charges and circumstances, but typically require substance abuse counseling and random drug testing. Each defendant is assigned a case coordinator who helps the participant gain access to other services they need outside of their substance abuse, such as medical services, housing, employment help, and psychiatric therapy.
Drug Treatment Court Programs are available to the residents of more than 20 counties in North Carolina, including Buncombe, Catawba, Durham, Union, Wake and Watauga. If you do not live in one of the counties with its own separate drug court, the Drug Treatment Court Program is not available.
The general minimum requirements for the Drug Treatment Court Program are that the defendant be addicted to a substance, be willing to volunteer for the program, and be eligible under the state’s sentencing system for community service or some other intermediate punishment instead of prison time. If a person is classified as a violent offender, habitual felon or drug dealer, he or she is not eligible for the program.Diversion for Veterans
Operation Recovery is a Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery Program available to defendants who served in the military, including the National Guard and Reserves, who have experienced trauma and are managing a substance abuse issue or mental illness. It provides an alternative to incarceration for a population that has a staggeringly disproportionate percentage of its members struck with substance abuse and mental health issues related to trauma.Diversion for Those with Mental Illness
The Jail Diversion Program in North Carolina is an alternative to incarceration for individuals arrested and jailed for behaviors caused by mental illness. This program is generally only available to individuals in jail on a minor charge, who are willing to undergo treatment for their serious mental illness, and would not pose a risk to the public were they released from jail.Diversion for Juveniles
The Youth Diversion Program provides an alternative to incarceration for minors under 18 years of age who are charged with a nonviolent, first time offense. It works with the minor and his or her family to provide needed services and skills and can include classes on topics such as life skills, conflict resolution, substance abuse, decision making, and academic achievement.
If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, it is vital that you retain an experienced defense lawyer. Even if you may not be eligible for a deferred prosecution program, having someone experienced in successfully defending clients from the charges of which you are accused can be the difference between time in prison and freedom. Arnold & Smith, PLCC is criminal and civil litigation firm based in Charlotte and Mooresville, North Carolina. Our criminal defense attorneys are prepared to zealously defend clients against a wide variety of criminal charges including drug possession and driving while impaired (DUI/DWI). Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today for a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable and dedicated criminal defense attorneys.