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An alternative for Baton Rouge defendants facing drug charges

The Louisiana legal process does not move in a straight line from arrest to case resolution. Sometimes defendants have options. Courts realize outcomes for some Baton Rouge defendants can be positive, when individuals are given a chance to avoid criminal penalties through rehabilitation programs.

Concern for defendants isn't selfless. When court caseloads are lightened, the state saves money. Prosecutors are spared from added work; trial and incarceration costs are avoided.

Defendants can derive a number of benefits from pretrial diversions and deferred adjudication programs. There can be serious consequences for defendants who fail to live up to terms set down in the programs. For instance, a defendant with a substance addiction may have difficulty passing random drug tests, which could compromise the individual's legal position.

The defendant must be qualified to enter a pretrial drug diversion program. Baton Rouge defendants must be 18 or older and first-time offenders. Alleged crimes must be misdemeanors and nonviolent.

Meeting the criteria doesn't guarantee admission into a diversion program. Prosecutors and sometimes judges generally make the final call. The program is voluntary, but it is not free – a failure to pay program costs can affect a defendant's fate.

A defendant does not have to enter a plea before entering a drug diversion program, unlike similar deferred adjudication actions. A defendant's drug case is placed on hold until the program participant satisfies or fails to meet set conditions. You will undergo counseling, submit to random drug screenings, attend a drug abuse seminar and perform community service, along with any other terms imposed.

In exchange for successful completion of the program, pending drug charges are dropped and your record is clear. Violate the rules and the case will go the trial as if you never took part in the diversion program. Criminal defense attorneys often encourage qualified defendants to take this option but not before knowing the risks.

Source: FindLaw, "Deferred Adjudication / Pretrial Diversion" Oct. 15, 2014

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