Can You Get Pretrial Diversion in SC?
Can you get pretrial diversion in SC?
In Charleston, SC, there are a number of pretrial diversion programs that are available to first-time offenders (and sometimes persons with prior convictions also), including:
- Pretrial intervention (PTI),
- Alcohol Education Program (AEP),
- Traffic Education Program (TEP),
- Conditional discharges, and
- Drug Court.
If the programs are completed successfully, the person’s charges are dismissed and their record is expunged, allowing a first-time offender who is not likely to get arrested again to keep their record clean.
Below, we will take a brief look at each of these programs and how they can help you to keep your record clean and stay out of jail.
Types of Pretrial Diversion in SC
There are many different types of pretrial diversion in SC.
Below, I list the most common types of pretrial diversion, but you should consult with your attorney to find out if there are other options available for you to avoid trial and keep your record clean.
Pretrial Intervention – PTI – in Charleston, SC
The most common pretrial diversion in SC that most people are familiar with is the Pretrial Intervention program, or PTI.
PTI is available in Charleston County for defendants over the age of 18 “who do not pose a threat to society and who have no significant prior criminal history.” Although it is ordinarily reserved for first-time offenders charged with minor offenses, some defendants who have a criminal record may be allowed into the program if the solicitor’s office approves.
PTI involves community service, counseling, reporting to the PTI office on a regular basis, and payment of restitution when appropriate. Once the program is completed, your charges will be dismissed, and your record will be expunged.
Alcohol Education Program – AEP – in Charleston, SC
The AEP program in Charleston, SC, is for defendants who are aged 17-20 who have been charged with alcohol-related offenses like minor in possession of alcohol, open container, or disorderly conduct.
AEP requires community service and counseling, but the number of community service hours is typically less than what is required by the PTI program. Once the program is completed, your charges will be dismissed, and your record will be expunged.
Traffic Education Program – TEP – in Charleston, SC
Charleston also has a Traffic Education Program, or TEP, which allows traffic offenders to keep relatively minor violations off their driving record –saving money on insurance and avoiding a loss of points on their license.
It only takes one day to complete the program – including four hours of community service and a four-hour defensive driving class – and the ticket will be dismissed after the program is completed.
Pretrial Diversion for Drug Offenses in SC
Although some drug offenses will be eligible for PTI, there are other options that may be appropriate, including Drug Court and conditional discharges.
Conditional Discharges in Charleston, SC
Conditional discharges are available for first-time offenders with no prior drug convictions who are charged with minor drug offenses.
Most conditional discharges are for simple possession of marijuana charges in the magistrate or municipal courts, which require the defendant to complete a number of community service hours (the amount varies depending on the case and the judge), after which the charges are dismissed and the defendant can apply for an expungement.
In some cases, conditional discharges are available for minor drug offenses in General Sessions Court, but these may require monitoring by the probation department until the community service requirement is completed (and fees paid to the probation department).
Technically, a conditional discharge is not pretrial diversion, because it requires a guilty plea which is then reopened and “discharged” after completion of the community service.
Drug Court in Charleston, SC
Drug Court in Charleston, SC, is a more involved and extended program that requires:
- Attendance at Drug Court meetings;
- Substance abuse treatment;
- Drug tests;
- Self-help meetings (AA or NA);
- Proof of employment or attendance at a school;
- Payment of Drug Court fees; and
- Payment of any restitution that is owed.
Drug Court can be a lifesaver for someone who is struggling but able to stay clean and who is facing prison if they are convicted of a drug offense – many people graduate the drug court program and go on to live productive, drug-free and prison-free lives.
On the other hand, Drug Court can be a back-door into prison for someone who is not ready, willing, and able to stay clean.
The program requires that you plead guilty before you enter the program (so, it’s not really a pretrial diversion program either). You are then sentenced to prison, but the sentence is “held in abeyance” until you either complete the program or flunk out of the program.
When you complete the program, your case is reopened, and the court dismisses the charges. If you fail the program, however, you are taken back to court, and the judge will impose your sentence…
Common Questions About Pretrial Diversion in SC
Still have questions?
Below are answers to some of the most common questions I get about pretrial diversion in SC.
Is My Record Expunged After Pretrial Diversion in SC?
Your record can be expunged after you successfully complete any pretrial diversion program in SC, although the procedure may be different depending on the program you completed.
If you completed PTI, AEP, TEP, or a pretrial diversion program through the solicitor’s office, you must apply for the expungement through the office that handled your case. It is not automatic, and there is a fee that must be paid before they will process the expungement.
If you completed a conditional discharge, you or your attorney may need to follow through with the expungement paperwork in the same court that gave you the conditional discharge.
If you completed Drug Court, you or your attorney may need to apply for the expungement through the solicitor’s office in the county where you were charged once the case has been reopened and dismissed.
Can I Do Pretrial Diversion More than Once in SC?
You cannot enter any pretrial diversion program in SC more than once. Although your record is expunged after you complete the program, SLED will keep a copy of your record solely for the purpose of making sure that you do not complete the program more than once.
Can I Do More than One Pretrial Diversion Program in SC?
Did I say you can’t do pretrial diversion more than once?
You may be able to complete a different pretrial diversion program if the court (or solicitor’s office) approves. For example, if you previously completed the PTI program for a petty larceny charge, you may still be eligible for a conditional discharge if you are later arrested for simple possession of marijuana.
Can I Do Pretrial Diversion in SC if I Have Prior Convictions?
Although pretrial diversion programs are intended for first-time offenders, you may still be allowed into a program if you only have a minor record or if there are other mitigating circumstances.
For example, defendants who are allowed into Drug Court often have minor prior drug offenses. Also, the solicitor’s office may agree to allow some defendants with a minor record into the PTI program, but it is not automatic, and the solicitor’s office as well as any victims in the case must agree to let you in.
Criminal Defense Attorney in Charleston, SC
If you have been charged with a crime in SC or believe you are under investigation, call Charleston, SC criminal defense attorney Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or send us a message to speak with a SC criminal defense lawyer today.