The Fifth Judicial Court which covers Marion, Lake, Sumter, Citrus and Hernando counties, offers Diversion Courts to help non-violent offenders get their lives back on track.
What is Diversion?
A diversion program in the criminal justice system is a form of sentencing. Such programs are often run by law enforcement, courts, district attorney’s office (in our case the Solicitor’s Office) or outside agency. Diversion programs are designed to enable offenders of criminal laws to avoid criminal charges and a criminal record.
The basis of the diversion argument is that courts may inadvertently stigmatize some offenders for having committed relatively petty acts that might best be handled outside the formal system. In part, diversion programs are also designed to ameliorate the problem of overburdened courts and overcrowded corrections institutions (including detention facilities), so that courts and institutions can focus on more serious offenders.
The goal of diversion programs is to allow a defendant time to demonstrate that they are capable of behaving responsibly, and they are typically used for drug offenses or first-time offenders. Normally, the conditions imposed include some form of counseling, community service and/or probation, and require the defendant to stay out of trouble.
Diversion programs provide an alternative to traditional prosecution. These programs are offered throughout the state; however, each circuit has different diversion programs, with different eligibility requirements. Diversion can involve doing community service, attending counseling sessions and/or making charitable contributions and restitution.
Despite their differences, what all diversion programs have in common is that they are an alternative to prosecution. The state recognizes that not all types of offenses need to be dealt with through guilty pleas or trials and that sometimes helping out in the community can make up for harm caused by an offender.
Following are the courts available:
- Alcohol Education Program (AEP)
- Pre Trial Intervention Program (PTI)
- Traffic Education Program (TEP)
- Youth Arbitration Programs (YAP)
- Drug Court
- Veterans Court
- DUI Treatment Court Program
NAMI Marion County works closely with the Diversion Courts to provide support, education and resources for court participants. NAMI representatives are present at the courts to offer guidance and assistance as needed. In addition, an Emergency Fund has been established for the Mental Health, Drug and Veterans’ court participants to assist with unexpected expenses that can sometimes sabotage a person’s path to recovery.
Additional information on these programs can be obtained at http://scsolicitor5.org/Diversion-Programs or call NAMI Marion County at (352) 368-2405.