Some people accused of a federal crime can escape prison and a criminal record by using accountability courts and pretrial diversion. These projects are currently being tested in federal district courts across the United States, including the Northern District of Texas in Dallas.
Pretrial Diversion (PTD) is an alternative to prosecution which seeks to divert certain offenders from traditional criminal justice processing into a program of supervision and services administered by the U.S. Probation Service. In the majority of cases, offenders are diverted at the pre-charge stage or at any point prior to trial on a voluntary basis, requiring a signed agreement.
Participants who successfully complete the program will not be charged or, if charged, will have the charges against them dismissed; unsuccessful participants are returned for prosecution.
The Major Objectives of Pretrial Diversion Are:
- To prevent future criminal activity among certain offenders by diverting them from traditional processing into community supervision and services.
- To save prosecutive and judicial resources for concentration on major cases
- To provide, where appropriate, a vehicle for restitution to communities and victims of crime.
- The period of supervision is not to exceed 18 months, but may be reduced.
Eligibility Criteria for Pretrial Diversion
The U.S. Attorney, in his/her discretion, may divert any individual against whom a prosecutable case exists and who is not:
1. Accused of an offense which, under existing Department guidelines, should be diverted to the State for prosecution
2. A person with two or more prior felony convictions;
3. A public official or former public official accused of an offense arising out of an alleged violation of a public trust; or
4. Accused of an offense related to national security or foreign affairs.
The Accountability, Treatment, and Leadership Court (ATL Court), which would provide rehabilitation options to some criminal defendants while simultaneously allowing them to avoid serving time in prison, was announced on April 11 by the federal court in Atlanta. The court will be operated by the ATL Court Team, which is made up of representatives from the District Court, the United States Probation Office, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Defender Program.
Participants in the ATL Court will undergo a 12–24-month term of intense supervision and must participate in tailored treatment and education programs after entering a guilty plea under Rule 11(c)(1)(C).
Participants will receive whichever benefit they were promised in their initial plea agreement if they complete all of their requirements successfully: a sentence on their original charge without prison time, a reduction of their charge to a misdemeanor (also without prison time), or a complete dismissal of their case.
The program will not be open to everyone. Only persons who were formally charged in 2022 or later are eligible to enroll because it is a new program.
While there are no other positive prerequisites for a defendant to participate, the whole ATL Court Team must unanimously approve all participants.
Furthermore, the court has defined specific things that will cause a person to be presumed ineligible, albeit exceptions can be made.
Most persons will be excluded from the program due to the following charges:
- any crime involving the use or threat of violence, or the incitement of others to use or threaten violence
- Having a firearm while committing a crime
- a forbidden person’s possession or receipt of a firearm
- any act of terrorism
- any felony involving human trafficking
- any offense involving child exploitation, such as the possession or dissemination of child pornography
- any other sexual offense that meets the criteria for being designated as “Tier II” or “Tier III” under 34 U.S.C. 20911(3) and (4)
Other issues that could prevent someone from being admitted into the program include:
- participation in wide-scale fraud or drug distribution networks on a huge scale
- past convictions for sexual offenses classified as Tier II or III
- previous deportation and expulsion from the country by immigration officials
- a criminal history or offense that would prevent the defendant from using the “Safety Valve” under 18 U.S.C. 3553. (f)
Because the ATL Court is a pilot project in the Northern District, it will only be available in Dallas for the first two years. However, several other jurisdictions have diversion courts that have different requirements, such as:
- CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate (Central District of California)
- LEADS and CAP (Northern District of California)
- Support Court (District of Connecticut)
- RISE TO THE TOP (Northern District of Illinois)
- I.S.E. I.S.E. I.S.E. I. (District of Massachusetts)
- SAILING (Eastern District of Missouri)
- Docket LASER (District of New Hampshire)
- Pretrial Intervention Program (District of New Jersey)
- POP and Special Options Services (Eastern District of New York)
- Opportunity Program for Young Adults (Southern District of New York)
- Deferred Sentence Program (DSP) (District of Rhode Island)
- THE BRIDGE (District of South Carolina)
- U-ACT (United States of America) (District of Utah)
- Drug Court in Rutland (District of Vermont)
The US Attorney’s Office also runs a Pretrial Diversion Program that is available in any district and is run totally at its discretion.
Only a small fraction of criminal offenders are accepted into federal diversion programs. Before a comprehensive application may be presented to the ATL Court, a request to apply must be granted by the court staff.
An Assist from Heath Hyde Criminal Defense Attorney
An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist you in gathering the necessary documentation and presenting your application in the best possible light if you or someone you care about is interested in attending a federal diversion court.
Our Pretrial diversion experts can assist you in demonstrating that you meet the court’s eligibility requirements—or in arguing for an exception if you do not. We will assemble a packet of material regarding your circumstances, health history, character, and other pertinent details for your application, and then advocate for you in court.
Finally, if you are accepted, we will work with you to negotiate reasonable terms for your plea bargain and assist you in navigating the program’s obligations while you are enrolled.
Heath Hyde has decades of experience assisting people in resolving and avoiding federal prosecutions. Heath Hyde has defended clients in federal courts in Texas and across the United States.
Contact [email protected] today to learn more about how our firm can assist you with your individual Federal case or call 903-439-0000 for a confidential, free case consultation. Visit our website www.HeathHydeLawyer.com.
See Justice Department video on Pretrial Diversion:
See U.S. Courts Diversion Program Whitepaper: