Understanding Diversion Programs in Queens Criminal Courts

Understanding Diversion Programs in Queens Criminal Courts

Diversion programs are alternatives to traditional criminal prosecution that aim to redirect certain offenders away from the criminal justice system. These programs provide a way for defendants to avoid a criminal conviction by completing mandated requirements like counseling, community service, education classes, or probation. Queens offers several different diversion programs for both adults and juveniles facing criminal charges.

Benefits of Diversion Programs

There are many potential benefits to participating in a diversion program instead of going through standard criminal prosecution:

  • Avoid a permanent criminal record and the consequences that come with a conviction like loss of employment, educational opportunities, housing issues, etc.
  • Continue normal daily activities like working or going to school without interruption
  • Save money on fines and legal fees associated with a lengthy court process
  • Receive help like counseling and education that addresses underlying factors that may have led to criminal behaviors
  • Shorten case resolution time from potentially years down to several months

Defendants who successfully complete the mandates of their diversion program will have their charges dismissed or reduced. This allows them to essentially wipe the slate clean regarding the incident.

Types of Diversion Programs in Queens

Queens Treatment Court

Queens Treatment Court (QTC) provides diversion services for defendants facing non-violent felony and misdemeanor drug charges. Participants get access to long-term residential or outpatient drug treatment. The program typically takes 12-24 months to complete and requires regular court appearances, drug testing, counseling, educational workshops, and more. Graduates can earn a reduced or dismissed charge.

More details on the Queens Treatment Court program can be found here.

Queens Mental Health Court

The Queens Mental Health Court aims to serve offenders diagnosed with a mental illness like depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or anxiety. Instead of incarceration or probation, defendants undergo an intensive treatment plan tailored to their condition which can include therapy, medication management, hospitalization, supervised housing, job training, and more. The average length of participation is 6-24 months.

For more on the Queens Mental Health Court see this Quora discussion.

Youth Diversion Parts

There are specialized diversion courts for juveniles aged 16-18 years old facing low-level criminal charges in Queens. These Youth Parts aim to serve as an alternative to the standard family or criminal court process. Teens are connected with age-appropriate services to get their charges dismissed like counseling, community service, job training programs, tutoring, and victim awareness classes. The typical program length is 6 months.

This article from Avvo talks more about diversion options for juveniles in NY.

Eligibility Requirements

Diversion programs have strict standards for who qualifies to participate. In general, candidates must meet criteria like:

  • Facing low-level non-violent charges for the first time
  • Must admit guilt or responsibility for the alleged crime
  • Cannot have extensive prior felony convictions on record
  • Judged as having a high probability of rehabilitation
  • Assessed as mentally competent to understand and complete program mandates

Prosecutors ultimately decide who gets offered diversion as an alternative to traditional sentencing. Defense attorneys can petition for client participation in certain programs during plea negotiations.

Application and Enrollment Process

The process to apply and officially enroll in a Queens diversion program includes:

  1. Initial eligibility screening and interview with the District Attorney’s office
  2. Submit formal diversion program application for approval
  3. Appear in court to enter diversion-based plea deal
  4. Evaluation by clinical staff and creation of customized treatment plan
  5. Officially enroll in the program at first status hearing court date

Court-appointed defense attorneys or privately retained lawyers help negotiate placement into diversion during plea deals. They also guide defendants through the application process. For more see this overview from LawInfo.

Program Completion

Once enrolled, participants must follow all rules and guidelines until satisfactory completion. This includes factors like:

  • Attending required counseling, treatment, or education programs
  • Appearing at all scheduled court dates for progress reviews
  • Avoiding any new criminal arrests or charges
  • Staying sober and passing random drug/alcohol testing if applicable
  • Meeting other terms of probation such as maintaining employment

Failure to adhere to the diversion agreement can result in termination from the program and reinstatement of original charges. Graduates who meet all requirements get their charges permanently dismissed or reduced as agreed to in the initial plea deal.

For more see the FindLaw overview of diversion programs in NY.

Finding Legal Help

Navigating Queens diversion programs often requires guidance from knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys. They can assess eligibility, negotiate placement, and represent clients throughout enrollment. Look for lawyers experienced specifically with local diversion courts when searching for representation. The Queens County Bar Association offers referrals.

Defense lawyers also aid participants who face termination from their program for noncompliance. In some cases, they may be able to negotiate second chances to avoid conviction on the original charges.

For more see this Reddit thread on finding a good lawyer.

Conclusion

Queens offers diversion programs as an alternative path to criminal prosecution for certain offenders. These interventions provide rehabilitative services and other resources aimed at addressing root causes of illegal behaviors. Successful graduates can earn dismissal of charges. Diversion courts serve as a second chance for many defendants. Connecting with knowledgeable local defense attorneys ensures the best chances of qualifying for and completing one of these innovative programs.