There are two categories of laws in the United States which are used to punish wrongdoing or to compensate victims of bad actions by another. These two categories are civil law and criminal law.
Civil laws are meant to deal with conduct which causes injuries to an individual or causes damage to private property through a lawsuit. Typically, the repercussions for individuals who are found liable for actions in a civil lawsuit are typically monetary but may also include court-ordered remedies such as injunctions or restraining orders.
Criminal laws, in contrast, are designed to deal with conduct which is considered offensive against society, the public, or the state, even if the victim is an individual. If a defendant, or individual who is charged with a crime, is convicted of the crime, they may be required to pay criminal fines or they may lose their personal freedom by being sentenced to prison or jail time.
Whether an individual is being charged with a serious crime or a minor crime, they still have the right to a trial, as well as other legal protections.
What Kinds of Crimes Can Someone be Convicted of?
Criminal offenses are classified from less serious offenses such as simple theft to the most serious types of offenses such as murder and drug trafficking. Each jurisdiction as well as federal courts have different ways to classify criminal offenses, from misdemeanors to felons.
What criminal offense an individual can be charged with will depend upon where the crime occurred. There may also be a question of whether the offense will be charged under federal law or state law.
The best way to obtain an understanding of the differences is to seek the counsel of a criminal defense attorney in an individual’s area, especially one that is knowledgeable of both state and federal laws. It is important to be aware that there are laws which are specific to some areas of the country so an individual should consult with an attorney to determine if their criminal acts fall under a specific statute.
What are Early Intervention Programs?
After the defendant enters a guilty plea or is found guilty by a jury or a judge, they will receive a sentence for the crime, which is when they will learn what their punishment will be. Criminal punishments may include incarceration in jail or prison, criminal fines, or probation.
Depending, however, on the type of offense which was committed and the jurisdiction in which the case is tried, a defendant may be able to avoid a criminal sentence by being placed in an early intervention program. An early intervention program would begin very early in the legal process.
Early intervention programs provide defendants with the option to avoid typical sentencing measures, including jail time, and eventually get the criminal charges against them dropped after they finish the diversionary program.
In general, defendants are not permitted to directly request to be placed in a diversion program. Typically, these requests are made by the defendant’s attorney or the prosecutor.
The request will need to be approved by the prosecutor. In some cases, a court may also provide the option of early intervention.
If an early intervention program is available, it is wise for a defendant to accept the opportunity so that they can work towards putting the criminal offense in their past. What diversion programs are available will depend on the needs of the defendant.
An early intervention program may last anywhere from several months to a few years. Common conditions of early intervention programs often include requiring a defendant to successfully complete:
- Mandatory community service;
- Substance abuse treatment and counseling;
- Mandatory education courses; or
- Paying restitution to victims of their crimes;
- Common examples include:
- returning stolen property; or
- fixing damaged property.
What Makes a Person Eligible for Early Intervention?
An early intervention program is typically only available for a lesser offense where a defendant does not have a criminal history. This is due to the fact that the main goal of early intervention programs is to provide rehabilitation to a defendant.
The specific eligibility requirements for an early intervention program will depend on the rules of the local jurisdiction. Therefore, an individual should consult with a criminal attorney if they have been charged with a criminal offense and want to explore the availability of an early intervention program.
In general, one of the following factors must be present in order for the defendant to qualify for an early intervention program:
- The criminal offense was a misdemeanor, for example, a lesser drug or domestic offense;
- The defendant was a first-time offender who had no criminal history; or
- The defendant had not previously participated in an early intervention program for a different offense.
It is important to note that, in order for the option of an early intervention program to be available, the jurisdiction in which the case is being heard must have established a program. In addition, if the requirements are met, the court or prosecution may still have the discretion to determine whether or not the defendant will be placed in the program.
In some cases, the victim must provide consent in order for a defendant to be eligible to enter an early intervention program.
What Types of Early Intervention Programs Exist?
In general, there are two main types of early intervention programs, including pretrial diversion programs and deferred adjudication programs. Both of these types of programs, if available, would be offered prior to a defendant’s criminal trial beginning.
The difference between a pretrial diversion program and a deferred adjudication program is that, with a deferred adjudication program, a defendant will have already entered their guilty plea. The main features of pretrial diversion programs and deferred adjudication programs include:
- After the early intervention program becomes an option, the defendant’s case will not go any further, and will essentially be placed on pause;
- The defendant will be provided with certain conditions that they must meet in order to successfully complete the program;
- For deferred adjudication, the court will not enter the guilty plea to allow the early intervention program to proceed; and
- The defendant’s charges will be dismissed following the completion of the program’s conditions.
In pretrial diversion cases, if the defendant does not complete the program, the case will then proceed to trial. With deferred adjudication, as previously noted, a guilty plea will be entered and the defendant will proceed to the sentencing phase to receive their punishment.
Should I Hire an Attorney to Discuss Eligibility for an Early Intervention Program?
It is essential to have the assistance of a criminal attorney for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have related to early intervention programs. Having the assistance of an attorney will likely increase your chances of being placed in an early intervention program.
Your attorney will be aware of what types of early intervention programs are available in your areas as well as what is required to qualify for them. If you do qualify for an early intervention program, your attorney can request that you be placed in one and help to ensure that you complete all of the requirements.
If the prosecution argues against your request to be placed in a program, your attorney can present reasons to the court as to why you would be a good candidate for the program. If the court permits you to enter into a program, after that program is successfully completed, your attorney can request that your charges be dismissed.