Avoiding Conviction: First-Time Offender and Diversion Programs

For first-time petty crime offenders, diversion programs are a vital alternative to conviction, the consequences of which can be long-standing and life-altering. Here, the legal experts at Scholnick Law elaborate on some of the diversion programs offered in Maryland.

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program

This program, also known as LEAD, is a new initiative spear-headed by Baltimore-based non-profit organizations and the Baltimore City police force. Having begun in early 2017, the program encourages police officers to send those with first-time drug possession or prostitution charges to a rehabilitation center, instead of formally processing them through the criminal justice system. Those arrested may refuse treatment at a rehabilitation center, in which case they will be formally charged and processed. The program will run for three years, and focuses on arrests made in the western part of Baltimore city, with a special focus being made in the Lexington Market area.

The Baltimore City Child in Need of Supervision Pilot Project

A program specifically for juvenile offenders, this initiative helps divert children who have committed minor juvenile offenses from the Department of Juvenile Services. Through a comprehensive array of services available for youths and parents, including counseling, after-school programs, mediation services, job training and more, this program has helped prevent juvenile offenders from becoming formally involved in Department of Juvenile Services legal action.

Marijuana Diversion Program and the Decriminalization of Marijuana

In 2014, legislation was signed that decriminalized the possession of under 10 grams of marijuana. Now registered as a civil crime, first-time offenders are fined $100 and second-time offenders are fined $250. There is no incarceration period. While not a diversion program per se, this legislation has prevented those who possess marijuana for personal use from facing jail time, and the consequences that follow. Previous to this legislation, marijuana diversion programs were available in various counties across Maryland. Instead of receiving a criminal conviction on their record, offenders could commit to a drug education program, along with community service projects. Second-time offenders were not eligible for the diversion program.

Plea Deals and How Scholnick Can Help

While there are some diversion programs available in Maryland, the Maryland criminal justice system is still very much conviction-oriented. With the help of a skilled attorney, first-time offenders may be able to negotiate plea deals that greatly reduce sentences, or even free them from crippling convictions on their record.  Jeff Scholnick, having represented thousands of defendants, has years of experience protecting the legal rights of his clients, and seeking justice and best outcomes for them in court. Never face a criminal conviction alone—hire a knowledgeable criminal attorney now. For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, contact Scholnick Law today.

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