A criminal record can make it more difficult for the defendant to get back on their feet after making a one-time mistake. The consequences of a criminal record can make it harder to get a job, get benefits, find housing, and impact your rights to serve on a jury or own a firearm.
Harsh penalties are not always the best way to deal with a criminal charge, especially when the offense is related to drugs or alcohol. Treatment and education can help an individual avoid future run-ins with the law and will not make a one-time mistake lead to a lifetime of punishment.
Alternatives to a conviction or alternatives to incarceration can include treatment programs, diversion programs, or deferred prosecution. If you are facing criminal charges and want to avoid a permanent criminal record, contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm for a case evaluation in Raymore, Missouri.
Alternatives to Criminal Convictions and Jail Time in Missouri
Typically, after an individual is accused of a crime, the prosecutor will try and get a conviction for one or multiple charges. This will become part of the individual's criminal record and they will be sentenced for the crime, which can include jail time, fines, and other penalties. However, this approach can result in overly harsh consequences and may not do anything to help reduce future crime or keep the community safe.
There are a number of possible alternatives to criminal convictions or jail time in Missouri. These can include:
- DWI Treatment Court
- Juvenile Treatment Court
- Veterans Treatment Court
- Drug Treatment Court
- Family Treatment Court
- Diversion Programs
- Redirect Programs
- Deferred Prosecution
How Missouri Treatment Courts Work
Before a defendant can take advantage of a diversion program, the individual has to be eligible. The prosecutor and judge may evaluate whether a diversion or treatment program is available or the defendant wants to participate in the treatment program. Non-violent drug or alcohol offenses for first-time offenders may be eligible for treatment programs. The judge will generally explain the program to the defendant, including the requirements for completing the program and the consequences of not completing the program. The treatment program may require:
- Substance abuse evaluation,
- Substance abuse counseling and treatment,
- Random drug testing,
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)/Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings,
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol,
- Restrictions on where the individual can go,
- Community service,
- Family treatment,
- Meeting with a probation officer, and
- Reporting to the judge and court.
If the defendant wants to participate and is eligible for the treatment program, the court may require the individual to plead guilty to the crime, pay a fee or fine, and successfully complete the program. Upon successful completion of the program, the court may dismiss the case and the individual will not have a conviction on their criminal record. Failing the program may result in immediately being sentenced for the crime, which could include jail time.
According to the Treatment Court Coordinating Commission, there are a number of benefits of treatment courts as an alternative to traditional criminal prosecution. This includes:
- Cost-effective method of diverting offenders from incarceration;
- Reduced recidivism rate compared to incarceration or probation;
- Allows offenders to stay employed, supporting families, paying taxes, and remain in the community;
- Reduce the number of children born with drug and/or alcohol exposure;
- Reduce crime;
- Reduce the need for foster care; and
- Help ensure payment of child support.
DWI Treatment Court
The Missouri DWI treatment court program is used for repeat offenders who are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. DWI court is focused on addressing the substance abuse issues, which may be a cause of repeated DWIs. Individuals eligible for DWI court may have to go through treatment and education for substance abuse, judicial supervision, drug and alcohol testing, drug and alcohol monitoring, and an ignition interlock device (IID) restrictions.
Successfully participating in Missouri DWI court can mean avoiding jail time for a repeat DWI offense and getting limited driving privileges.
Post-Conviction Drug Treatment Program
Under 217.785 RSMo, the Missouri post-conviction drug treatment program is a combined institutional and noninstitutional correctional program for certain drug abuse offenders. This is generally available for non-violent, first-time drug crime offenders. Eligible participants may be required to participate in noninstitutional education, treatment, and rehabilitation programs.
Failure to complete the noninstitutional part of the program may require participation in institutional drug treatment as a condition of probation. Successfully completing the drug treatment program and probation requirements can help the individual avoid a jail sentence.
Do You Have to Plead Guilty for a Diversion Program?
Deciding whether or not to participate in a diversion program can be a difficult choice. Some defendants may prefer to fight the criminal charges to avoid a conviction. Even if the defendant is innocent, there may still be a chance of being found guilty. Talk to your attorney about the benefits and drawbacks of diversion programs or Missouri treatment programs.
If you do decide to participate and are eligible, it generally requires pleading guilty to the charge. As a result, if you fail to complete the program, the court may be able to go directly to sentencing. If you fail the program, there is generally no chance to go back and say you want to take your case to trial because you have already pleaded guilty. Before agreeing to the program, you should be sure you can complete the requirements of the treatment program and probation.
Avoiding Jail or Prison After a Conviction
Just because a crime has the possibility of jail time does not mean you will be sentenced to prison or jail time. There may be a lot of discretion in sentencing, even if an individual pleads guilty or is found guilty in court. Alternatives to jail or incarceration can include:
- Fines and restitution,
- Electronic monitoring (ankle bracelet tracking device),
- Home confinement,
- Community supervision, or
- Substance abuse treatment.
Factors the court may consider in whether or not to include jail time may include:
- Criminal history,
- Risk assessment,
- Grouping of offenses,
- Severity of offenses,
- Aggravating factors,
- Mitigating circumstances, and
- Sentencing recommendations.
Your Missouri criminal defense attorney can fight to help you avoid a jail sentence, advocate for non-incarceration, and provide alternatives to jail.
Alternatives to Conviction with Experienced Missouri Criminal Defense Lawyer
Cass County criminal defense Higher Level Legal Law Firm has years of experience helping clients avoid a criminal conviction or seeking alternatives to incarceration. Contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm today at (816) 331-9968 for a consultation.