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Pretrial Intervention and Diversion in Georgia

O.C.G.A. § 15-18-80 is the statute that authorizes the Solicitor General or District Attorney, of your judicial circuit, to create a Pretrial Intervention (PTI) or Diversion program. The statute states that, “It shall be the purpose of such a program to provide an alternative to prosecuting offenders in the criminal justice system.”

Generally, PTI or Diversion programs involve probation-like conditions without probation. In order to be on probation, you have to be convicted or plead guilty. With Pretrial Intervention or Diversion, these probationary conditions come BEFORE any plea of guilt or conviction. And, should you complete the program, you will never face having to plead guilty or suffer a conviction. Usually, the prosecution dismisses the charge against you.

Unfortunately, whether or not your county has such a program is entirely optional. Nearly all metro-Atlanta counties have PTI or diversion. Most rural non-metro counties do not. This creates a huge chasm between the level of punishment you can expect to receive for misdemeanor marijuana possession (for example) in a metro-Atlanta county vs. a rural Georgia county.

Also, the statute reads that PTI or diversion may NOT be offered for “an offense for which the law provides a mandatory minimum sentence of incarceration or imprisonment that cannot be suspended, probated, or deferred.” In other words, DUI. That’s probably the most commonly charged offense for which PTI and diversion are not available, but there are plenty of others.

Next, different Solicitors/District Attorneys have vastly different criteria for qualification for the program. For example, one unnamed office offers PTI/Diversion for misdemeanor marijuana possession, but not if there is evidence you were smoking it!?!?!? What else were you going to do with it? Sell it? That’s a felony! So, don’t expect any semblance of consistency or logic in qualification for the programs.

Finally, as DUI probation has become a brothel for special-interest moochers, the PTI/Diversion programs are not far behind. You see certain special interests benefit from DUI probationary convictions. As such, they ceaselessly lobby those with the power to impose additional (translation: costly) and unnecessary conditions. They do so for the purpose of increasing their profit. The same is becoming true for PTI and Diversion. For example, one prosecutor’s office makes DUI school mandatory for people charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession. This imposition only makes sense when viewed through the “qui bono” (as a benefit to whom?) lens. I fully expect for this trend to continue.

If you, or someone you know, has been arrested or charged with a crime, you should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney regarding your possible eligibility for Pretrial Intervention or Diversion Programs. Please visit my website or call me at 770-729-4809.

-        Jason Carnell

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