Pretrial intervention programs exist to keep people out of prison. They are run by State Attorneys’ offices and are designed to divert otherwise law-abiding citizens who make mistakes out of the thrust of the criminal justice system. The programs usually entail community service hours, fines, fees and counseling courses, and are offered to people with little or no criminal records who are charged with minor, non-violent crimes.

If a State Attorney offers a pretrial intervention option, and you accept it and complete it in full, the charges brought against you can be dropped in exchange for certain conditions, like a period of probation. There can also be felony pretrial intervention programs, but they are much more involved. They usually require strict, long-term conditions that function like a post-incarceration probation and is overseen by state Department of Corrections.

In most cases, it’s worth accepting. The downside risks are too serious: jail or prison, lost time and money, and a criminal conviction on your record. A conviction record alone can damage employment prospects, negatively affect things like voting rights, and present a host of other complications.

But there are things to consider.

For example, you can reject an offer to participate in a pretrial intervention program if you think a State Attorney, or prosecutor, will not follow through on a filing decision against you.

Another consideration is if you believe in your absolute innocence. Why accept a punishment, even one intended to divert you away from serving time behind bars, if you know you did nothing wrong? The only problem is the risk of being found guilty anyway.

If you have confidence that you will be vindicated, and you’re willing to take on the risk, a pretrial intervention program may not be at all right for you. Just know that a judge cannot offer a pretrial intervention option, and judges are almost always harder on defendants that opt to go to trail when it comes to sentencing.

A pretrial intervention agreement may also require you to do things that you don’t want to do. For example, waive your right to a speedy trial or to a statute of limitations defense. A motion to dismiss the charges might even resolve the entire case up front.

In any case, it’s best to consult an attorney before making a decision. Do not wait to schedule a free consultation with a member of our experienced criminal law team. We are your local Tallahassee team of attorneys ready to help you on your case.