Alternative Prosecution Programs in Rhode Island
When a person is charged with a crime in Rhode Island, they face many potential consequences such as the payment of fines and serving terms of probation or imprisonment, or a combination thereof, if convicted.
However, in certain instances, a criminal case in Rhode Island may be resolved through one of three alternative prosecution programs.
The Rhode Island Judiciary offers these programs to eligible participants. Participation is completely voluntary. If accepted, an eligible participant who completes the program can avoid:
- a felony conviction
- punishments traditionally associated with sustaining a criminal conviction
- and in many instances, having the case sealed or expunged
Superior Court Adult Drug Court
The first alternative prosecution program is the Superior Court Adult Drug Court.
If a person is charged with an alcohol or drug-related offense or charged with another nonviolent offense attributable to a history of alcohol or drug abuse, he or she may be eligible for Drug Court.
To be eligible, the individual cannot have any pending charges or prior convictions involving a felony crime of violence or involving the delivery of a controlled substance, such as possession with intent to deliver.
Essentially, violent felonies and drug trafficking offenses are ineligible for referral to Drug Court.
Participants in the program are called upon to admit guilt or criminal responsibility for their pending charges but do not receive any punishment.
Instead, the participant undergoes substance abuse counseling or treatment, participates in weekly urine screens to ensure sobriety, and periodically attends court.
Length of time
The average length of time for program participation is 12 to 15 months. During this time, the participant remains on bail and under the supervision of the court.
Failure to meet conditions
If the participant fails to abide by the conditions of participation, relapses, fails a drug test, fails to attend counseling or the recommendations of his or her treatment, the Drug Court may impose sanctions such as community service, overnights or weekends in jail, more intensive treatment, and more.
The ultimate punishment is involuntary removal from the program and imposition of sentence for the admitted offense. This also results in a criminal conviction.
Completing the program successfuly
Successful graduates of Drug Court, however, benefit from the dismissal of their charges and sealing from public record.
Rhode Island Superior Court Diversion Program
The second alternative prosecution program is the Rhode Island Superior Court Diversion Program.
The Diversion Program is available to any defendant who is charged via District Court complaint, Superior Court indictment, or a Superior Court criminal information with a qualifying felony offense.
Factors that disqualify a defendant from eligibility include:
- a prior conviction or nolo contendere plea to a disqualifying felony offense;
- a prior conviction or nolo contendere plea to two (2) or more felony offenses within the last five (5) years (excluding any the defendant was incarcerated for any reason between the time of commission of the prior felony and the time of commission of the present felony);
- or if the present offense is a disqualifying felony offense.
Those accepted into the Diversion Program must participate for a period of approximately one year.
Participants must also sign a participation agreement promising to keep the peace, remain of good behavior, attend period court reviews, and certain conditions, which vary by case and defendant but may include counseling, community service, payment of restitution, and more.
Completing the program succseffuly
If a defendant successfully completes the Diversion Program, all charges are dismissed and sealed from public record.
Failure to meet conditions
If a participant is rearrested or fails to meet his or her participation conditions, the Court may order involuntary removal from the program, resulting in the case returning to the traditional prosecution process.
Rhode Island District Court’s Veterans Treatment program
The third and final alternative prosecution program is the Rhode Island District Court’s Veterans Treatment program.
This program is available to any individual with a history of military service who suffers from PTSD or other diagnosed trauma-related disorder that may be attributable, at least in part, to the charged offense(s).
Applicants to Veterans Court must undergo a review process, conducted by a review panel that assesses each charge on a case-by-case basis, considering the nature of the charge, facts related thereto, the defendant’s criminal history, the risk to the public safety, and nature of the diagnosis.
If accepted, the participant must follow all terms of his or her Veterans Court participation contract, including attending periodic court reviews, compliance with all treatment programs, recommendations, and prescribed medications.
Failure to comply with terms
The participant is monitored by the court and a designated clinician. If the individual fails to comply with the terms of his or her conditions, involuntary disenrollment or removal from the program may occur, resulting in traditional prosecution.
Successful participants who complete Veterans Court, however, frequently benefit from having their charges dismissed and sealed from public record.
Contacting an Attorney to Discuss Your Options
If you have been charged with a crime in Rhode Island, you may be eligible to avoid the traditional criminal prosecution process by participating in an alternative prosecution program. Contact Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyer, John L. Calcagni III, today for a free consultation at (401) 351-5100.