There are three ways to have criminal charges dismissed: (1) a not guilty verdict after trial; (2) a nolle prosequi (i.e. the state attorney decides not to prosecute the case); or (3) a dismissal after completing a diversion program. Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties offer diversion programs for first-time offenders. The Pretrial Intervention Program is available for most third degree felony charges, while the Misdemeanor Intervention Program or MIP is offered to misdemeanor first-time offenders. The MIP requirements vary by offense but will generally involve taking a class, paying fines, and completing community service hours and supervision. MIP generally takes six (6) months, but may be submitted for early termination after ninety (90) days upon completion of all conditions of the agreement. Once the program is completed, the State Attorney will drop the case. This allows the defendant to avoid a conviction and a potentially damaging criminal record. For many, this program is the best option. There are, however, some things about MIP most people are not told before enrolling.
First, to start the process, you must complete and submit an application and wait for a representative of the Salvation Army to contact you to schedule a meeting. The terms and conditions are discussed at this meeting.
Second, once accepted into the program, you will have to agree to supervision which requires you to:
- Keep the Misdemeanor Intervention Program Supervisor advised of your current address, place of employment, and/or educational institution (where you also grant the supervisor permission to visit);
- Be completely law abiding during the term of this Agreement; and
- Submit to any psychological, drug, alcohol or any other examination or evaluation ordered.
Additionally, various special conditions may be imposed for certain offenses such as possession of marijuana (drug evaluation), or battery (anger management).
Third, you will also incur costs while going through the program. Common costs are:
application fee - $20
cost of prosecution fee - $50
cost of investigation - $75
donation to the Victims’ Assistance Fund - $75
cost of investigation - $70 and
cost of supervision - approximately $350
If you are innocent of the charge, if evidence was gathered illegally, or if the prosecutor has insufficient evidence - then it may be in your best interest to pursue another route, such as filing an appropriate motion or taking the case to trial. If the time to complete the program is a deterrent, you may ask your attorney to pursue a "withhold and court costs." The case can end after one hearing with no probation or jail, although it does require a plea be entered before the judge.
It is very important to thoroughly discuss your options with a lawyer as you may face up to 60 days in jail or 6 months of probation after rejecting MIP. If you or someone you know has been charged with their first offense, call Jhenerr Hines at 813-815-0291.