Addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling can change you. The drive to feed your addiction is often overwhelming. In some cases, people who have never broken the law in their lives become so desperate that they turn to shoplifting, burglary and other theft crimes to afford their habit.
Getting arrested, convicted and sentenced can cost you your job and reputation, and possibly get you caught in a cycle of crime and punishment. Meanwhile, your addiction, the underlying cause of your behavior, goes unaddressed.
But you might have another option. Depending on the facts of your case, you might qualify for a pretrial diversion – also called pretrial intervention.
How pretrial diversion works in Florida
Florida law makes pretrial intervention a possibility for anyone charged with a third-degree misdemeanor or felony who is a first-time offender or has a maximum of one previous nonviolent misdemeanor conviction on their record. Generally, the defendant must agree to certain conditions. One common condition is that the defendant must complete a rehabilitation program that may include counseling, treatment and education.
If the defendant abides by the terms that their defense attorney and the prosecutor negotiated (and the judge approved), and is not arrested during the suspension period, the court will dismiss the charges. Not only would the defendant avoid a criminal conviction on their record, they would also get professional help in their road to sobriety.
Potential defenses against the charges
Besides possibly qualifying for a diversion program, there might be several defenses against theft charges available to you. For example, one potential defense is that you had a good-faith belief, backed by evidence, that the item belonged to you.
Addiction may have caused you to make mistakes. Fortunately, pleading guilty or taking your chances at trial are not necessarily your only options.