There are several pretrial diversion programs in SC that are available, mostly for first-time offenders charged with minor offenses.
Some of these are “true” pretrial diversion programs that require you to complete community service hours or other requirements before you plead guilty or go to trial, while other programs require you to plead guilty and then complete community service or other requirements.
In either case, your charges are dismissed once you have completed the program’s requirements, and you can then get the charges expunged from your record.
Below, we will discuss the basics of pretrial diversion programs in SC, including:
- What types of pretrial diversion programs in SC are available,
- Who is eligible for pretrial diversion in SC, and
- What the requirements are to complete the various pretrial diversion programs.
What is PTI – Pretrial Intervention?
Many people have heard of pretrial intervention or PTI, and this is the most common program that people enter in SC.
SC Code § 17-22-10, et al. authorizes circuit solicitors to set up and operate pretrial intervention programs in each county across the state, including PTI in Richland County (Columbia, SC) and PTI in Horry County (Myrtle Beach, SC).
Who is Eligible for PTI?
Although each circuit’s PTI program can vary in detail, SC law contains requirements for who is eligible for PTI. For example, SC Code § 17-22-50 says you cannot enter the PTI program if you have previously been accepted into a PTI program, or if you are charged with:
- DUI or DUAC,
- A crime of violence as defined in SC Code § 16-1-60,
- Any traffic offense punishable only by a fine or loss of points, or
- A second offense or greater domestic violence charge.
Who is eligible for PTI? SC Code § 17-22-60 says that intervention is appropriate when:
(1) there is substantial likelihood that justice will be served if the offender is placed in an intervention program;
(2) it is determined that the needs of the offender and the State can better be met outside the traditional criminal justice process;
(3) it is apparent that the offender poses no threat to the community;
(4) it appears that the offender is unlikely to be involved in further criminal activity;
(5) the offender, in those cases where it is required, is likely to respond quickly to rehabilitative treatment;
(6) the offender has no significant history of prior delinquency or criminal activity;
(7) the offender has not previously been accepted in a pretrial intervention program.
The bottom line is that admission into the PTI program is in the solicitor’s discretion. In most cases, if it is a first-offense, non-traffic, minor offense, and any alleged victims do not object, you may be eligible for PTI.
What are the Requirements for PTI?
Although the requirements can vary from circuit to circuit and from case to case, in most cases the requirements will include:
- Regular reporting to the PTI office,
- Sixty hours of community service with a non-profit organization,
- Random drug tests,
- Payment of restitution when appropriate, and
- Counseling when appropriate.
Once the requirements have been completed, your charges are dismissed, and you can then apply for expungement through the PTI office (there will be additional fees for the expungement).
Alcohol Education Program (AEP)
Each circuit’s solicitor’s office offers additional pretrial diversion programs that you might be eligible for and that have easier requirements to complete. One of these is the alcohol education program (AEP).
You may be eligible for AEP if you are at least 17 years old, have no prior convictions for alcohol offenses, no significant prior criminal record, and if you are charged with:
- Minor in possession of alcohol,
- Open container,
- Public intoxication or public disorderly conduct, or
- Possession of a fake ID.
Traffic Education Program (TEP)
Another pretrial diversion program offered through the solicitor’s office is the traffic education program (TEP). This program will allow you to avoid the points loss that comes with a traffic conviction if:
- You have a valid driver’s license (not a CDL),
- You don’t have a significant record of traffic violations, and
- You are charged with a traffic offense that carries a penalty of four points or less.
Pretrial Diversion Programs for Juveniles
Each circuit’s solicitor’s office also offers pretrial diversion programs for juvenile offenders, including:
- The Juvenile Arbitration Program (JAP),
- The CHANGE Program, and
- The Juvenile Diversion Program.
Other Pretrial Diversion Programs in SC
There are two additional pretrial diversion programs in SC that require you to plead guilty before completing the program. Then, if you complete the program successfully, your case is reopened, dismissed, and expunged.
If you do not complete the program, however, your conviction based on the guilty plea will remain on your record and you must serve any sentence that was imposed.
You may be eligible for a conditional discharge if you are charged with any simple possession offense.
In the magistrate court (simple possession of marijuana charges), you may be required to enter a plea, complete community service hours, provide documentation to the court, and then your case will be dismissed.
In General Sessions Court (prescription drugs, cocaine, or other simple possession drug offenses), you must be monitored by the probation department while you complete your community service hours, which may result in additional fees and drug testing.
Drug court programs are a bit more involved than other pretrial diversion programs. Drug court is also selective, and not every person who qualifies is accepted into the program.
If your prosecutor decides that you are a good candidate for drug court, you will be required to plead guilty to your charges. Your conviction is then “held in abeyance” while you complete the drug court program, which could take a year or longer. You will be required to:
- Attend drug court meetings,
- Attend substance abuse treatment and a 12-step program,
- Take random drug tests,
- Pay drug court fees, court costs, and restitution when appropriate, and
- Work a full-time job or remain enrolled as a full-time student.
If you complete the program, your case is re-opened, dismissed, and you can get your record expunged. If you do not complete the program, however, you may be sent to prison with no opportunity to take your case to trial because you have already pled guilty and you have already been sentenced…
Questions About Pretrial Diversion Programs in SC?
The criminal defense attorneys at the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm focus exclusively on criminal defense cases in SC. We have obtained dismissals, pre-trial diversion resulting in dismissals, or acquittals following trial in hundreds of criminal cases, and we have a record of proven results.
If you have been charged with a crime in SC or if you think you may be under investigation, call us now at 843-444-6122 or contact us through our website for a free initial consultation to find out if we can help.