Ohio law recognizes that there are times when alcohol or drug use is a factor in the commission of a crime, and that punishment isn’t necessarily the best response in that situation. Under that circumstance, you may be eligible to enter Ohio drug diversion programs that allow you to receive substance abuse treatment instead of a jail sentence.
An experienced Cincinnati drug defense lawyer can explain whether the circumstances of your charge might make you eligible for a Cincinnati drug diversion programs, and how that might work in your case.
Ohio Drug Diversion Programs
Drug and alcohol addiction lie at the root of many criminal cases. You become addicted to a substance such as meth, heroin, or alcohol, and your ability to make good decisions is impaired because of the physical effects of the substance on your brain and cognitive processes. While intoxicated or high, you exercise poor judgment that may land you in legal trouble. Or an addiction may lead to acts of desperation, such as stealing because you’re going through withdrawal and need another fix.
There are two types of diversion programs available for criminal charges in Ohio, but only one is available for drug offenses.
- Pre-trial Diversion — Pre-trial diversion programs allow someone charged with a crime to avoid a conviction when you meet conditions set by the court. If you meet all of the conditions, your charge gets dismissed. In general, pre-trial diversion is only available for first offenses and for relatively minor non-violent charges. You cannot go through a pre-trial diversion program if you’ve been charged with any kind of Ohio drug offense.
- Intervention in Lieu of Conviction — Intervention in lieu of conviction is the second type of diversion program in Ohio, and is the one that allows you to complete treatment and 3 years of community supervision instead of being convicted. You may be eligible for intervention in lieu of conviction for many Ohio drug charges, although some are excluded. You also may be eligible for this type of program when you commit another type of offense that is caused by your drug or alcohol dependence, such as committing a theft so that you can buy drugs.
A qualified Ohio criminal defense attorney can further explain the differences between these two types of diversion programs and how they might apply to your situation.
Eligibility for Intervention in Lieu of Conviction
Under Ohio Rev. Code 2951.041, when you are charged with an offense and “drug and alcohol usage … was a factor leading to the criminal offense” then a court, under limited circumstances, may dismiss your charge once you fulfill conditions imposed by the court. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer described intervention in lieu of conviction in a 2012 column as “an opportunity for first-time offenders to receive help for their dependence without the ramifications of a felony conviction.”
However, the program isn’t available for all drug-related felony charges, or for high-level felonies in general. The statute specifically excludes charges of:
- Corrupting another with drugs — Ohio Rev. Code 2925.02
- Manufacturing controlled substances or cultivating marijuana — Ohio Rev. Code 2925.04
- Illegal administration of anabolic steroids — Ohio Rev. Code 2925.06
- 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree felony charges of drug trafficking — Ohio Rev. Code 2925.03
- 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree felony charges of drug possession — Ohio Rev. Code 2925.11
However, you may be eligible for the program for a number of other drug offenses, including:
- Marijuana possession
- Misdemeanor or 5th degree felony possession of a controlled substance
- Possessing drug abuse instruments
- Use or possession of drug paraphernalia
- Unlawful purchase of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine (methamphetamine precursors)
Because intervention in lieu of conviction applies to offenses in which drug or alcohol use was a factor, you also may be eligible for a number of other types of criminal charges related to your drug or alcohol use. Those may include:
- Passing bad checks
- Misuse of credit cards
In general, the charge you’re facing has to be your first offense in order to qualify for intervention in lieu of conviction, also known as ILC. However, under some circumstances a skilled Ohio criminal defense lawyer may be able to convince a judge to allow you to undergo treatment instead of a conviction when you have prior non-violent offenses on your record.
Under Ohio Rev. Code 2951.041, in order to be eligible for intervention in lieu of conviction:
- You can’t have been previously convicted or pleaded guilty to a felony
- The prosecutor must recommend that you’re eligible for participation
- You can’t previously have gone through intervention in lieu of conviction
How Intervention in Lieu of Conviction Works
When you might be a candidate for intervention in lieu of conviction, your attorney starts the process by filing a motion asking the court to find you eligible for the program. A judge may reject the motion, or may proceed with a hearing to determine your eligibility.
As part of the process, you’ll get a drug or alcohol assessment by a professional. The professional will determine if you have an addiction, and the appropriate course of treatment.
You have to agree to meet conditions of the program, and you have to plead guilty to the charge. As long as you fulfill all of the conditions your charge will be dismissed. However, if you fail to meet any of the conditions, then the court can move forward with sentencing you.
If you fulfill all of the conditions and have your case dismissed, your attorney can ask the court to seal your record so that your charge won’t be visible to the public on background checks.
How a Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
If you’ve been charged in Cincinnati with a drug offense or a crime that you committed because of a drug dependency, an experienced Cincinnati drug defense attorney can explain whether intervention in lieu of conviction might be an option for you. An attorney can explain how the process works in Hamilton County, and what to expect in court. Your attorney can be your voice in court and present a strong argument why you should be allowed to complete treatment instead of going to jail or suffering other penalties for your offense.