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Diversion Programs for DC Drug Offenses

In DC Superior Court, first-time offenders for drug offenses in Washington, DC are generally treated fairly, in the sense that there are different opportunities for diversion programs, after the completion of which the charges can be dismissed. There are diversion programs, such as drug court, where individuals report to court on a regular basis to show that they are continuing to test negative for drug use and are regularly attending a drug treatment program. At the end of their program, they can have the charges dismissed or significantly reduced.

There is also a provision in the DC Code that states that in some circumstances a person facing their first offense for personal possession of drugs can complete probation and have the matter automatically expunged from their record. However, if the person has previously been convicted of a drug possession charge, their options for dismissal or diversion on the new drug possession case are significantly reduced.

To best understand what types of diversion programs there are for drug offenses in DC, it is important to work with an experienced DC drug attorney. An attorney can help advise their client on different options for programs or alternative sentencing, as well as build their defense to mitigate penalties allowing for programs.

Diversion Options

There are diversion programs for first-time drug offenders in DC specific to personal possession. Under a provision in the DC Code, someone who is convicted of a first-time personal possession charge can be put on probation and if the person successfully completes probation, their conviction will be dismissed and expunged.

There are also diversion opportunities that the United States Attorney’s Office – which prosecutes these cases in DC Superior Court – offers whereby an individual agrees to perform community service, stay out of trouble, test negative on required drug tests, and attend drug treatment classes in exchange for the case being dismissed at the end. There is also alternative sentencing available in drug court. Drug court requires a person to go through drug treatment and regular drug testing. Once the person has completed the requirements of the program, their case can be dismissed or their charges can be reduced.

Alternative Sentencing

Possessing certain specific drugs or multiple kinds of drugs can eliminate the option for alternative sentencing or diversion programs in DC. Possessing liquid PCP has been statutorily deemed to include the intent to distribute, regardless of the amount possessed, which makes possessing any amount a felony in DC. It is unlikely that a person charged with possessing liquid PCP will be eligible for any DC diversion programs.

If an individual possesses multiple types of drugs at the same time, their chance of being prosecuted for intent to distribute increases dramatically. Additionally, even if the prosecutors choose to charge the person only with possession for personal use, they will often refuse to extend a diversion program.

Repeat Offenders

A repeat offender will likely have a conviction for their drug offense in DC, and can serve time in jail and face probation upon their release from jail. Possession with intent to distribute, which is the more serious of the charges, will nearly always be a felony. In these cases, the judge considers an individual’s criminal background to determine where their conviction falls on the sentencing guidelines.

Judges almost always follow the sentencing guidelines, such that if an individual is a repeat offender and the guidelines tell the court that a conviction means a range of prison time, the individual can expect that the judge is going to give a sentence that fits within that range of prison time. The penalties increase dramatically for repeat offenders.

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