A justice scale.Last month, the Rhode Island Superior Court launched a new diversion court program. This first of its kind program allows individuals charged with certain felony offenses to have their case completely dismissed and expunged upon completion of the program.

Who is eligible for diversion?

Previously, the diversion was limited to individuals with no previous criminal history. People have turned away for having even minor misdemeanor convictions. Now, the diversion program is open to far more individuals. Someone is eligible for diversion if:

  • They have been charged with a felony, but not one of the disqualifying offenses.
  • They have not been convicted or plead nolo contendere in the past to one of the disqualifying offenses.
  • They have not previously been convicted of or pleaded nolo contendere to two (2) or more felony offenses within the last five (5) years.

What are the disqualifying offenses?

The disqualifying offenses, which immediately make someone ineligible for diversion include:

  • Murder;
  • Manslaughter;
  • First-degree arson;
  • Kidnapping with intent to extort;
  • Robbery;
  • Felony assault – serious bodily injury;
  • Larceny from the person;
  • Burglary;
  • Entering a dwelling house with intent to commit murder;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Any domestic violence offense;
  • Felony DUI;
  • DUI- death resulting;
  • DUI– serious bodily injury resulting;
  • Possession of greater than one ounce (1 oz.) or greater than one kilogram (1 kg.) of a controlled substance, excluding marijuana;
  • Possession of greater than five kilograms (5 kg.) of marijuana;
  • Any offense requiring sex offender registration;
  • Any offense involving child abuse;
  • Most firearms offenses; and
  • Any attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the offenses listed above.

How do you get a referral to diversion?

If a person is eligible for the diversion program, a referral may be made to the judicial diversion program’s sentencing case manager. The referral may be made by a representative from the Attorney General’s Office, counsel entered on behalf of a defendant, or upon request by a judge.

What is required if you are accepted into RI Diversion court?

Once the individual has been accepted into the program, the defendant must sign a contract that details the requirements of the program. This individual will be bound by the terms of the contract and by signing the contract, s/he agrees to waive any applicable statute of limitations and/or right to a speedy trial.

An individual’s requirements will vary depending on the nature of the case and/or a person’s history. For example, in order to complete diversion, one may be required to:

  • Complete community service;
  • Pay restitution;
  • Complete counseling; and
  • Apply for and/or get employment.

If accepted into the RI Diversion court, can you later be removed from the program?

Yes. If an individual fails to abide by the program’s conditions and orders, s/he may be terminated from the program by the judge assigned to the program. If terminated, his/her case will automatically get sent to the Superior Court in the county that the case originated to once again begin the pre-trial phase of the case.

How long does the diversion program take to complete?

Although every case is unique, the program is usually complete within six (6) months to a year.

What happens if you successfully complete the Diversion Program?

Upon successful completion, the case is dismissed and then sealed- meaning that all evidence and records of the case are removed from one’s criminal background.

If you or someone you know would like to know more information about this new diversion court program, contact our skilled Rhode Island criminal defense attorneys at Abilheira Law today. Call us now (401) 245-5100!