Narcotics Diversion Program
What is the Narcotics Diversion Program?
The Narcotics Diversion Program is a program available in Ascension Parish for certain first-time narcotics offenders that are arrested for charges relating to possession of illegal narcotics.
What is the purpose of the Program?
The District Attorney’s Office recognizes that users of illegal narcotics may have addictions and wish to rehabilitate themselves in lieu of obtaining a felony conviction. In the case where someone is a candidate, this program will strictly supervise a defendant and act as a resource center for narcotics violators to obtain help with substance abuse problems in an attempt to eliminate or reduce recidivism rates. By giving users of illegal narcotics the opportunity to participate in this program, the District Attorney’s Office can concentrate on the prosecution of distributors of illegal narcotics.
Who is eligible for the Participation in the Program?
To be eligible for participation in the Pre-trial Intervention Program, an individual may need to meet the following criteria:
Limited to nonviolent crimes
First-time narcotics arrest for possession of illegal substances
Drug related - drug testing and/or counseling
No continuing pattern of criminal behavior
The individual must acknowledge his/her wrongdoing
The individual must be serious about wanting to change their lifestyle
The individual must show a good faith willingness to participate in the program
How are Participants Selected?
Offenders meeting the criteria are referred to the program following a review of the pending charges by an Assistant District Attorney. After an inquiry is made of the offender's prior criminal record a letter is sent to the offender requesting that an appointment be scheduled. In some cases, a defendant may be referred from court and given a set-up date at that time. At this appointment the offender is interviewed and given an overview of the program. The offender then makes a decision to participate in the program or go to court. The Narcotics Prosecutor makes the final decision as to the acceptability of an offender for the program.
What Happens in the Program?
Each participant will meet with the director monthly for individual meetings. One goal of counseling will be to help the participant gain an awareness of the legal and social consequences of criminal behavior. The director will also assist the participant in any other problem areas. Referrals will be made to community agencies that can provide services relative to the participant's needs. Also, community service hours may be required at a non-profit organization. The main goal is to rehabilitate an offender in an attempt to avoid recidivism.
Is Participation Mandatory, and, if not, then what are the Advantages to a Defendant in Choosing to Participate?
Because the presumption of innocence applies to the period between arrest and trial, program participation is completely voluntary and the right not to participate is explained to all potential participants. The advantages to participation are:
Offers the defendant an opportunity for self-development and to gain an awareness of the consequences of future criminal behavior
To avoid additional costs as related to further criminal prosecution
To avoid possible criminal conviction and incarceration and/or fine
Allows a person to remain in the community with limited disruption to family life and employment
Successful completion results in the charge being dismissed or refused
Offers the opportunity to be rehabilitated and live a drug-free life
On certain charges the participant who completes the program satisfactorily may request to petition the court for expungement of the arrest record. This can be done through a private attorney.
How Long Does a Participant remain in the Program?
Active participation may last six (6) to twenty-four (24) months. The exact duration of participation will depend upon the seriousness of the offense, the attitude of the participant and how well the participant has met the goals of the program as determined by the director and narcotics prosecutor. The average length of time is eighteen (18) months.
What is required of a Participant in Order to Complete the Program Successfully?
Participants must attend all sessions and keep all other appointments that are mutually agreed upon by the participant and director. All participants must be employed or enrolled in school before they can be recommended for satisfactory termination and must have completed all of the conditions of Diversion. A subsequent arrest or violation of program rules will result in the participant's case being returned to Drug Court.
What Happens when a Participant Completes the Program?
When a participant completes the program satisfactorily, the pending charge is "Dead Filed' or dismissed, conditioned upon the participant complying with the requirements of the Pre-trial Intervention Program.
Who do I Contact?
District Attorney's Narcotics Diversion Program
Director: Sarah Wade
1124 S. Burnside Avenue, Suite 200 B
Gonzales , Louisiana 70737