Since 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (USAO) has offered a variety of diversion programs aimed at maximizing public safety, reducing recidivism, and enhancing a fair and efficient criminal justice system. Each case is subject to individualized review for appropriate disposition determinations, taking into account the history of the defendant, the wishes of the complainant and community, and the severity of the offense.
Generally, a defendant may be eligible for diversion program if they have not been convicted of or served probation, parole, or supervised release for any firearms- related offense, any sex offense (with the exception of solicitation of prostitution), child abuse, or violent felony offense within the past ten years. Certain serious arrests and convictions will disqualify a defendant for diversion regardless of the age of the criminal conduct (e.g., homicide and rape convictions). Additionally, the defendant cannot be on probation, parole, or supervised release for a “dangerous crime,” as defined by D.C. Code § 23-1331 or be held without bond. A defendant must be and remain in compliance with their court-ordered release conditions prior to and for the duration of the diversion agreement. With the exception of Drug Court and Mental Health Community Court, a defendant must test negative at the initial drug test or consecutively test negative two times, and remain negative by the first status hearing.
Defendants may be eligible for stet agreements in cases involving unlawful entry, theft, destruction of property, and certain drug-possession offenses or cases in which there is no or minimal injury and the victim is amenable to disposition with an agreement that the defendant stay away from the victim for the length of the agreement. A defendant’s criminal history is also a factor in assessing stet eligibility. Stet-eligible individuals enter into an agreement to stay away from a location or person designated by the USAO for six months and to comply with other conditions, such as a curfew, stay away order, and/or restitution to the victim. At the successful conclusion of the agreement, the charges will be dismissed.
Community Service and Education Based Programs
Community Service and Education based programs are offered to defendants with minimal or no criminal history. Defendants coordinate service placements with the Community Service Office at the D.C. Superior Court.
Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA):
Four-month program in which an individual must perform 32 hours of community service and comply with other conditions, such as a curfew, stay away order, and/or restitution to the victim. If the individual satisfies the DPA requirements, the charges will be dismissed.
Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA):
Six-month program in which an individual must plead guilty and perform 48 hours of community service and comply with other conditions, such as a curfew, stay away order, and/or restitution to the victim. DSAs in domestic violence misdemeanor (DVM) cases involving intimate partners typically last nine months, and DSAs in DVM cases involving non-intimate partners typically last five months. DSAs in DVM cases typically include some or all of the following conditions: participation in the Domestic Violence Intervention Program or Anger Management course (as appropriate); participation in substance abuse and/or mental health treatment; community service; a stay-away/no-contact order or an order not to harass, assault, threaten, or stalk the victim; restitution; continued payment of child support; and any other conditions that may be appropriate. If the defendant satisfies the DSA requirements, the defendant will be allowed to withdraw their guilty plea and the charges will be dismissed.
Mental Health Community Court (MHCC)
The DC Superior Court Mental Health Community Court (MHCC) is a voluntary treatment court for people who have been diagnosed with serious and persistent mental illness, who are charged with certain misdemeanor or low-level felony offenses, and who otherwise qualify for the MHCC program. Defendants who are screened eligible by the Pretrial Services Agency’s Specialized Supervision Unit may enter into a MHCC-specific DPA or DSA requiring, among other conditions, that the defendant participate in mental health treatment and, if necessary, drug testing and treatment. Defendants with pending domestic violence misdemeanor (DVM) cases may be eligible for MHCC, but must be willing to enter a MHCC-DSA as MHCC-DPAs are not offered in DVM cases. Defendants must be competent and not incarcerated. MHCC cases are handled by a designated senior Assistant United States Attorney. For more information about MHCC, please see the D.C. Superior Court’s website: https://www.dccourts.gov/services/criminal-matters/community-court-and-problem-solving-courts
Superior Court Drug Intervention Program (Drug Court)
Defendants who have a verified substance abuse or dependency problem can have their cases heard in Drug Court, a special court designed to offer a comprehensive approach to address addiction and dependency. Defendants screened as eligible enter into a Drug Court Contract, which requires the defendant to participate in drug testing, counseling, and treatment at the direction of the Pretrial Services Agency. Drug Court cases are handled by a designated senior Assistant United States Attorney. For more information regarding Drug Court go to http://www.psa.gov or call (202) 220-5505.
Redirect Programs – Education and Employment
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia also participates in D.C. Superior Court’s Redirect Programs.
Since 2016, the D.C. Superior Court’s Redirect Diversion program offers those with non-violent misdemeanor charges an opportunity to avoid judicial processing by engaging in pro-social education or employment programming in partnership with the Department of Employment Services (DOES) and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Defendants enter into a Deferred Sentencing Agreement that requires individuals to attain their high school diploma or equivalent or connect with DOES’s Career Connections and Project Empowerment programs. Participation is voluntary and requires six months of active engagement with programming before their case can be dismissed.
If you are a defense attorney seeking more information about eligibility and requirements, please contact the assigned Assistant United States Attorney for your case.