Facing criminal charges is scary. No one wants to be convicted of a crime. Many times a person might find themselves charged with a crime when that person has led a crime-free life for decades.
Often times these offenses are the result of a poor decision or related to alcohol or drug use, and not the result of criminal thinking or behavior. Some counties have recognized that not every person charged with a crime should be convicted of a crime. Eau Claire County has responded to this idea by creating the pre-charge Diversion program.
“The Eau Claire County pre-charge Diversion Program is offered to first time offenders who receive certain low level criminal charges or select City/County Ordinance Citations. The purpose of the program is to keep low risk offenders out of the Criminal Justice System and to reduce recidivism, thus preserving limited resources.”
Even if you are not eligible for the pre-charge diversion program and you find yourself formally charged in criminal court, there are still options to avoid a criminal conviction. Of course, a person charged with a crime always has the option to contest the charges and try their case to a 12-person jury.
But not every case has a viable defense, and the parties enter into plea negotiations. In Eau Claire County, certain cases are eligible for a deferred acceptance of guilty plea (DAGP) agreement. Usually this program is reserved for people with no criminal record, but in certain circumstances a person with a prior criminal conviction may be eligible for a DAGP.
For example, a person with a prior misdemeanor conviction may be eligible for a DAGP if they are charged with a felony. Each case and person is different and evaluated on a case by case basis for DAGP eligibility. If a case results in a DAGP, a person pleads guilty to a charge, but is not found guilty.
Rather the court defers accepting the plea and the case held open for a period of time. During that timeframe a person must complete certain conditions to successfully complete the agreement. Upon successful completion the charge is either dismissed or amended to a lesser offense.
What if your case is not eligible for a DAGP and you wish to settle your case instead of going to trial? Depending on your age and the nature of the charge, you may be eligible for expunction of your record. The current law allows expunction of a criminal conviction if the person was under the age of 25 at the time of offense and for offenses for which the maximum period of imprisonment is 6 years or less.
The Court must address the issue of expunction at the time of sentencing. The Court must find that the person will benefit and society will not be harmed by this disposition.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, it is very important to consult with an attorney. I explain this in more detail when and why to hire an attorney in this blog post.
Give me a call today 715-598-7737.