Marshall COunty Court House West sideMarshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman announced today, Wednesday, October 17th the processing of the first case shepherded into the Felony Pretrial Diversion Program.  A plea agreement was submitted today in Marshall Superior Court No. 2 which provided for the defendant to plead guilty to Possession of a Narcotic Drug as a Level 6 felony.  The defendant, until her arrest on the instant case, had a clean criminal history and had successfully sought treatment and counseling while on pre-trial release all the while monitored by Marshall County Community Corrections.  In addition, she had been drug tested on numerous occasions with clean results.

The Prosecutor’s Office deemed this particular defendant as an ideal candidate to be the first case.  An essential part of the 12 month Pretrial diversion program is for this defendant to successfully complete financial literacy training and life skills counseling.  Lastly, the defendant is responsible for the payment of all fees and expenses incurred.  At the end of a successful twelve months, the charge against the defendant is dismissed and she is released from any further responsibility related to the original charge.

The Marshall County Felony Pretrial Diversion Program is an evidence based program which utilizes assessments, intensive screening, and coordinated decision-making to determine a defendant’s eligibility.  At the same time, the FPTD program will assist a defendant in recognizing and addressing problem areas in his or her life.  Only low risk defendants as determined by the Indiana Risk Assessment System (IRAS) are eligible for the program.  The FPTD program is intended as an intervention into the lives of low risk defendants who can earn a second chance to become productive members of our community with a clean criminal record.

A summary of the screening process includes all screening shall be completed within two weeks.  Ms. Kellie Kanarr, the Felony Pretrial Diversion Officer, shall collaborate with defense counsel, Prosecuting Attorney Nelson Chipman and the deputy prosecutor assigned to the defendant’s case.  Other criteria shall include eligible offenses; specific elements of the offense; victims’ input; a non-existent criminal history; and investigatory results by the FPTD Officer.  The inherent incentive to a defendant to perform successfully is to earn a dismissal of a felony charge while eliminating or mitigating risks in his or her life which resulted in the original charge(s).  The reward to the community, as well as the defendant, is reducing recidivism.

Should a FPTD program participant fail to meet the terms of the FPTD agreement and/or program expectations, steps shall be taken to revoke the agreement.  Upon failure to meet the terms of the agreement, the participant will be given an opportunity to be heard by the trial court.  Assuming the State proves the agreement was violated, the trial court shall enter judgment of at least one felony conviction which shall include a period of incarceration that includes a minimum 6 months of non-suspendable jail time.  This is possible because the defendant will have already pled guilty and the terms of the withheld sentence had been clearly set forth in the agreement.

The FPTD Officer shall act as the gatekeeper for the program.  The Officer shall compile all relevant investigative information, personal data, case records, criminal history and risk assessment information during screening.  The Officer shall then make a preliminary determination as to a defendant’s eligibility for the program.  Upon approval from the elected Prosecuting Attorney and the assigned deputy prosecutor, the Officer shall formulate an individual plan of action tailored to each defendant’s individual risk level and criminogenic needs.  The Officer also acts as the liaison between the Prosecutor’s Office and the defendant and the defendant’s counsel.

Once the agreement has been filed in court and approved by the trial judge at a submission of plea agreement hearing, the FPTD Officer acts in a similar role to a probation officer.  During the term of the agreement, the Officer: 1) monitors the defendant’s progress, including making direct contact with the defendant; 2) conducts case management appointments/status meetings with the defendant; 3) is the referring entity/liaison between the defendant and the service providers in the community in order to place the defendant into the proper program; 4) tracks and reports any violation to the Prosecuting Attorney and the assigned deputy prosecutor; and 5) ensures that the defendant has successfully completed by the scheduled completion date all requirements, including the payment of all fees and expenses related to counseling and program costs.

As a technical matter then, upon successful completion at the 12 month mark, the defendant will withdraw their plea of guilty and the State will move to dismiss the charge.  The objective is for the participant to never again violate the criminal code.  The participant wins; and the community wins!