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First Offender Programs
For First Offenders who commit certain offenses, the District Attorney partners with Buncombe County to provide a way for the offender to receive appropriate sanctions for the offense but escape the consequences of a permanent conviction on their record. Depending on the program, sanctions can include supervised probation for a period of time, community service, drug tests, counseling, and remaining free of any criminal charges for a set period of time. These programs provide the offender with the necessary tools to make the appropriate life adjustments to prevent recidivism.
There is a spectrum of options available depending on the offense and any prior record. The District Attorney offers or participates in the following programs:
Juvenile or "Pre-charge" Diversion
The District Attorney has partnered with law enforcement, Buncombe County, Chief District Court Judge J. Calvin Hill, and various other agencies to develop and start a "pre-charge" diversion program for students in Buncombe County Schools.
This program allows School Resource Officers the discretion to offer a county-sponsored Diversion Plan as an option BEFORE charging them with a misdemeanor criminal offense. If the youthful offender completes the process, they are never charged with the offense in the first place.
This eliminates the prior problem of a dismissed case still appearing on criminal records until an expunction takes place. This is of particular concern for High School students because it is difficult to complete the expunction process before applications for school or jobs become due. Under the prior process, the offender would have to be charged to become eligible for a Diversion program.
First Offender Diversion
The District Attorney is currently partnering with Buncombe County, through the development of the Buncombe County Justice Resource Center, to implement a county-sponsored Diversion program for First Time offenders.
The primary sanctions in a First Offender program include community service, payment of supervision fees, counseling, drug assessment and drug tests, and remaining free of new criminal charges for a period of time.
OFFENDERS ARE PRE-SCREENED. If you qualify for a First Offender Diversion program, it will automatically be offered to you at your first Administrative Court date. If you choose this option, you will be provided with instructions on how to enroll in the program.
At no time are you required to plead guilty to anything or write a confession. We automatically continue the case long enough for you to complete the requirements.
Although we always encourage representation by an attorney, which includes legal advice on whether this option is appropriate for you or whether you should take it to court, you will have the option of waiving your right to an attorney and enrolling in the program yourself if that is what you choose to do. The Judge will advise you of your right to a lawyer at your first appearance, and you will be required to make that choice at that time.
Deferred Prosecution is similar to the First Offender Diversion program, but it is an agreement that is administered directly through the courts and requires the offender to be on supervised probation for a period of time. This option is usually for First Time Offenders who commit a low-level, non-violent felony. For this reason we STRONGLY recommend that you have an attorney to represent you for these types of charges to advise you of all your options.
Conditional Discharge is a statutory arrangement where the offender pleads guilty to the offense and is placed on supervised probation for a period of time. The offense is actually a conviction for that time period. If the offender completes all the requirements imposed by the Court, the Court may choose to strike the original judgment and dismiss the case. As with Deferred Prosecution, representation by an attorneys is STRONGLY recommended.
The District Attorney sponsors and participates in a number of treatment courts including Drug Treatment Court, Sobriety Court, and Veteran's Treatment Court. More information about these programs can be found here: Buncombe County Treatment Courts
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