PROVO, Utah (AP) — The new top prosecutor in Utah’s second-largest county is planning a program to get low-level suspects into drug treatment or community service without ever filing criminal charges against them.
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt is looking to create a diversion program that would allow some nonviolent offenders to fulfill certain requirements that would result in the case against them being dropped, The Daily Herald reported last week.
Getting charged with a crime can disrupt a person’s life for years, making it hard to find a job or a place to live, Leavitt said. Under the diversion program, people get the chance to make amends without overwhelming the criminal justice system.
“I believe of all the people we prosecute, only 20% of them are violent people,” Leavitt said. “That begs the question: Shouldn’t we be finding a way to give them a punishment that doesn’t overburden the court system, doesn’t overburden the public defender’s office, the probation office, the prosecutor’s office, and at the same time allows them to move on with their life?”
For certain crimes, prosecutors would be allowed to divert the case before charges are filed. The suspect would be required to complete community service, pay restitution or go into treatment. If they don’t follow the stipulations, the case would be prosecuted as normal.
“This is an additional tool that allows a defendant to salvage a life afterwards that doesn’t involve being a criminal,” Leavitt said.
People accused of murder, sex abuse or DUIs would not be eligible for the program.
The program should also help free up prosecutors, so they turn their attention to more serious crimes.
“This will divert some of our lower level cases, and allow us to focus on our violent crime where we need to spend more of our efforts, resources, time and energy,” said Chad Grunander, the office’s community service division chief.
Leavitt said they aim to roll out the program in June, but prosecutors have already started testing it with a few cases.
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