Are there diversion programs in Horry County, Myrtle Beach, and Conway, SC?
Horry County has several diversion programs that will result in your case being dismissed and your record expunged. Some, like Drug Court, may be intensive and require quite a bit of work and life changes, while others can be completed with a short amount of community service.
What kinds of diversion programs are there in Horry County, how do you get into them, and is there ever a time when you should not use a diversion program?
Pretrial Diversion Programs in Horry County
The most well-known diversion program is probably Pretrial Intervention (PTI), but did you know that there are other diversion programs that are operated by the Solicitor’s Office? These programs include PTI, AEP, and TEP.
Each diversion program in Horry County is designed for a specific type of case and the requirements for each are different. Below, we’ll take a look at each of them and then go through some frequently asked questions about diversion programs in Horry County.
Pretrial Intervention (PTI) in Horry County
Pretrial Intervention (PTI) may be available if you are charged with a minor offense and you have no criminal record (or a minor criminal record, with the solicitor’s office’s pre-approval).
You can only use PTI one time, and the SC Law Enforcement Division (SLED) keeps a record of persons who have participated in the program (even though their record has been expunged) to prevent people from signing up twice.
Although the requirements can vary a bit from case to case, you will typically be required to:
- Report to the PTI office when required;
- Do 60 hours of community service at a non-profit organization;
- Pass a random drug screen;
- Pay any restitution if applicable;
- Attend counseling or substance abuse treatment if required; and
- Complete any other requirements that are specific to your case.
The amount of time that it takes to complete the program typically depends on how long it takes you to complete the requirements – you could finish the program after a few months, or it could take as long as a year.
Alcohol Education Program (AEP) in Horry County
The Alcohol Education Program (AEP) is similar to PTI, except it is limited to alcohol-related offenses like:
- Minor in Possession of Alcohol;
- Open Container;
- Possession of Fake Identification;
- Public Intoxication; or
- Public Disorderly Conduct.
AEP only requires 20 hours of community service, but additional requirements include an eight-hour alcohol education class and a four-hour defensive driving course.
Traffic Education Program (TEP) in Horry County
The Traffic Education Program (TEP) in Horry County is available for people with minor traffic tickets.
You may be eligible for TEP if your traffic ticket is four points or less, you don’t have any significant history of traffic violations, you have a valid driver’s license, and you have never used TEP before.
After completing community service and a class, your ticket is dismissed and expunged.
Frequently Asked Questions About Diversion Programs in Horry County
What are some frequently asked questions about diversion programs in Horry County?
What Does it Cost?
There is an application fee for each program – currently, AEP is $250, TEP is $280, and PTI is $350.
Will My Case be Dismissed?
If you complete the program, your charges are dismissed. You can then apply for an expungement through the pretrial diversion office, which, of course, will cost an additional fee.
How do I Get into a Diversion Program in Horry County?
There is no “right” to diversion programs. If you qualify, the solicitor’s office, the arresting officer, and any alleged victims must agree to let you into the program. This can be initiated by you, your attorney, the officer, the court, or your prosecutor.
What if I Don’t Complete the Program?
If you don’t complete the program, your case is sent back to court for prosecution. You have not been found guilty, entering the diversion program was not an admission of guilt, and you can now choose to plead guilty or take your case to trial…
While the above programs do not require a guilty plea, there are also diversion programs in Horry County that do require a guilty plea – Drug Court and conditional discharges.
Diversion Programs in Horry County for Drug Cases
Although some minor drug offenses can be sent to Pretrial Diversion (PTI) in Horry County, there are also programs that are specifically for drug offenders. More serious drug cases can be sent to Horry County’s Drug Court, while simple possession of marijuana (and a few other minor drug possession offenses) may qualify for a conditional discharge.
Drug Court in Horry County
Drug Court may be available if you are charged with drug offenses in Horry County.
Unlike PTI, AEP, or a conditional discharge, Drug Court is an intensive “treatment program” designed for more serious offenders. Like the other diversion programs in Horry County, admission into Drug Court is in the solicitor’s office’s discretion. It is only offered to individuals who:
- Are dependent on alcohol or drugs;
- Are committed to recovery;
- Have non-violent charges pending and a non-violent criminal history; and
- The solicitor’s office feels would be a “good fit” for the program.
If you enter Drug Court, you must first plead guilty to your charges. The Court sentences you, often to more prison time than you would have received if you had entered a straight-up guilty plea, and then your sentence is “held in abeyance.” This means the court “puts it on the shelf’ until you complete the Drug Court program which could take as long as 18 months.
While in the program, the requirements include:
- Work a job or enroll in school full time;
- Pass random drug screens;
- Attend counseling and 12-step meetings; and
- Attend regular Drug Court meetings at the courthouse.
If you complete the program, your case is reopened, your charges are dismissed, and the arrest is expunged from your record. If you do not complete the program, you go back to General Sessions Court where a judge will impose your sentence.
Clearly, Drug Court is not for everyone. If you can stay clean and finish the program, it can help you to avoid prison, get clean, and, well, potentially save your life. If you can’t stay clean, though, it can be a trap that lands you in prison without the opportunity for a trial…
Conditional Discharge in Horry County
If you are charged with simple possession of marijuana or another minor possession offense that qualifies, a conditional discharge may be available.
In the magistrate or municipal court, a conditional discharge is relatively informal – you complete a short amount of community service as ordered by the judge, you or your attorney provides documentation to the court, your case is dismissed, and then you can have your record expunged.
In General Sessions Court, a conditional discharge will be monitored by the probation office, which complicates things a bit and adds some additional fees.
You can only use a conditional discharge once, but it does not prevent you from using another diversion program like PTI in the future.
What if you don’t complete a conditional discharge? Unlike PTI, AEP, or TEP, a conditional discharge is a guilty plea that will be reopened, dismissed, and expunged after you complete the requirements. If you entered a valid plea, it goes on your record if you don’t complete the requirements.
On the other hand, if it was in the municipal or magistrate court, you may not have entered a valid guilty plea. If you failed to complete a conditional discharge and the court is saying that you are now guilty, consult with your defense lawyer immediately – you may only have ten days to file a motion to reopen your case and avoid a conviction.
When Should I Not Use a Diversion Program in Horry County?
Diversion programs are not always the answer.
One thing that your attorney can do for you is get you into a diversion program. Another thing that your attorney can do for you is help you to decide if you should enter a diversion program.
In most cases, it’s not a good idea to accept a referral to a diversion program before your attorney has investigated your case and received all evidence from your prosecutor. If your case should be dismissed and the prosecutor knows they cannot get a guilty verdict, a diversion program is absolutely the best outcome… for your prosecutor.
In some cases, your attorney may advise you to hold out for dismissal or trial. In other cases where the evidence against you is overwhelming, your attorney may fight to get you into a diversion program. In either case, consult with your criminal defense attorney before making any decisions about the resolution of your case.
SC Criminal Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach
Daniel A. Selwa is a criminal defense attorney in Horry County, SC.
If you have been charged with a crime in Horry County, we will fight to get you into a diversion program when appropriate, get your case dismissed, find a resolution that meets your goals, or take your case to trial. When your freedom, your criminal record, your civil rights, or your driver’s license are at stake, call an experienced criminal defense lawyer before talking to the police or making any decisions in your case.
Call now at (843) 492-5449 or send an email to speak with a SC criminal defense attorney in Myrtle Beach today.