Interviewer: What kind of mistakes have you seen people make those screws up their eligibility to get into any of these programs?
Lauren Scardella: There aren’t really any mistakes that people make that can affect their ability to get in to one of these programs. What I see occasionally are people who don’t think that they’ll get caught again and who get, say, a Conditional Discharge for a drug offense and continue to smoke weed. They get caught a second time, and then they’re put in the position where they’ve got two open cases. Then, instead of having no conviction at the end of their Conditional Discharge period, they end up with two convictions, because that’s what happens when you violate the conditional discharge or any of these programs: the State gets to bring those original charges back and prosecute you on them.
Interviewer: What do people do? Let’s say they’re in the middle of the process of going through one of the programs. How often do they fail out, and what are the most common fail‑out reasons?
Lauren Scardella: I’d say it’s not all that common for people to violate their probation when they’re on one of these diversionary programs, but the most common reason is getting into any sort of trouble again. Take the example I used before: somebody who’s on a Conditional Discharge or PTI because of a drug offense gets caught again with drugs. It’s supposed to be an opportunity for somebody to end up with no criminal record, but sometimes some people are just bad at evaluating consequences and think, “No way am I going to get caught again.”
In PTI it’s more common for urine tests to be given, so they may get caught that way. Maybe they don’t get arrested a second time but they have a positive urine, and that brings them back before the judge as having violated their probation, and then they get may terminated from the program.
Sometimes, occasionally, although not that often, it’s because they don’t complete the other requirements of their probation, like doing community service or getting an evaluation, things of that nature.