Interviewer: With the diversionary programs, what’s the average time it takes to see if you qualify and can get into them, and how long on average would it take to get through them the entire way?
Lauren Scardella: With a Conditional Discharge, it’s pretty instantaneous because it’s a matter of whether or not you’ve been previously convicted of a drug offense or have previously had a diversionary program, and they can check that just by looking at a person’s criminal history. You can do it in one court appearance. What slows it down is that a person might get arrested and the lab report for the drugs is not available for, say, three months, which is with the average amount of time it seems to take the State Police forensic lab to get the lab reports done.
That slows it down, but in most cases we’re able to get the cases adjourned so that we don’t have to go to court while we’re waiting for that lab report. Then in terms of the amount of time it takes to complete it, it’s always a year, although I think in one instance I saw a judge put somebody in a Conditional Discharge program for six months, but that was only once.
For the Conditional Dismissal, I would say it probably is going to take more than one court appearance – probably a minimum of two court appearances – for the prosecutor to decide whether or not they want to let the person into the program. Then in terms of the time on probation, that’s the same. It’s a year. For PTI, in terms of how long it takes to get into the program, it’s a little bit longer because they have to have an interview by a member of the PTI staff and pay an application fee of $75.
They also have to wait to hear from the prosecutor’s office, and that can take several months. They can offer it pre‑indictment or post‑indictment. If it’s post‑indictment, it takes more time because the case first has to be presented to a grand jury. With a person who’s going to apply for and maybe get into PTI, it’s a several‑months‑long process at the very least. Then they can be on that PTI probation for up to three years.