However your addiction started, whether a prescription after surgery or recreational use at a party, you never planned to end up facing criminal charges. You know you need help but you aren’t sure where to start.
The good news is North Carolina is working hard to fight the opioid epidemic. Many people in the state recognize that the problem is a health problem, not a criminal problem, and they are looking for creative solutions to that problem. One of those solutions is first-time offender criminal diversion programs.
The 90-96 program for drug offenses
North Carolina statute section 90-96 allows low-level, first-time drug offenders conditional discharge if they complete a drug education class while on probation. A judge sets out the conditions for you, and if you meet those conditions, the judge will dismiss the charges. You may even have these charges eventually expunged from your record. You do not have to serve jail time, but you do have to plead guilty to the drug charge. Examples of charges that may qualify include:
- Misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Class I felony of a controlled substance
First time felony drug offenders may also be able to participate, although the program has more requirements, including substantial community service. Felony diversion participants may have some types of misdemeanor charges on their records, but no prior felony convictions.
Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program
Several counties in North Carolina are launching a new diversion program. The program diverts low-level offenders into community programs and services before police criminally charge them. The program coordinates services with mental health providers and treatment centers. LEAD is modeled after a program developed in King County, Washington. There, the program has successfully reduced recidivism rates by 58%. LEAD is currently operating in Fayetteville, Wilmington, Waynesville, Statesville and Mooresville.
Mental health jail diversion programs
The state has a jail diversion program for people with mental illnesses. Over 72% of people who are in jail with a mental illness also have a substance abuse problem. The jail diversion program is targeted for people who meet the following criteria:
- Low-level and non-violent offenders in jail
- Have a mental illness
- Do not pose a risk to society
- Agree to participate in treatment for their illness
The North Carolina judicial system is coming to realize that jail will not solve the opioid epidemic, and that it must be creative with its solutions to this problem. If you are facing criminal charges because of your addiction, one of these diversion programs might be the right path for you.