Understanding the Philadelphia Summary Diversion Program

When someone makes a mistake, gets into trouble with the law, and gets a criminal record, the consequences can be severe. Having a clean record is important in order to take advantage of opportunities like getting into a good college or landing a good job.

The First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has created “diversion” programs to divert a criminal case from the path towards trial to a potential resolution that will be more favorable to the person charged. When criminal charges are diverted, it allows the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to utilize its limited resources in a more effective manner with the goal of prosecuting more serious crimes. One such program is the Philadelphia “Summary Diversion” Program.

The majority of defendants charged with a summary citation who have not previously participated in the Summary Diversion program are eligible, with the exception of the following charges due to the nature of the charge:

  • Cruelty to Animals;
  • Criminal Mischief;
  • Cutting Weapons;
  • Weapons in general including

In addition, any defendant issued citations by any of the following four agencies also are not permitted to enroll and are automatically scheduled for trial in Philadelphia Municipal Court:

  1. Pennsylvania SPCA (Society for the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals)
  2. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
  3. Pennsylvania Vehicle Fraud Investigations
  4. Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (which handles financial benefits and welfare fraud).

There are exceptions to this general rule, and sometimes my law firm may be able to secure the agreement of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in resolving a Criminal Mischief charge, for example, through the Summary Diversion Program (SDP).

If a defendant’s case is approved for the SDP, the defendant will not enter a plea. Upon successful completion of the program, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will withdraw prosecution of the criminal charges against the defendant.

Defendants accepted into the Philadelphia SDP attend the program on a Saturday. The program takes place at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center located at 1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. The cost of the Summary Diversion Program is $200, and full payment must be made by money order and payable on the day the defendant attends the program.

For example if you are facing a first time Philadelphia underage drinking or a Philadelphia fake ID charge, the Philadelphia Municipal Court will amend the charge to disorderly conduct and the defendant will not lose their driver’s license as would be the case if a person, often a college student, is convicted or pleads guilty to underage drinking or possessing a false ID.  You can then qualify for the and complete the SDP and get the charge expunged

A defendant’s case will be automatically expunged after successful completion of the Summary Diversion Program (SDP), but it can take up to nine months.

The reason the SDP is better than other Philadelphia diversion programs such as the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program or Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition is that a person in the SDP isn’t required to serve any type of probation, but only complete the one day class.

If you have any questions or are charged with a crime contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521- 0604.

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