In July 2015, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office offered a Felony Pretrial Intervention Program to certain defendants as an alternative to traditional prosecution. The goal of the Program is to reduce recidivism by requiring defendants to complete treatment programs tailored to their specific needs.
Who is Eligible to Participate in the Program?
First, the Felony Pretrial Intervention Program is offered for certain types of offenses. Defendants who have committed low level (Class 4, 5, and 6) felony offenses are eligible to participate. This includes offenses such as forgery, theft, theft of a credit card, non-residential burglary and criminal damage. Violent offenders of any kind are not eligible.
Second, defendants with a minimal criminal history are more likely to be eligible.
Finally, to participate in the program, the defendant must agree to pay full restitution to all victims. In order to be eligible for the Program, the amount must be easy to determine and cannot exceed certain amounts.
What is the Process?
First, a Maricopa County Prosecutor reviews the case and consults with any victims to determine if the Program is appropriate. If the Prosecutor determines that it is, the offender must admit to their criminal conduct, agree to make full restitution to the victims, and agree to complete treatment programs assigned by their case manager.
Participants must pay at least 50% of the total restitution owed to the victim within the first month of the program.
The defendant must successfully complete his or her individualized treatment programs. This involves intensive rehabilitation programs. The costs of the treatment sessions are paid by the defendant.
Each individual program is meant to be completed in one year or less. While the defendant is working through the Program, the prosecution of the case is suspended for one year. If the defendant successfully completes treatment, the Prosecutor’s office will dismiss the case. If the defendant does not actively participate in their plan or fails to pay restitution to the victim, prosecution will be resumed. If convicted, the defendant will face the full range of consequences provided by law for the crime.
Pros & Cons
A benefit of the Program is that an offender with a minimal criminal record can avoid a costly (tax-payer-funded) prosecution by completing treatment programs that are designed to make the offender a valuable member to society. Another pro is that victims receive restitution much faster under the Program than with traditional court prosecution.
There are, however, criticisms of the Program. For one, some people argue that the restitution requirement (50% in the first month) and payment of the treatment sessions make the Program too expensive to have an effect on defendants. Also, people argue that it is not fair to victims to make them choose restitution vs. having the offender prosecuted and punished.
The Program is now one year old. Accordingly, many offenders are just completing the Program. The effects of the program are unclear; but the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office says that the Program will be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure that its goals are being met.