SAVANNAH, GA (October 9, 2019) – The Savannah Police Department is beginning a Pre-Arrest Diversion Program that will give officers the option to divert offenders with low-level misdemeanors to an alternative program that would not result in jail time or an arrest record.
The program is the result of a 2017 technical assistance grant the city received through the National League of Cities that required the creation of a program to reduce the number of first-time offenders entering the criminal justice system.
“Having an arrest record can impact a person for years to come,” Chief Roy Minter said. “It can jeopardize current and future employment, housing and compromise student loans. By using this program, the offender will have no arrest record and will be guided toward a program that will address the behavior while not impacting that person’s future. We believe this will reduce recidivism, improve law enforcement relations and enhance community partnerships.”
The program is intended to be used for low-level misdemeanor offenses that result from an error in judgement, uncontrolled emotions or a mistake. Examples include disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, underage possession of alcohol, possession of drug paraphernalia, obstruction by fleeing, giving false information or affray. The diversion program will only be available for non-violent crimes or non-traffic violations.
The program also allows the officer to divert his focus to more serious crimes because the officer will be able to clear the scene quicker and will have no booking time or recorders court. It will also reduce case burden for the misdemeanor court system.
After the program is offered by the officer and accepted by the subject, it must be completed within 60 days. The subject will be required to attend a meeting in the grand jury room of the district attorney’s office, where the requirements will be outlined. Some examples of the diversion alternatives that will be required includes drug screenings, anger management, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence courses, gun safety courses, parenting classes and community service. The requirements are dependent on the nature of the offense.
If the subject does not complete the requirements of the program within the timeframe, a warrant will be issued for the original offense.