The Alternative Felony Disposition (AFD) program is a relatively new pretrial diversion program in Philadelphia for those facing certain firearm-related charges under the Uniform Firearms Act. In this diversion program, prosecution is withdrawn when the party successfully completes the program. If they do not complete the program successfully or are charged with another crime, the District Attorney’s Office (DAO) can prosecute the offense.
If you face firearms charges in Philadelphia, you will want a criminal defense attorney on your side. AFD may be one of several options to avoid a conviction and get the best possible outcome in your case.
What Is AFD and How does It Work?
According to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, AFD is a program to help non-violent offenders avoid a conviction and its serious penalties. It is a pretrial diversion program, meaning the person requests and is accepted into the program before their case goes to trial. No change of plea is required, meaning you do not have to enter a guilty plea to participate.
The AFD program lasts one to two years, depending on the unique needs of the participating individual. It is available to defendants facing charges related to 18 PA CSA § 6106 and 18 PA CSA § 6108. Both of these laws prohibit carrying a firearm without a license. Your attorney can explain whether your charge could qualify under the current use of this program.
AFD program participants must generally have no criminal history or only minor prior offenses. This program requires individuals to undergo a needs-based assessment before starting. This assessment allows the court and the accused’s case manager to design a plan meeting the individual’s needs and goals.
What Happens If I don’t Complete the Program?
If you participate in AFD but fail to follow the rules, do not complete the necessary tasks, or face additional charges, the court will likely terminate your place in the program. When this occurs, the District Attorney’s Office could choose to move forward with prosecuting the original charges against you.
For a free legal consultation, call 215.515.3360
How do You Get Accepted into AFD?
Admission into the AFD program is at the discretion of the District Attorney’s Office and the applicable court. Your criminal defense attorney can ensure you understand the program’s stipulations and contact the necessary parties to apply on your behalf.
Your lawyer should know how this process works and have experience representing clients who have been accepted into AFD or other similar pretrial diversion programs. They will need to understand the process and how to make a case that you are a good candidate for the program.
Benefits of a Diversion Program Following Your Arrest
You will want to consider the possibility of a diversion program as soon as possible after your arrest. If your attorney does not discuss this possibility with you, ask if any programs might work based on the circumstances of your case. Generally, these programs are not available for violent or repeat offenders.
Multiple diversion programs are available in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. There is strong evidence to show these programs work and might be a good fit for you if you meet the criteria.
According to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, some of the benefits of diversion programs include:
- Reduced recidivism
- Addressing underlying issues that lead to criminal activity
- Preventing a criminal record from affecting the accused person’s daily life
Diversion programs often provide a better alternative to traditional prosecution and sentencing. They cost less for taxpayers than incarceration and are an effective approach to stopping some people from becoming repeat offenders.
Diversion programs such as AFD generally only apply to relatively minor criminal offenses. These programs work by putting the case’s prosecution on hold while the defendant completes the program. If they complete all the necessary criteria successfully, the District Attorney’s Office will withdraw the charges. These programs work like pre-disposition probation, where the person reports to their case manager regularly and must follow strict rules during the oversight term.
What Is the Role of My Criminal Defense Attorney in the AFD Program?
Your criminal defense lawyer will play a central role in applying for AFD and ensuring this is your best option. They must explain the details of this program to you and sign a waiver along with you when you apply. Because of this, it may be difficult to enter the AFD program without your attorney’s help.
AFD and other diversion programs are not always the best fit for everyone. Your attorney can assess your case and offer options for a positive outcome. Sometimes, getting charges dismissed or clearing your name might be possible.
Are There Downsides to AFD?
Diversion programs like AFD are time-consuming. You must follow strict conditions, report to your case manager regularly, go to court as often as once a month, and take other steps to meet the stringent conditions. In some cases, a plea agreement could mean paying a fine or spending a short term under community supervision with fewer restrictions than the diversion program.
Still, diversion programs are very popular and a good option for many people facing a first-time criminal charge. Your criminal defense lawyer can help you understand the best option for your situation.
Get Help From a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
The Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC can help if you face allegations or charges in Philadelphia or nearby areas. We can assess your case and explain the possible options for getting a favorable outcome. We offer a free initial consultation.
Contact us today to discuss your options following a Philadelphia arrest or allegations of criminal wrongdoing. If you face charges for carrying a weapon without a license, we can determine if the ARD program is a good option for you.