Council considers pre-trial diversion program

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Municipal Judge N. J. Cervera and Court Administrator Neal Armstrong asked Troy City Council to consider an alternative punishment for minors involved in alcohol-related misdemeanors.
State legislation allows cities to pass ordinances for pretrial diversion programs in municipal courts.
The proposed pre-trial diversion program would save court costs and have a more positive impact than license suspensions, fines or incarceration.
Armstrong said some of the punishments have the exact opposite intended effect, causing minors to commit more crimes and accumulate additional charges.
“When they get their licenses suspended for 90 days, they continue driving anyway,” said Armstrong.
Cervera has even had parents withdraw students from Troy University because they could not afford the fines and tuition.
The diversion programs are designed to curb long-term behavior problems. Offenders are given the option to complete the program and, once complete, the court dismisses the charges.
The proposed program is not intended for those who commit felonies. Because, it is a college town, Cervera said Troy sees a large number of alcohol possession cases. He cited one incident where 60 or 70 partygoers were convicted and had their driver’s licenses revoked.
Participants would pay a fee based on their income and that money would be revenue for the City. Indigent offenders would be offered the program at no cost.
“Money will be diverted from state hands to city hands,” Armstrong said.
The Council had its first reading of the pre-trial ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting. Action may be taken after the second reading.
“I applaud you all for doing this because every kid will make a mistake,” said Councilman Greg Meeks. “If you think yours won’t, you’re wrong.”
In other action, City Council approved a resolution for the police department to buy $21,000 in car accessories for six recently-purchased vehicles; approved a resolution for a $26,000 bid to replace a power switch at a Park Street substation; accepted a $278,000 bid to repair and paint a downtown water tower; and signed lease agreements with Trojan Aviation and Troy University for an airport office and classroom for the new aviation program.

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