The US Attorney’s Office has announced new protocols for Amended Sentencing Agreements (ASA’s) for felony offenders in Superior Court’s special Drug Court. The good news for those charged with felonies, including felony marijuana cases, is the new ASA agreements reduce felony charges to misdemeanors upon completion of 24 weeks of Drug Court.
As always, ASA’s are creatures of the prosecutors, and only the prosecutor can offer an ASA, and set its terms. But AUSA Richard Tischner, Chief of the Superior Court Division, and his deputy, Lisa Baskerville Greene, have been more forthcoming with diversion programs than their predecessors.
Under the new ASA guidelines (which are part of a year-long pilot program) some felony offenders would be offered a felony-to-misdemeanor ASA, which would allow a felony plea to be reduced to a misdemeanor, if the defendant successfully completes the Drug Court program.
At the time of sentencing, the defendant would be permitted to withdraw the felony guilty plea and enter a misdemeanor plea instead.
Earning the ASA would still be the same – at least 24 weeks of Drug Court, or more to complete all phases of Drug Court. Of course, a defendant would have to be new arrest-free.
Official Felony-to-Misdemeanor ASA Program Requirements:
- Defendants must opt for Drug Court at the first status.
- At the initial Drug Court hearing, a plea to a felony would be required. The defendant would be offered a felony now, and told the misdemeanor which would be substituted later.
- The ASA opportunity is gone once a trial date has been set.
Eligibility for Felony-to-Misdemeanor ASA Program:
- No prior crimes of violence or felonies within past 10 years.
- No prior misdemeanors for PWID or Distribution of Marijuana (i.e. prior simple possession is O.K.)
- No more than 2 prior misdemeanors of any kind within past 10 years.
- No more than 1 other pending misdemeanor.
- No other pending felonies.
- No PCP-related offenses
- All co-defendants must be eligible and agree to Drug Court
- Verified substance abuse issue.
There are a lot of requirements, and the U.S. Attorney can change them at any time, or not offer ADA for any reason, but for the right defendant, in the right case, ASA felony-to-misdemeanor is a good option.