A new diversionary program is being implemented in the Magisterial District Courts to provide early intervention for defendants exhibiting some signs of drug addiction. The program bears some similarity to the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas Drug Court, with the hope that if individuals with a drug addiction can be identified at the earliest possible time and encouraged to seek treatment, more serious crimes can be prevented.
Any summary offense is eligible for the program at the discretion of the Magisterial District Judge, except for those related to underage drinking. Additionally, misdemeanors of simple possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, retail theft and defiant trespass are eligible for the program.
The program requires a defendant to commit to a treatment program with drug and alcohol testing for a period of no less than 6 months for which the defendant is financially responsible. There are several providers who have already committed to the program and have agreed to assist those without insurance to obtain financial aid. During the period of treatment, the defendant will meet on a periodic basis with the District Judge to monitor progress and cannot have more arrests. At the end of the period, provided that the defendant has successfully completed treatment, summary offenses will be dismissed. Misdemeanors will either be dismissed or reduced to summaries.
Magisterial District Judges Helen Kistler and Jason Buczak spoke with WESA radio regarding the Alternative Adjudication Program.