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Aramis Ayala: You Can Avoid Jail For Possessing Of Small Amounts Of Drugs Under New Diversion Program

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Under a drug diversion program beginning in August, people charged with possession of small amounts of narcotics – including cocaine and heroin – can avoid prosecution.

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced the policy Thursday. She is not seeking re-election.

Ayala said the policy will help reduce mass incarceration and free prosecutors up to spend time on violent crime. She said if the program was in place last year, thousands of people would have been eligible.

“Finding a remedy for the issue of mass incarceration has been incredibly important to me,” Ayala said in a statement. “With drug-related offenses in particular, there is significant evidence that the prosecution of these offenses has failed to reduce levels of drug use, dramatically increased the number of individuals incarcerated and undermined public safety by diverting much-needed resources away from the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes.”

Under the plan, people charged with possession of paraphernalia or trace amounts of a drug can have their charges dismissed after taking a one-hour class.

People charged with possessing small amounts of narcotics — including heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and felony amounts of cannabis — can have their charges dropped if they take a two-hour class with a treatment provider or social worker. They would also need to avoid arrest for at least six months.

People who fail out of that could be ordered into rehab through drug court or through a pre-trial diversion program. Prosecutors will always have the option to criminally prosecute.


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