Everyone knows how challenging the year 2020 was. The criminal justice system was no exception. As of the end of the year, about half of Missouri’s circuit courts were still under severe restrictions for in-person trials and hearings, bringing many criminal cases to a virtual halt. Prosecutors here in the Kansas City area and across the state have been forced to get creative to clear lower-level cases in a way that could help many people avoid a criminal record.

In 2019, the state legislature passed a law stating that county prosecutors had the authority to set up pre-charge diversion programs in the jurisdictions. These programs typically target people arrested on low-level drug- or alcohol-related offenses like drug possession. A pre-charge diversion program allows the arrested person to avoid having to go through the criminal justice system, besides getting arrested. Options can include drug and alcohol treatment and anger management classes, depending on the nature of the charges the person would have faced.

NewStart2020 and drug charges diversion

Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Janet Peters Baker launched a pre-charge diversion program called NewStart2020, focusing on diverting drug crimes. She said the current lockdown at the county circuit courthouse provided an opportunity to reevaluate which types of cases need to be prosecuted and which can be taken care of in ways that do not involve potential jail time, heavy fines and so on.

Can diversion help me with my case?

This can mean an important opportunity for people in Kansas City arrested on drug charges. Though the courts have slowed down, police are still aggressively targeting people for arrest. If you have been arrested for an alleged drug crime, you may qualify for pre-charge diversion under the NewStart2020 program. Consult a defense attorney as soon as possible to find out if you qualify.