What does it mean when a jail sentence is conditionally discharged or that somebody received a pretrial diversion?
We occasionally get questions about what certain court terms in stories mean. I had a lady call me a few weeks ago asking about court terminology. She suggested that we consider running a glossary type listing about some of these terms on our public records page.
I can’t really come up with a good way of doing a glossary on our public records page each week because of the amount of space that would take up so instead I decided to write this column about the subject in hopes of giving readers a little better understanding about some of the court jargon in our stories.
Below are some frequently used terms in the statistics section, and an explanation for what these terms mean, including:
- Public intoxication controlled substance excludes alcohol – This means that you are allegedly high on more than just life. I used to list this as just public intoxication, but I tended to find that people just assumed this meant someone was drunk. It actually means the person was high or is accused of being high on drugs instead of alcohol, such as marijuana or pills.
- Pretrial diversion – Sometimes when a young person in particular is charged with a minor offense, and this person has not been in trouble with the law before, you will see prosecutors agree to a pretrial diversion. For instance, you might see “Joe Doe, alcohol intoxication – pretrial diversion for six months” listed in the public records. This means that if Joe stays out of trouble for six months, then the charge is dismissed, and Joe will not have a criminal record for the offense. You might also see this listed as Joe Doe, alcohol intoxication – charge dismissed, diversion successfully completed. This means that Joe stayed out of trouble for the length of his diversion and his case got dismissed. In addition, sometimes, Joe will be required to complete something like 20 hours of community service as part of the pretrial diversion.
- Joe Doe, born in 1995, alcohol intoxication – The court dockets we get do not list a complete birthday, and only list the year that the person was born, so we list this year in the court statistics. We do this to cut down on confusion caused by there potentially being more than one Joe Doe out there. A person born in 1995 would make them about 25 now. So if there was another Joe Doe, who is 45 years old out there, people would know the person charged wasn’t the 45-year-old.
- No automobile insurance – Often the formal charge is failure of owner to maintain required insurance. We usually abbreviate that as no automobile insurance in the statistics section. Why do we say no automobile insurance instead of just no insurance? This is because if we don’t some fool will snap a picture of the stats, post it on Facebook, and write, “See! They are arresting people for not having that Obamacare. I told you so.”
- Conditionally discharged or probated – For instance, you might see Joe Doe, born in 1995, theft by unlawful taking – 30-day jail sentence probated for two years, plus court costs. This means that if Joe stays out of trouble for two years, then he will not have to serve 30 days in jail. If he gets in trouble again during that period, he may have to serve that 30-day jail sentence though.
If you have more questions about court terminology or how things are listed in the stats or stories, then drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will try to get back to you, and/or maybe write a second column on this subject if I get enough questions.