what is a diversion program

What is a diversion program?

November 30, 2021 1:09 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Diversion is a program designed to allow certain first-time or low-risk defendants to complete a rehabilitation instead of being convicted of a crime. Most courts have some type of diversion program. Each program defines the crimes and characteristics of the offender that will allow the defendant to attend the program. Some diversion schemes “divert” defendants to counseling early in the process.  The defendant does not have to enter a guilty or no-contest plea in various situations to receive diversion. Other programsrequire the defendant to formally admit guilt while deferring punishment until the defendant has completed diversion. (Because the plea isn’t formally placed into the court system, it can be removed once the program is completed.)

The Process of Diversion

Defendants generally pay a fee to the court, the treatment center, or both for their diversion programs. The cost may be higher than a fine. 

Six months to a year or more can be spent in a diversion program. Counseling, treatment, and behavior modification are prioritized in these programs over punitive measures. Participants are frequently required to agree to 

  • Attend classes and vocational training
  • Participate in individual or group treatment or counseling,
  • Conduct community service
  • pay restitution to any victims
  • Pay fines.

When individuals successfully finish the program, the case is brought back to court and dismissed once and for all. When a case is dismissed, the arrest record is usually not sealed or otherwise erased. However, defendants may also be able to seek to have the case’s record expunged or sealed.

If the defendant does not complete diversion or is released from the program because of failing to meet its terms, the case will be brought back to court (or later criminal behavior). If the offender has already entered a guilty or no-contest plea, the court can impose a punishment. However, if the defendant fails and the diversion program does not compel them to enter a request beforehand, they will be required to do so, and the case will proceed as planned.

Diversion Programs: What Are the Advantages?

The advantages of diversion programs have long been established. Successful diversion programs have four significant benefits.

  • Allowing eligible defendants who rehabilitate themselves to avoid a criminal record
  • A reduction in early involvement in the “deep end” of the justice system
  • A decrease in out-of-home placements for juvenile offenders; keeping the children in his or her environment helps to maintain youth connectedness and engagement in the community. 
  • Cost savings when compared to court processing and secure placement

What kind of crimes is eligible for diversion?

Legislators designate the types of infractions that make criminals eligible for diversionary programs when they create them. Petty theft, personal possession of some narcotics, and, in some states driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are examples of small and non-violent offenses. Domestic violence and child abuse or neglect are included in some states, like an assault with minimal or no injuries.

Who is eligible for a diversion?

Most programs only accept those who have never been convicted of the charge they are facing. The following are the most common requirements for drug diversion:

  • There were no revocations of probation for previous offenses.
  • A period during which you are “clean” or have no convictions. 
  • No diversions within a specific time frame.

Can juveniles complete a diversion program?

While it is true that some children commit major crimes that warrant jail, research has revealed that many children in the juvenile justice system are there for relatively minor offenses. They have serious mental health difficulties, and end up in out-of-home placement or on probation by default.

How do you request a diversion?

Accept responsibility and ask for a diversion when you go to court.

Before you do anything, you must acknowledge that you were the one who committed the crime. This does not imply that you have entered a guilty plea. However, it does mean that you appear before the magistrate and admit to having committed a crime.

There will be no finding of guilt if you are granted diversion and follow the conditions. That means you have never been convicted of a crime.

If you’re facing time and looking for alternative options, contact our experienced criminal legal team. We can help work toward the most favorable outcome for you.

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This post was written by Cohen and Winters

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