January 7, 2014

Avoiding A Criminal Record – What is a Diversion?

By Charles Brown

Sometimes the criminal justice system comes up with a good compromise between justice and mercy. This doesn’t happen often, but when a defendant who has no prior criminal record and the offense is not considered serious, a compromise is sometimes reached that allow this person to move past one incident without acquiring a criminal record.

One such compromise is called a “diversion.” A diversion means a case is “diverted” out of the criminal justice system for a period of time (usually one year), during which time the defendant must undergo treatment, counseling, make restitution to the persons harmed or perform community service.

If the defendant meets these conditions, pays all fines and court costs, and does not get into any additional trouble with the law during this time period, the case is dropped and this person does not have a criminal record.

On the surface a diversion sounds good, but in my experience it can be a two-edged sword. Usually, defendants must plead guilty in order to be considered for a diversion. So if, during the time period of the diversion, they fail to comply 100% with the terms of their diversion, or if they get into any other trouble, the courts will automatically find them guilty based on their guilty plea.

This last point is where I have seen many defendants get tripped up. A single alcohol-related incident, a domestic complaint or even the accusation of a crime may be all it takes for a court to revoke the terms of a diversion. And , with that guilty plea already submitted, the defendant’s conviction is a foregone conclusion.

A good criminal defense lawyer can help you negotiate with a prosecutor for a diversion. But as always, be careful about accepting a plea agreement if you are in fact innocent, and have the evidence to support your innocence.

Here again, sometimes it is just better to fight for your innocence in court. But to do this, you must have a good criminal lawyer [http://www.askcrimelawyer.blogspot.com] fighting for you.

In order to be considered for a diversion, the defendant is generally regarded as “salvageable” by the prosecutor and the court. This means, they do not regard the individual as a career criminal, but someone who could be straightened out by the counseling, restitution or other terms of the diversion.

Generally, if the defendant’s criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor agree on the terms of the diversion, the judge will agree. But not always. Sometimes a judge will refuse to sign off on a diversion because he or she wants to send a message and show the community that he or she is “tough on crime.”

With harsher drunk driving laws on the books, a diversion may not be an option for driving under the influence in your state.

The key point that I cannot emphasize strongly enough, is to remember that you are under the microscope throughout the time of your diversion, which is generally a year. This means that you must not only fully comply with every detail of your deversion’s requirements, you must also avoid any other run-ins with the law. Particularly alcohol or domestic incidents.

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