What is Diversion?

Many first time offenders of low-level crimes will be offered diversion. That leads to a common question: What exactly is diversion?

Diversion varies from court to court, but the basics of a diversion offer are always the same. Diversion is an agreement you enter into with the prosecutor whereby you agree to take a class (or classes) and upon successful completion of the classes, the case is dismissed. Diversion is often the only way to guarantee a dismissal in a criminal case.

As completion of diversion results in dismissal of the charges, it has some obvious benefits. Defendants who accept diversion can avoid the risks of losing their case at trial. Additionally, many defendants will enter into a diversion agreement before retaining a lawyer, thus saving the costs of having to pay for a lawyer. However, there are risks to diversion agreements.

Generally, defendants have to either plead guilty or provide a written statement indicating guilt before entering into a diversion program. If the defendant fails to complete the program, the court will automatically enter the guilty plea. This means if you accept a diversion offer but then do not complete the program, you will be found guilty of the charge and will be unable to go to trial. Additionally, diversion can be treated as an admission of guilt in any related civil case. For example, if you accept a diversion offer for a shoplifting charge and the store later sues you for the cost of the stolen items, you will not be able to say you did not commit shoplifting in the civil case.

Prosecutors typically only offer diversion once. If you entered into a diversion program in the past, you may not be offered diversion again in the future. It is important to understand all of the benefits and risks before entering into any diversion program.

If you have questions about your diversion offer, contact us today for a free consultation.