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What is Pretrial Diversion Program?
(Advantages & Disadvantages)

Pretrial diversion programs allow eligible defendants to avoid serving jail time if they complete treatment and education classes. The court then dismisses and seals the case, as if the matter had never happened. No jail time, and no record of conviction.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What is the Advantage of a Diversion Program?

Offenders who complete a pretrial diversion program avoid having a criminal conviction on their record. They are also able to make amends to victims and the community in a meaningful way. Through the diversion process, people can learn from their experience and are less likely to break the law again.

Do Diversion Programs Provide a Positive Alternative to Incarceration?

Yes. Pretrial diversion programs focus on providing a reasonable alternative to jail. One of the main benefits of diversion is tighter control over non-incarcerated offenders. However, offenders deemed too dangerous for traditional probation are not eligible for diversion.

Who is Eligible for a Diversion Program?

For a defendant to be eligible for a pretrial diversion program, he or she must meet the following conditions:

  • No felony convictions within the past 5 years
  • No convictions of a crime making them ineligible for diversion within the past 5 years
  • Current criminal charges don't involve violence or threats

Are There Disadvantages of Pretrial Diversion Programs?

In some cases, yes. When diversion programs fail, individuals suffer, tax dollars are wasted, victimization is increased, and the system loses credibility. In some cases, diversion can be more expensive than normal processing, because offenders have to be reprocessed and potentially incarcerated at a later date.

What Happens if I Get Kicked Out of a Diversion Program?

Once a person is removed from a pretrial diversion program, the prosecution of their case will resume. Defendants will get a new arraignment date, and their case will proceed traditionally. They may enter into a plea bargain or even take their case to trial.

Diversion and Juvenile Justice

Juvenile diversion is based on the idea that exposing youth to the traditional juvenile justice system may do more harm than good. Most programs intended to divert juvenile delinquents are usually fundamentally different from adult programs. In many cases, young offenders will present with substance abuse and mental health problems, which may be the underlying cause of their delinquency.

A juvenile diversion program can be used as an intervention strategy for 1st-time offenders who have found themselves in the juvenile justice system. There are numerous benefits to these programs, including:

  1. Avoiding exposure to more severe criminals in a juvenile detention center;
  2. Allowing the courts to use resources that are needed for those juvenile delinquents who are an actual threat to society, and
  3. Getting the child help with substance abuse or family problems.

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