A criminal conviction can haunt an offender for the rest of his or her life. Having a criminal record makes it difficult to find employment and can have a negative impact on an individual's social interactions and personal relationships.
For this reason, a criminal defense attorney will generally do everything within his or her power to see to it that a client avoids conviction. Fortunately for first offenders, it is often possible to avoid a conviction through what is known as a diversion program. Though a diversion program is considered a type of sentencing, an offender can possibly use this legal mechanism to avoid a criminal charge and a criminal record.
How a diversion program works
A diversion program is typically run by a court, police department, or district attorney's office. A diversion program will lay out certain requirements that the offender must meet to get out of the conviction. Diversion programs not only help the offender by offering a way out of a conviction, but they also benefit courts and police departments by decreasing the work load of handling convictions.
A diversion program can consist of any of the following components:
- Educational programs—The offender may need to attend classes or workshops providing educational resources for avoiding crime.
- Providing restitution to victims—The offender may be required to pay back a victim or compensate a victim for damages.
- Completing community service requirements—The offender may be required to donate his or her time to volunteering for service projects in the community.
- Taking preventive precautions—Another possible requirement of a diversion requirement is avoiding certain environments for a specific period of time. The offender may be required to avoid contact with certain people or stay away from places where he or she may be tempted to commit further offenses.
Diversion programs are especially common for juvenile offenders. These programs are offered in hopes that they will take juveniles off the pathway toward a life of repeat criminal convictions. Diversion programs are also more commonly offered to juvenile offenders because it is usually a requirement that those who participate are first offenders. It is more likely that a juvenile has no previous offenses than it is that an adult is a first offender.
In some states, diversion programs are only offered to misdemeanor offenders. Requirements for diversion programs vary by state. A diversion program usually requires the defendant to plead guilty to charges. In some cases, a diversion program might be offered even after the defendant has pled not guilty but has been found guilty by the court. Contact a criminal defense attorney from an establishment like the King Law Firm for further information.