If you have been charged with petty theft, underage consumption of alcohol, or a misdemeanor drug charge such as possession of marijuana, marijuana paraphernalia, or drug paraphernalia, you may be eligible for diversion.
While eligibility for diversion can be complicated, the basics are that you:
- Are charged with an eligible offense (not an O.V.I. for example)
- You have never used diversion or a similar program before
- You haven’t been convicted as an adult in any court
So how does diversion work, you ask? You enter a guilty plea, you’re sentenced, and then you must complete the terms of diversion within 90 days or the sentence will be imposed and a conviction will be docketed. To complete diversion successfully you must:
- Attend a related educational class and, if directed by the court’s probation department, complete a treatment plan
- Complete 20 hours of community service
- Report to probation as directed and comply with their regular terms of reporting
- Not commit any other offense while in the program
- Submit to drug or alcohol testing when asked by probation; agree that any failed test will result in termination of diversion unsuccessfully
- Pay a $150 supervision fee, the applicable educational class, any restitution owed, and all court costs associated with the case.
If you complete diversion successfully the guilty plea will be withdrawn and the charges will be dismissed. However, you will still need to file to have the dismissed record sealed; having an agreement on the record that the prosecutor won’t oppose it just makes the process a little easier. There is no waiting period to seal a dismissed charge, unlike the waiting requirement for eligible convictions.
It’s important to note that diversion is still highly discretionary. The prosecutor has to recommend it as an option and the court has to allow you the benefit. Participation is a privilege not a right. However, having an experience criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the court process and make the right arguments on your behalf will improve your chances of success.