Avoiding a Conviction with Diversionary Proceedings
In courtroom dramas on television, all criminals are punished and sent to jail. In real life, however, there are jail alternatives for first-time offenders involving misdemeanors such as traffic offenses and public nuisance. In California, for example, Chapter 2.7 of the Penal Code outlines the pretrial diversion program for people charged with a misdemeanor.
A diversion program is generally run by the court, police department or the district attorney’s office. It is designed to minimize the incarceration of individuals whose offenses are not serious and for whom incarceration may not be the best option. It is typically the lawyer of the defendant to apply for this option on behalf of the client, and convince the judge that it is an appropriate measure for the crime. As pointed out in an article on the website of Horst Law, it gives the defendant a chance to avoid prosecution and the attendant hardships of bring in jail, such as loss of employment and personal freedoms. At the same time, such a program saves the state the costs associated with a trial and subsequent prison time in the event of a conviction.
In California, an individual who qualifies for a pretrial diversion program is not required to admit guilt, but who has to complete the program requirements to the satisfaction of the governing authority. The defendant’s lawyer and district attorney will determine the elements of the program which will still constitute as punishment. Failure to complete the requirements will cause the charges to be in force once again and the individual will go through the regular process of prosecution and risk of doing the original prison time appropriate to the crime.
A diversion program is not a free pass. It counts against the offender if and when the crime is again committed after completion of the program and the charges has been dropped, unless the defendant is a juvenile. A second charge for criminal behavior will disqualify that individual from availing of the diversion program.
A diversion program may include participation in a seminar designed to prevent a repetition of the offense, avoiding circumstances that may lead to the commission of the same offense, restitution to the victim of the crime, and/or community service.