What is Pretrial Diversion?

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  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 29 April 2020
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Petrial diversion is usually a program a person can undergo to prevent him from having a criminal history. The program can also help the offender avoid court trials for his crime. Other terms for the program are also used, such as deferred prosecution, withheld adjudication, and withheld sentencing.

Not all offenders can qualify for pretrial diversion. Generally, only those who have committed a crime for the first time are qualified. The nature of the crime is also looked into, and only minor crimes are taken into account. Petty theft, alcohol and substance abuse and check fraudulence are considered minor crimes, but a person who commits rape, murder, or kidnapping is generally not allowed in the program. Some cases that involve two kinds of crimes may also disqualify an offender, such as when drunkenness has resulted in another person’s death or serious injury.

The offender undergoes pretrial diversion by signing a contract with his lawyer and a judge, vowing not to commit any further crime. In this stage, his case is not yet dismissed, but is only pending to be dismissed. The offender is also not yet “off the hook.” The appointed judge will first assign him to enroll in certain activities and programs to pay his dues.

Some conditions under a pretrial diversion include that the offender go through several sessions of community work, therapy and counseling, or rehabilitation. These programs should be attended within a duration, usually between six months and one year. The offender is also required to pay some fees, specifically for the programs he is assigned to. For alcohol and drug-related crimes, the offender should also submit to being tested and have “clean” results. If the offender does not meet the program requirements, like testing positive for drug use or not reaching the maximum hours of community service, then he can face immediate conviction and sentencing for his crime. Crimes of cash fraud would usually require the offender to pay the specific amount he took, plus other court fees.

Pretrial diversion should serve as a warning to first-time offenders not to repeat their crimes, especially for juvenile delinquents. Keeping a crime off the record is also very important, especially when looking for a job. Still, the offender should be cautious about agreeing to a pretrial diversion, as this means he pleads guilty to the crime accused of him. He also relinquishes his right to be given a fair trial.

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