Avoiding Criminal Records: What You Need to Know About Court Diversion Programs
Criminal records can be a detriment to your life. Travel plans and employment opportunities are some of the major aspects of your life that criminal records can greatly interfere with. However, there are some cases where you may be able to avoid criminal records. Court diversion programs are one way to do this. They are a way for you to solve your issue out of the courts. That is, your case will often be put on a pre-trial status for a given period, within which you have to fulfill the provisions of the program. Being savvy with these diversion programs can help you escape some of the lasting effects of having criminal records. Here is everything you need to know.
You must be eligible for these programs first, and this will usually depend on the type of offence you committed. First, diversions are often granted by magistrates. Therefore, your offence has to be one that can be heard in a magistrate's court. In most cases, these are usually local courts that handle minor or smaller offences. Your lawyer should be able to help you understand whether your offence can be heard in this court.
Offences without a fixed or maximum penalty or sentence can be, in most cases, also considered for diversion. Minor drug issues, shop theft, or careless driving are some of the other offences that can make you eligible for a diversion program. However, you may not be granted the diversion for driving offences such as refusing drug or alcohol testing upon arrest for drunk driving or driving at excessive speed.
Before the magistrate grants the diversion, he or she will need a diversion recommendation from the informant. In most cases, this will be the police officer who arrested or charged you. Remember that you need to reach out to the informant early enough to recommend you for a diversion. You can do this by writing a letter to him or her with the help of your lawyer. The informant has to agree to recommend you before filing the diversion notice with the magistrate court handling your case.
It is worth noting that chances of the magistrate agreeing to grant the diversion will be high if it's your first offence or if it's a low-level offence.
When the magistrate grants you the diversion for your case, it will be put on hold for a given period. Within this period, you need to successfully meet some conditions for the charges to be withdrawn and expunged from your criminal records. While laws may vary across states, some of the common conditions you will have to meet include paying fines, restitution, and costs for getting counselling, which may involve alcohol/drug treatment and anger management, apologising to the victim formally (often through a letter), and community service. These conditions will vary depending on your offence, so it's upon you to pay utmost attention to the orders from the judge.
For more information about court diversion programs or how to get your criminal records changed, talk with experienced lawyers.