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 What Are Diversionary Programs?

A diversionary program is a type of program which may be available in some criminal cases. These programs permit certain offenders to avoid jail time and, instead, to complete a rehabilitative program, which is typically coupled with electronic monitoring.

Diversionary programs serve to divert an offender from the normal routes of criminal convictions and allow them to avoid the stigma of a conviction as well as a permanent criminal record. With diversionary programs, an offender is placed under probationary supervision or court supervision, typically for around one year.

The goal of these types of programs is to assist an offender in correcting their criminal behavior by using rehabilitation efforts which may include anger management programs or sobriety programs. Diversionary programs might have a different name depending on the jurisdiction.

Diversionary programs may be called:

Pre-trial diversion programs divert defendants to a program before they are ever convicted of a crime. Deferred prosecution occurs after a defendant has already been convicted.

Other names for diversionary programs may include:

  • Diversion programs;
  • Deferred adjudication;
  • Stay of adjudication;
  • Accelerated pretrial rehabilitation; and
  • Accelerated rehabilitative disposition.

When Are Diversionary Programs Available?

Diversion programs are only available for certain eligible defendants. Diversion programs are typically reserved for first-time offenders, especially those who have demonstrated a potential for rehabilitation.

A diversion program may be available for:

  • Juvenile crimes or age-based criminal offenses;
  • Petty misdemeanor crimes, for example, shoplifting or graffiti;
  • Non-violent felonies;
  • Crimes involving drugs or alcohol;
  • Certain DUI charges, also referred to as DUI Diversion;
  • Minor traffic-related offenses;
  • Child abuse or neglect; and
  • Other crimes such as falsifying documents.

A diversionary program is regulated mainly by the laws of the state, which may vary according to jurisdiction. In many cases, the prosecutor will have the discretion to recommend or admit a defendant to a diversion program.

A judge is also able to recommend a diversionary program for a defendant who is eligible under state laws.

What Do Diversionary Programs Usually Address?

A diversionary program will be prescribed according to the rehabilitative needs of the individual defendant. For example, a diversionary program may involve:

  • Substance abuse treatment and random drug testing;
  • Payment of restitution to victims;
  • Mandatory community service;
  • Letters of apologies to victims;
  • Avoiding situations or settings which may lead an individual to commit another crime;
  • Attending mandatory educational courses;
  • Restrictions on travel or prohibitions on entering certain areas, for example, a school zone; and
  • Payment of community fines or criminal fees.

A diversionary program is very similar to a probation arrangement in that an offender is required to complete the program and follow all of its requirements. If a defendant successfully completes all of the conditions of the diversionary program, then the original charges against the defendant will be dismissed, and there will be no record of their conviction.

If, however, the individual violates the terms of the diversionary program, they will be terminated from that program, and the case may be put back on the trial list. If this occurs, the defendant may face the original criminal conviction or sentencing which would have been imposed upon them.

What is Accelerated Rehabilitation?

Accelerated rehabilitation is a program which is offered by some state criminal justice systems to provide offenders with a second chance and to avoid criminal charges. These programs are typically included in the category of pre-trial intervention programs called diversionary programs.

As discussed above, eligible individuals who are charged with certain offenses can typically get their charges dismissed upon the successful completion of their probationary period, typically one to two years. This allows a defendant to avoid normal legal penalties such as criminal fines and jail sentences.

These types of programs also save courts time and resources. These programs are also abbreviated as AR for short and may also be called by different names in different states.

What do Accelerated Rehabilitation Programs Involve?

An accelerated rehabilitation program is typically issued according to the type of criminal offense which was committed. For example, an AR program may involve the following:

  • For offenders who commit drug or alcohol offenses: mandatory substance abuse education and monitoring;
  • For DUI and vehicle code violations: mandatory traffic courses and random blood alcohol testing; and
  • For offenders who are juvenile offenders: community service or letters of apology.

An AR program, therefore, may involve a mix of different measures which are aimed at the specific type of conduct which was involved in the criminal offense committed. Typically, there are specific programs for each type of offense committed.

The court will have discretion to impose any other requirements as necessary.

What are the Eligibility Requirements for Accelerated Rehabilitation?

Accelerated rehabilitation is typically reserved for criminal offenses and violations which are not of a serious nature. This usually includes misdemeanors and non-violent offenses.

Additional eligibility requirements for AR programs may include:

  • Not having a prior criminal record, or being a first-time offender;
  • Not having a history of previous participation in an AR program;
  • Not having been charged as a youthful offender; within 5 years prior to the current charges; and
  • Not having been previously convicted for certain:
    • drug crimes;
    • violent felonies; or
    • family law violations.

In the majority of cases, a defendant is only eligible for accelerated rehabilitation if they have a clean criminal record. In some cases, however, a court may still grant AR if the individual only has a limited criminal record which consists of a few minor infractions or charges.

AR programs typically also involve the payment of a fee. These fees may, in some cases, be waived if the defendant can demonstrate extreme hardship.

The court may also allow the individual to perform community service in lieu of paying the fee. If the individual fails to complete the requirements of the AR program, it will result in the re-imposition of the original criminal penalties, including jail time or criminal fines.

Therefore, it is generally recommended that the offender work with an attorney prior to and during their participation in the AR program in order to ensure that they are fulfilling all of the requirements.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Accelerated Rehabilitation Programs?

Accelerated rehabilitation programs may or may not be available to you in your case, depending upon the nature of the offense and the laws which apply in your area. If you need assistance with an acceleration rehabilitation program, it may be helpful to consult with a criminal lawyer.

Your lawyer can review your case and determine whether you may be eligible for an AR program, discuss the options, and assist you while you are participating in the AR program to help ensure that you are completing all of the requirements. Diversionary programs have proven to be very successful for many individuals and will also help keep your criminal record clean.

If you are afforded the opportunity to participate in an AR or diversionary program, it is essential to take the requirements very seriously. You should complete them all so that you can avoid incarceration or criminal fines. A criminal conviction can affect you for the rest of your life and in many aspects, including schooling, future employment, and child custody issues.

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