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Pretrial diversion, also called a diversionary program, is a form of court supervision that involves a person going through probation, community service, or other alternative programs. It may involve the person being arrested but not charged with a crime. It can also involve a person who has been accused of a crime but who has not been formally charged or convicted. When it comes to using this type of program for a criminal offense, it is best to use pretrial diversion to avoid a person from going to jail, getting a criminal record, and/or having a criminal trial.


Pretrial diversion can be used in situations where the person is accused of a crime but is not actually accused of one. The technical term for pretrial diversion is a diversionary alternative to the prosecution that seeks to divert certain criminals from conventional criminal law processing to a plan of supervision, counseling, and community services, which typically is supervised by the local court system. The defendant may be tried for a more serious criminal offense, but may be placed on probation for a limited amount of time and/or be given community service. This type of diversion, when used for certain crimes, may not actually result in any conviction, but may result in a less severe sentence than if the person had been tried and convicted of the same charge.


There are several types of diversion that may be utilized. The first is known as pre-trial diversion. A pretrial diversion involves the defendant entering into a pretrial intervention program, which may include outpatient therapy, group counseling, educational classes, or alcohol abuse/dependence counseling. This type of diversion may require the defendant to meet with a court liaison officer, participate in some type of treatment, or even have some type of intervention. The court liaison officer is usually a member of the district attorney's office who can review the case to determine whether a diversion would be the best course of action.


Pretrial diversion can also be used to divert a defendant who has already been convicted of a criminal offense from prison. The judge in the case may consider whether a defendant can be more appropriately supervised through a court-supervised drug treatment program, community service, or other alternative program. In these cases, the defendant may be sentenced to jail in lieu of incarceration, probation, or a combination of both. If the defendant is convicted of a more serious crime, they may have to serve their time in jail or at a state correctional facility.


Probation is another form of diversion, that can be used to deal with repeat offenders, such as repeat burglars or repeat DWI offenders. In many states, probation is required for first-time DWI offenders. There are many who commit probation violation. Those who cannot successfully complete their probation because they violate DUI probation terms, such as for DWI, may end up in jail or a correctional facility. Probation can also include the requirement that the person to abstain from alcohol and drugs for an extended period of time, pay a fine, attend anger management or parenting classes, or participate in substance abuse counseling.


Probation diversion does not necessarily result in a conviction, although a conviction may be obtained if the defendant is unable to successfully complete their probation terms. A conviction can still be obtained, though, if the defendant is caught again violating their terms of probation. A conviction can even lead to a permanent criminal record, warranting additional jail time, fines, and/or community service. For example, a person who is found guilty of domestic assault can be required to spend time in jail.

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