What is Diversion?
Diversion programs provide an alternative to traditional prosecution and are an alternative form of sentencing designed to enable offenders of criminal laws to avoid criminal charges and a criminal record. These programs are offered throughout the State; however, each Circuit’s Solicitor’s Office has different diversion programs, with different eligibility requirements. Diversion can involve doing community service, attending counseling sessions and/or making charitable contributions, and/or paying restitution, but the goal is the same: to allow a defendant time to demonstrate that they are capable of behaving responsibly.
The basis of the diversion argument is that courts may inadvertently stigmatize some offenders for committing relatively minor criminal offenses (usually drug or first-time offenses) that might best be handled outside of the formal system. In part, diversion programs are also designed to ameliorate the problem of overburdened courts and overcrowded corrections institutions (including detention facilities), so that state and local resources can be focused on more serious offenders.
Despite their differences, what all diversion programs have in common is that they are an alternative to prosecution. The state recognizes that not all types of offenses need to be dealt with through guilty pleas or trials and that sometimes helping members of the community can make up for harm caused by an offender.