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What is diversion, and how does it work?

If you have ever been arrested for a domestic violence (or DV) offense, you might recall the cop or deputy giving you some unsolicited advice about diversion. “Oh don’t worry”, he or she may have said, “you will get diversion and the charge will go away.” You might also have heard something similar from some well meaning person sitting next to you in jail. At first glance, diversion sounds wonderful!

However, it’s important to remember the following: please don’t take criminal defense legal advice from law enforcement, and you definitely shouldn’t take it from a person who’s in jail! There is no substitute for the expertise of a lawyer, so it’s much wiser to talk to a lawyer experienced in criminal defense instead of taking advice from people who have never gone to law school!

You might be wondering: “But why?”

Simple: Because every jurisdiction does diversion differently, and what you don’t know might hurt you.

Diversion can indeed result in your charge being dismissed, meaning that you will have no conviction on your record. In this instance, conviction means you either plead guilty to a jury or were found guilty by a judge (or jury) after a trial. Despite the fact that you can get a charge dismissed, the mere reality of having been arrested and booked into the jail and charged with a crime will likely appear during any criminal background check that searches state or federal databases. There is a means by which to have this record “cleared,” but that is a topic for another article.

Anyway, back to diversion. Unfortunately, diversion isn’t just an instantaneous dismissal of your domestic violence charge. Some diversion jurisdictions require a person to enter a plea of guilty, then the plea is held in abeyance while counseling is completed. Counseling for domestic violence involves 26 sessions at a court approved provider. Counseling isn’t cheap, and very few providers take insurance.

Naturally, different jurisdictions have different requirements when it comes to diversion. While diversion generally requires 26 counseling sessions with a court-approved domestic violence counseling provider, some jurisdictions like Tucson City Court mandate which provider you go to while others like Pima County Justice Court do not.

In addition, other jurisdictions don’t require you enter a plea of guilty, they simply allow you to continue the case alone until you are done with counseling and then they dismiss the case. The importance of this difference comes about when you encounter a question on a job application that asks if you ever “pled guilty” to avoid a conviction. If you were charged in a district whose diversion program requires a guilty plea, you would have to answer “yes,” to that question, and if you lied, the truth would likely show up in a background check. To those with immigration concerns, such a plea is also very important.

Diversion programs differ in how they monitor you as well. Some require more frequent in person or phone check-ins while others do not. Some programs allow you to reside out of the county or out of state while others do not. Sometimes, these are negotiable with the prosecutor, and this ability to negotiate the terms of a diversion program is a big reason why having an attorney represent you in domestic violence cases is so important.

Is diversion right for you if you’re charged with domestic violence? Maybe, maybe not. But no matter what, one thing’s for sure: you should only be taking legal advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney. There may be other methods that can help you resolve your case successfully, and attorneys like me are the only people who can uncover those methods for you. If you’re facing a domestic violence charge, don’t waste any time: call Tucson criminal defense attorney Janet Altschuler today. I’ve spent the last 20 years helping Southern Arizonans beat their charges in court, and I have the skills and knowledge to help you do the same! Call my office at (520) 408-1122 or contact me online to find out more information.