Marcy Wills was charged with felony theft. She met the criteria for pretrial diversion and started to get her life back on track. When she had trouble paying the related fees and court costs, her case was sent to trial, she was found guilty and sent to jail.
There’s the catch in the pretrial diversion concept. Sure, it may keep you out of jail and avoid trial, but if something goes wrong — even if it’s not your fault — the hammer can fall and fall hard.
The pretrial portion of criminal justice processing is unique. For most individuals it is brief, and the outcome can be dingy. It is an opportunity to identify people who could benefit from a path other than incarceration.
Why Pre-Trial Diversion
A process named “pretrial diversion” is meant to help unburden overburdened courts as it permits low-risk offenders to move forward with their lives.
That’s the theory. In reality, it’s not that simple.
You’ve been arrested, and even if you get probation, that criminal conviction could trip you up in unimaginable ways. You could get evicted and even forbidden to volunteer at your kid’s school.
A pretrial diversion is an option that sometimes helps people keep their (criminal) records clean.
There will probably be a fine, classes to take potentially, counseling to attend as well as community service. Accomplish that shopping-list and the case could be dismissed. You may have to make other concessions, though — like forfeiting your right to a jury trial if something goes wrong.
Diversion is considered a privilege — not a right. Eligibility depends entirely on the prosecutor.
How to Decide if Pre-Trial Diversion is Right for You
If you have been arrested, contact an attorney quickly to determine if a pretrial diversion would be appropriate.
Often, the programs are the ideal choice, as long as you know what the outcome will be once you complete it. Sometimes, pretrial diverse is not a good choice. If you go to trial, you could wind up with more serious consequences, harsher charges or greater penalties. However, if you have a very strong defense, trial may be the best option.
There are many factors considered when decided on the best option. Work through those face to face with a lawyer who understands the consequences of your choice.
Speak with an attorney even if only for a consultation to learn more about the diversion process.