What is a "diversion program?"

If you or a loved one was arrested for a drug crime, driving under the influence or a similar offense, the court may decide that a diversion program is the best punishment. Districts throughout South Carolina offer diversion programs for both the state's and defendants' benefit. If the courts recently offered you the opportunity to participate in a diversion program, you may wonder what that means and if it is a good idea to accept.

According to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office, courts, law enforcement and district attorneys offer diversion programs to help offenders avoid criminal charges and therefore a criminal record. The basis of diversion programs is to prevent the inadvertent stigmatization of some offenders who may have committed relatively petty acts. Typically, a court will only recommend a diversion program for first-time offenders.

Successful diversion programs allow defendants to show that they are capable of acting responsibly. Conditions of these programs typically including community service, counseling and/or probation. The courts require the defendant to stay out of trouble throughout the duration of the program. 

Every district's diversion program is different and has different eligibility requirements. That said, though each program may look different, the overreaching goal is to provide defendants an alternative to traditional prosecution. The state recognizes that not all offenses require trials, plea deals or jail time and that many offenders may be able to make up for harms caused by helping out in the community.

Defendants are not the only parties to benefit from diversion programs. The state favors them whenever possible as they serve to remedy the issue of overcrowded corrections facilities and overburdened courts. 

The content shared here is for informational purposes only. It should not be used as legal advice. 

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