A diversion program is basically a way for a defendant to be able to keep a criminal charge off their record. In other words, a diversion program can be a way to avoid a conviction. There are two main classifications of diversion programs in Arizona. The two types are pre and post adjudication. As the name implies one takes place before a plea is a taken and one takes place after a plea. In pre adjudication cases the court will give the defendant time to comply with the terms of the diversion program. Usually the terms are some kind of class, or classes. If the program is completed the case is over and no charges are brought. The reasoning behind offering diversion programs to first time offenders is to give them the opportunity to keep a clean record.
In post adjudication diversion programs the court accepts a guilty plea and then holds on to the plea to give the defendant time to complete the necessary program. If the program is completed the plea agreement is thrown out and there is no conviction. If the program is not completed the signed plea is entered in the court record and the defendant has a conviction on their record.
There are many different types of diversion programs that are available to defendants in Arizona. Diversion programs can be available in misdemeanor and felony cases, depending on the charge. For felony cases on of the most common charges where a person may be eligible for a diversion program is in cases involving drugs. Several years ago Arizona passed Proposition 200 that said a person has to be eligible for diversion when charged with a drug crime for the first time.
Many city courts have different diversion programs for misdemeanor charges. Not all courts have programs. For example, Phoenix has a prostitution diversion program, but Scottsdale does not. Many cities have diversion programs for people charged with shoplifting for the first time. In many of the programs the defendant has to attend a class and sometimes pay a fine or do some community service.
Sometimes a prosecutor will not want to offer a diversion program and I as the defense attorney have to advocate for my client to get them into the program. I have had many cases where I had to convince the prosecutor to allow my client to do the diversion program. A good defense attorney will not only know what programs are available in which Arizona court but will also know how to persuade prosecutors to possibly change their mind when there is good reason to do so.