Let’s say you find yourself on the wrong side of the law. You have never gotten in trouble before, but now, due to a foolish mistake, you find yourself charged with a crime. You are in a panic because you do not know how this will affect your education, your job and your future.
If you have been charged with your first offense, which means you have no prior misdemeanor or felony convictions, you may qualify for diversion in Tennessee. Diversion calls into two categories: pre-trial and judicial. If you are granted a diversion, your record is basically swept clean. For that reason, it’s pretty difficult to obtain one.
Pre-trial diversion vs. judicial diversion
Pre-trial diversion is a form of supervised probation wherein you agree to comply with an agreement with the district attorney’s office in exchange for them agreeing not to prosecute your case. Once you have complied with the terms of the agreement, and you have completed the probation without getting into any new trouble, your case may be dismissed. If you violate the terms of the agreement, however, then your case will proceed.
Judicial diversion is only available for certain crimes, and you can only ever get one judicial diversion. The judge in your case decides whether he or she will grant judicial diversion. In this scenario, you are required to plead guilty (conditionally). While you do enter a conditional plea of guilty, the court will not find your guilty, and if you comply with the terms of your probation, your case will be dismissed. A violation of any of the terms of the probation will get your judicial diversion revoked, your guilty plea will be accepted, and you may be convicted and face time in jail.
How are diversions different from record expungement?
Both forms of diversion will keep your record clean, as will expungement, the process of officially having your crimes erased from your record. In order to have your record expunged, you have to plead or be found guilty, have served whatever time and/or paid whatever fines accompany such an outcome, and then wait for a number of years before you can apply.
In short, expungement occurs after a person has been convicted of a crime. Diversions occur before a person is convicted, because they essentially pause a case for a set period of time.
How do I apply for a pre-trial or judicial diversion?
If you qualify for either pre-trial diversion or judicial diversion, your criminal defense attorney will make sure that your application is submitted to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). There is a fee to submit the application and paying the fee does not guarantee that your request will be granted.
If you are fortunate enough to receive either a pre-trial or judicial diversion, you will be on probation, you will have to pay court costs and fees promptly and in full by the time your probation ends. You must have impeccable behavior with no new arrests, charges or convictions during your probation. There may be other requirements including community service, counseling and other stipulations which will be explained to you according to the facts of your case.
Being charged with a crime got the first time can be frightening. At Shepherd and Associates, P.C. in Maryville, we are here to stand up for your rights when you have been charged with a crime. We invite you to schedule a consultation with an aggressive East Tennessee criminal defense lawyer by calling 865.225.9655 or filling out our contact form now. We’ll fight for your future together.