Have you ever been in trouble before and made a potentially life altering mistake? Worried about a black mark on your record? Take a deep breath. Tennessee allows first time offenders (citizens who have never pled guilty to or been convicted of a crime) to resolve their charges with specialized probationary periods called diversions. Upon successful completion of probation, the charge may be dismissed and expunged from the defendant’s record.
What is a Diversion?
A diversion is a special type of disposition for criminal charges generally reserved for first time offenders which allows defendants to maintain an unblemished record.
There are two types: Pre-Trial Diversion (TCA § 40-15-105) and Judicial Diversion (TCA § 40-35-313). A Pre-Trial diversion is exactly as it sounds. Defendants preemptively agree to the terms of diversionary probation prior to entering a plea or standing trial. If the probationary period is not completed a defendant would still be entitled to all of the rights they would have been had they not entered into the diversion i.e. plea bargaining or standing trial. If it is completed satisfactorily, then the charges are dismissed and may be expunged from the defendant’s record.
Conversely, a Judicial Diversion begins after a defendant pleads guilty to the charge. However, entry of the plea is suspended, pending the outcome of the probationary period. If the probationary period is completed, the charge is dismissed and the plea is never entered. Just like a Pretrial Diversion the charge may be expunged from a defendant’s record. However, if a defendant does not comply with the terms of probation for the period agreed upon, the guilty plea is automatically entered against the defendant. Consequently, failure to comply with the terms of probation in a judicial diversion means that defendant would have no right to a trial since the guilty plea is automatically entered.
So what’s so special about Pretrial and Judicial Diversions? Even if you are guilty, the charges against you can be dismissed and expunged from your record! Diversions are typically the best option for eligible defendants. Diversions are the closest thing to a real world “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
Not all charges may be diverted, the following are ineligible:
- Any Class A or B Felony
- Elder Abuse and Neglect
- Abuse and Neglect of an Impaired Adult
- Driving Under the Influence
- Vehicular Assault (if related to DUI)
- Any Sexual Offense (Aggravated Rape, Rape, Aggravated Sexual Battery, Sexual Battery by Authority Figure, Statutory Rape by Authority Figure, Aggravated Prostitution, Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, Rape of a Child)
- Any felony offense
- Driving Under the Influence
- Domestic Assault
- Child Abuse, Neglect, or Endangerment
- Any Sexual Offense (Sexual Battery, Statutory Rape, Indecent Exposure, Prostitution, Patronizing Prostitution, Promoting Prostitution, Aggravated Prostitution, Sexual Battery by Authority Figure, Solicitation of a Minor, Soliciting Sexual Exploitation of a Minor/Electronic, Sexual Contact by Authority Figure)
If you have been charged with a criminal offense and want to know whether a diversion is an option for you, give our office a call.