|Truman Costello

A Pathway to Rehabilitation and Recovery

In the landscape of the criminal justice system, diversion programs represent a hopeful avenue for individuals facing charges, particularly for non-violent offenses such as drug-related crimes or cases involving mental health issues. These programs are designed to provide alternatives to traditional prosecution, focusing instead on rehabilitation and addressing the underlying issues that contribute to criminal behavior. Here’s what you need to know about diversion programs and how they can potentially redirect a criminal case towards a more positive outcome.

What Are Diversion Programs?

Diversion programs offer defendants the opportunity to avoid criminal charges or have them dismissed after successfully completing specific program requirements. These requirements generally include treatment, counseling, and education, aiming to rehabilitate the participant rather than impose punitive measures. Diversion is based on the understanding that with appropriate support and resources, individuals can make positive changes in their lives, reducing the likelihood of reoffense.

Types of Diversion Programs

  1. Drug Diversion (PEN § 1000): This program is tailored for defendants accused of non-violent drug offenses. Participants are required to undergo a drug treatment program instead of serving jail time. Successful completion can lead to the charges being dropped, thereby avoiding a criminal record that could significantly impact one’s future.

  2. Mental Health Diversion (PEN § 1001.36): For defendants whose criminal behavior is deemed to be a result of a verifiable mental health disorder, this diversion provides access to mental health treatment. The court considers factors such as the nature of the mental health issue, the link between the disorder and the offense, and the defendant’s suitability for treatment.

  3. Judicial Diversion (PEN § 1000.95): This broader category allows judges the discretion to offer diversion to a wider range of defendants, typically for misdemeanors. Requirements might include community service, restitution, or other community-based interventions.

  4. Informal Diversion (PEN § 1000.98): Often used for first-time offenders or juveniles, informal diversion does not require a formal plea in court. Instead, the defendant agrees to conditions set by the prosecutor, such as attending classes or therapy. If completed successfully, the case is dismissed.

Benefits of Diversion Programs

The primary benefits of diversion programs include:

  • Rehabilitation Focus: By addressing the root causes of criminal behavior, such as substance abuse or mental health issues, diversion programs aim to rehabilitate individuals rather than simply punish them.
  • Avoidance of a Criminal Record: Successfully completing a diversion program often results in the dismissal of charges, which means no criminal record. This is crucial for employment, education, and housing opportunities in the future.
  • Reduction in Recidivism: Studies have shown that diversion programs can reduce the likelihood of future criminal behavior, as they are designed to resolve underlying problems that lead to crime.

Who Qualifies for Diversion Programs?

Eligibility for diversion programs typically depends on the nature of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and specific statutory criteria. Not all crimes or offenders are eligible; violent offenses are generally excluded.


Diversion programs reflect a progressive approach to criminal justice, emphasizing recovery and rehabilitation over punitive measures. They represent a significant opportunity for defendants to make positive changes in their lives, potentially leading to the full dismissal of charges upon successful completion of the program. For those facing charges, consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the nuances of diversion programs is crucial. An attorney can provide guidance on eligibility, navigate the legal proceedings, and advocate for the best possible outcome based on the individual’s circumstances.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges and believe you might benefit from a diversion program, it’s important to seek legal counsel to explore your options. Our law firm specializes in criminal defense and can help determine if a diversion program is right for you, guiding you through every step of the process.