The legal term “Pretrial Diversion” is something every college student (or parent of a college student) who has been arrested for the first time should be made aware of.  Pretrial Diversion has been around in the United States court system since the 1970’s and approximately 45 states currently have legislation enabling these programs.  Click here for a detailed report about the Pretrial Diversion practices across the country.

What is Pretrial Diversion?  Pretrial Diversion Programs are voluntary programs in which certain types of criminal defendants can participate.  Their case is then removed out of the court litigation track and into a “counseling” track. The Program usually consists of classes or counseling, community service and payment of restitution and some fines and costs.

Who is eligible for Pretrial Diversion?  It depends on the jurisdiction, however most programs have criteria based up the type of charge; the criminal history of the defendant (i.e. first time offender, etc.) and approval or consent of the victim/officer/prosecutor/judge.  In Miami, Florida where I practice Criminal Defense, students trying to get into pretrial diversion are eligible if its is a Misdemeanor or 3rd Degree Felony charge, for example.

Why should you consider Pretrial Diversion?  The great benefit of these types of programs is that most of them permit a dismissal of the criminal charge after successful completion of the program. That means that without the cost or risk of litigating a case in court at trial, the defendant receives a dismissal of the charges and is left with a clean record.

In my experience here in South Florida Pretrial Diversion Programs is extremely beneficial to college students.  First, the college student does not waste time away from campus and studying running back and forth to court or the lawyer’s office.  The program is usually entered within the first few weeks of a case coming to court and many times the attorney can accept and enroll the student without him ever showing up at the courthouse.  Second, the student and parents don’t have to worry about or risk a negative outcome from unpredictable courtroom litigation.  Even the strongest case or evidence or motion does not guarantee a favorable outcome in criminal court.  Pretrial Diversion is a guaranteed result – dismissal – every time! Lastly, after completing the program the student is eligible to have his criminal record expunged.  Click here to read about the benefits of expunging a criminal record for a college student.

For these reasons and many others you should ask your attorney about the availability and possibility of Pretrial Diversion in your specific case.