Being arrested for, or even convicted of, a criminal offense does not necessarily make you a criminal, much less a bad person. Inherently good people make mistakes all the time. Fortunately, even the legal system accounts for the possibility that a defendant might not really deserve to go to jail by offering diversion programs. If you find yourself under arrest and charged with a criminal offense, you will probably want to know if an attorney can get you into a pretrial diversion program. Because each case includes a unique set of facts and circumstances, it is always best to consult directly with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your legal options if you have been charged with a crime. In the meantime, however, a Tennessee criminal defense attorney explains how the Tennessee pretrial diversion program operates and some common eligibility requirements.
What Is a Diversion Program?
A diversion program is an alternative option for prosecutors and/or judges in lieu of convicting a defendant and sentencing him/her to jail or probation. The idea behind diversion is to identify defendants who may have made a one-time mistake, or who might be headed down the wrong path, and who might benefit from some court intervention and guidance instead of punishment. Although the U.S. criminal justice system is purportedly based on rehabilitation, not punishment, the reality is that a defendant who is convicted of a criminal offense will almost always receive very little in the way of rehabilitation efforts. A defendant who is accepted into a diversion program, on the other hand, may actually be rehabilitated if all goes well.
The Tennessee Pretrial Diversion Program
The rules of the diversion program can be found at Tennessee Code 40-15-105. If you qualify, you will enter into a “Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)” with the prosecuting attorney that agrees to the suspension of the prosecution of your case for a brief period of time, not to exceed two years. During the time period agreed upon in the MOU you must pay a monthly fee and agree to be supervised, much like probation. You may also be required to agree to additional terms, such as completion of a class, attend treatment for substance abuse, pay restitution, or submit to random drug tests. If you successfully complete the terms of the diversion program, your case will be dismissed. For an additional fee, you may petition to have the entire record of your arrest expunged. On the other hand, if you fail to complete the terms of the program, your case picks back up where it left off.
Unfortunately, not all defendants are eligible for pretrial diversion. To be considered for the Tennessee pretrial diversion program, the following eligibility guidelines must be met:
- You have not previously been granted pretrial diversion under this chapter or judicial diversion under § 40-35-313;
- You do not have a prior conviction for a Class A or B misdemeanor or for any class of felony; and
- The charged offense for which the prosecution is being suspended is not a felony or any of the following offenses:
- Driving under the influence of an intoxicant as prohibited by § 55-10-401;
- Any misdemeanor sexual offense prohibited by title 39, chapter 13, part 5;
- Conspiracy, under § 39-12-103, to commit any Class E felony sexual offense prohibited by title 39, chapter 13, part 5;
- Criminal attempt, under § 39-12-101, to commit any Class E felony sexual offense prohibited by title 39, chapter 13, part 5;
- Solicitation, under § 39-12-102 to commit any Class D or Class E felony sexual offense prohibited by title 39, chapter 13, part 5; or
- Any misdemeanor offense committed by any elected or appointed person in the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the state or any political subdivision of the state, which offense was committed in the person’s official capacity or involved the duties of the person’s office.
Contact a Tennessee Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have additional questions about the pretrial diversion program in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.