A bill is headed to the Tennessee legislature that would do away with an important option for first-time nonviolent offenders. Pretrial diversion offers such people a second chance by giving them an opportunity to fulfill a probationary period before trial and without admitting guilt.
Prosecutors in support of this legislation, according to the Tennesean.com, say the pretrial diversion is “too cumbersome” while others who oppose the move rightfully argue it offers an important option for first time offenders to steer clear of a criminal record.
The program they are seeking to do away with looks at the criminal history of offenders and allows some to serve probation before trial. They do not have to enter a plea and if they successfully complete the probation, their record is “wiped clean”.
Other options, known as judicial diversion, require the offender to enter a plea admitting responsibility before they become eligible. This is called a “conditional plea” and is vacated after a subsequent 2 year probationary period.
Supporters of the new legislation prefer the judicial diversion stating that the admittance of responsibility is important—that people should admit their error before being given this second chance.
Both forms of diversion are used in misdemeanors and occasionally in non-serious felonies. They are not used in DUI offenses, assaults, or the like. Instead, they are most often used in first time drug crimes and low level white collar and theft offenses.
Until the legislation is voted on and passed or rejected, the diversion practices remain the same. If you are facing criminal charges and wondering if you might be eligible for a form of diversion, contact us today. While programs differ from county to county, you may just be able to handle your charges without going to trial.