PreTrial Diversion

A PreTrial Diversion (PTD) or pretrial diversion program (PDP) is a judicial process offered by some states (and sometimes within some specific counties or courts in a given state) that allows for the opportunity for your charges to be dropped or dismissed if you meet certain conditions.

Where available, judges may allow you to enter such a program at their discretion. Typical charges eligible for a pretrial diversion are theft/shoplifting, possession of marijuana, and other non-violent, first offense misdemeanor charges.

Instead of being prosecuted through the court, you are “diverted” to perform community service or complete certain education programs. Your progress is monitored by a court agent or the probation department.

If you complete the terms necessary, your charge is dismissed before arraignment. Which essentially means that it is as if you were never charged with a crime at all, so no incident appears on your record. It is similar to a deferred prosecution.

Why Does a Pretrial Diversion Program Exist?

Pretrial diversions are defined in the statutes of many state laws to create an opportunity for judges to offer a “second chance” to some defendants who are first time offenders, and whose life is likely to be substantially harmed by harsh penalties, or any criminal record.

How Do I Get a Pretrial Diversion?

Your attorney must typically file a motion (or a motion, affidavit, and memorandum) explaining why you are a good candidate for a pretrial diversion program.

Arguments in support of this motion may include:

  • No previous record
  • A responsible job, or strong scholastic record if a student
  • Excellent personal references
  • An understanding that a criminal record might substantially harm this person, such as reduced likelihood of a college scholarship, or future career opportunities that could be of benefit to society, including jobs with security clearances or background checks, teaching careers, entry into the military, medical or legal jobs, or other career paths that might have strict ethical history checks.

Some states, such as Massachusetts, only allow pretrial diversions for defendants between the ages of 17-21, but may have other alternative sentencing options, including drug dependent diversion and pretrial probation.

Eligibility, availability, and conditions vary widely from state to state, county to county, and are not available in all courts.

Consult with a local, experienced criminal lawyer to find out if you might be eligible for a pretrial diversion program.