What Are Diversion Programs?

Posted on in Criminal Defense
Illionois defense attorney, Illinois federal crimes lawyer, Illinois criminal defense lawyerNot everyone convicted of a crime in Illinois is found guilty and sentenced to jail or prison. Depending on a person’s criminal record and the nature of their offense, there is a chance for some to be sentenced to what Illinois calls a diversion program. These can be for first offenders, young offenders, or those for whom a standard jail sentence would not be recommended. Illinois makes extensive use of these programs for certain types of offenders, especially first-time offenders. Multiple Options Many of the diversion programs available in Illinois as of this writing are aimed specifically at defendants who have never been in trouble with the law before, the most common of which is called court supervision. While court supervision is locally based in counties and cities rather than a statewide program, it is nonetheless an effective way to have a nonviolent offender serve out a sentence instead of consigning them to incarceration. Essentially, court supervision is when one admits culpability for an offense, but entry of a conviction is postponed or delayed. If the person on supervision completes probation successfully (usually a six month or one year period, though every case is different), no conviction is entered and the record is usually expunged. While diversion may be an option upon the conclusion of proceedings, pretrial diversion is also possible. DuPage County has its own program, begun in 2012, which offers some first-time offenders the chance to make amends without sustaining a conviction being entered upon their criminal records, especially some which might otherwise be difficult to expunge. In the DuPage County program, offenders must go before a ‘citizens’ panel,’ which will then make a recommendation as to whether or not the person should go into the program. Upon completion of the program, the offense will be either removed from the person’s record or listed as a lesser offense.

Not Automatic

It is imperative to understand that diversion programs must be requested in most cases (as opposed to being given as a sentence freely), and if one requests diversion rather than standard sentencing, the court is not obligated to consent. The court will weigh several factors in making a determination, including any existing mental health issues on the part of the defendant, the nature of the offense, and any substance abuse issues (past or present). These, in addition to the existence or non-existence of a criminal record, are the questions that the judge or jury will be permitted to examine before passing sentence on a defendant, and they are within their rights to recommend jail time. That said, the courts generally recognize that in many cases, a diversion program is in the best interest of the offender and society as a whole. The state’s General Assembly has taken notice of the fact that many offenders, especially those growing up in poverty or high crime areas, experience “trauma that contributes to poor decision-making skills.” In such cases, it is very plausible that a diversion program would do more to combat recidivism than a prison sentence, and in one’s particular case, it can be advantageous to try and show that they would fall into that group who would benefit from alternatives to incarceration.

Contact an Experienced Legal Professional

While diversion programs can be highly advantageous in terms of keeping potential problems from appearing on one’s criminal record, having an experienced Chicago federal crimes attorneys to represent one’s individual interests is generally recommended to ensure the highest possible chance of being accepted into one. The Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney deals with cases of this type on a regular basis and will work hard to assist with every case that comes through the door. To set up an initial consultation, contact our offices today at 312-629-0669.


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