What Are Diversion Programs?

When someone is arrested for a crime, even if they are found guilty, it doesn’t always mean he or she must go straight to jail. Minnesota has programs for people in specific situations that may divert their sentencing. These are diversion programs, but they can be referred to by a few different names, such as: differed adjudication, deferred prosecution, or pretrial diversion. After an arrest in Minnesota, you need the advice of an experienced team of attorneys, like Knutson+Casey, to help you stay out of jail.

How Do Diversion Programs Work?

The state of Minnesota has developed a system of diversion programs to help keep low-level, misdemeanor offenders out of jail, so that they can benefit the economy and the community through court sanctioned initiatives.

Defendants who are eligible for a diversion program find out through the City Attorney’s office. This office contacts the defendant and invites him or her to participate in the program. In some cases, the charges can be dropped for participating in the program. In others, diversion programs may help defendants avoid court appearances or fines. A diversion program can keep some people from having to carry the stigma of a conviction on their record.

What Kinds of Programs Exist in Minnesota?

There are many different diversion programs available, depending on the crime the defendant has been charged with.

Shoplifting Program

This program is for those who have been accused of shoplifting or minor theft, not paying their restaurant bill, bar, or taxi service for example. The charge must be a misdemeanor or a gross misdemeanor. If eligible for the Shoplifting Diversion Program, the individual will be required to complete three hours of classroom instruction and training. There may be additional requirements such as: paying restitution, community service, and/or writing a letter to the victim apologizing for the crime.

Interact Program

For those who have been charged with obstructing a legal process along with misdemeanor charges, this program requires them to interact with a police officer. The defendant will have a discussion with law enforcement, during which they will gain a better understanding of the charge and why, in their specific case, it was issued. They will have the opportunity to explain their side of what happened, as well. The goal of the session is to help defendants understand the purpose behind police procedure as it relates to their cases.

Driver Program

When citations go unpaid, eventually the driver’s license is suspended, and after a period of time warrants may be issued. This program was developed to assist drivers who have unpaid citations that have led to the suspension of their license. Participation in this program allows defendants to have their license reinstated so they can legally drive. The program includes a four-hour training session and payment plan for their fines. A written test, a driving test, or both, may also be included in the program.

Traffic Education

Drivers who have received a moving violation may be eligible to take an online driving course and test. The course teaches good driving habits and reviews the rules of the road.

Community Restorative Justice

There are a variety of misdemeanor offenses that may be eligible for diversion within this program. They can include:

  • Littering
  • Loitering
  • Indecency
  • Drug or alcohol offenses
  • Disturbing the peace.

The purpose of this program is to create and implement an agreement for restitution. This can include: an apology letter, community service hours, meetings between community members and the offender.

Northern Star Juvenile Program

This program was developed for first-time juvenile offenders who are between 13 and 18 years old. As with adults, the level and severity of their offense is a consideration. Through the use of structured activities, the goal of the program is improve self-esteem, teach conflict resolution techniques, and help them understand the role of law enforcement.

Who Is Eligible for Minnesota Diversion Programs?

The programs are designed for people who don’t have a criminal history and have committed low-level offenses. A defense attorney with knowledge of the diversion program will know if you are eligible. In some cases, a diversion program can be included in a plea bargain agreement. Those who are charged with a felony or have been charged with a violent crime, such as assault, are not eligible to participate in a diversion program.

If you or a loved one is facing an arrest or trial, you should seek counsel from a team with expertise in Minnesota law and experience in helping people with diversion programs.