Diversion Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Diversion, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Diversion?

n. A system for providing first-time offenders in lesser crimes the ability to perform community service, repay for damage due to the crime, obtain alcohol or drug treatment or counseling. The charges may be dismissed if the defendant cooperates and the diversion is successful. Typically, a diversion will not be granted for second offenses.

History and Meaning of Diversion

Diversion is a type of alternative sentencing that is used in the criminal justice system. It is designed to provide first-time offenders who are charged with minor crimes with a chance to avoid jail time by performing community service, getting drug or alcohol counseling, or paying restitution. The goal of diversion is to rehabilitate offenders and help them avoid getting into trouble with the law in the future by giving them the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and make amends.

The use of diversion programs dates back to the 1960s and the rise of the restorative justice movement. This approach emphasizes repairing harm done to victims and the community instead of just punishing the offender. Diversion programs have become more popular in recent years, as the criminal justice system has come under fire for its overuse of incarceration as a punishment.

Examples of Diversion

  1. After being caught for shoplifting, Lisa was given the option to enter a diversion program where she could perform community service and attend counseling. If she completed the requirements successfully, her charges would be dropped.

  2. Instead of going to jail, Joe was given the opportunity to participate in a diversion program where he had to complete a drug treatment program and perform community service.

  3. Maria was caught tagging a wall with graffiti, but was offered the chance to enter a diversion program where she had to clean up graffiti around the city and attend an art therapy program.

Legal Terms Similar to Diversion

  1. Probation: Probation is a court order that requires an offender to follow certain conditions for a period of time instead of serving jail time.
  2. Parole: Parole is a type of conditional release from prison before a sentence has been fully served.
  3. Community Service: Community service is a type of punishment where an offender is required to perform unpaid work for the benefit of the community.