Diversion in the United States

Diversion is the routing of persons into alternative programs or activities rather than formally charging them with crimes. Diversion is one of the most important options available to law enforcement and prosecutors at the screening or charging stage of the criminal process. It is a technique used extensively with both adults and juveniles. Programs that deal with drug problems, for example, may provide a better alternative for an offender than formal prosecution. When a person is diverted, formal prosecution is not necessarily abandoned. Rather, the person is given an opportunity to participate in a particular alternative activity by deferring the prosecution decision. If the alternative program is successfully completed, prosecution will not occur. If, on the other hand, a person does not wish entry into a program or fails to perform satisfactorily once in a program, he or she will likely be prosecuted as though no diversion option existed. Diversion programs are usually quite attractive to the offender because suc- cessfui compl&tiOR flif ffe? activity eliminates any record of the offense.

See Also

Charge (Criminal Process); prosecutorial function,178.

Analysis and Relevance

Diversion judgments are made by police, prosecutors, or courts. In the case of police-based or prosecutor-based diversion, the judgment to divert rests with a police agency or the prosecutor. Cases diverted by police or prosecutors neither appear in court nor require prior court approval. Court-based diversion is more extensive and typically involves community agencies outside the court structure as well as some units structurally attached to the courts. Diversion attempts to capitalize on the presence of community alternatives to adjudication, many of which are for substance abuse problems. If diversion is successful, it benefits the offender and saves the judicial system from having to process a particular case. Diversion has been a particularly effective technique for handling juveniles.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Diversion from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Diversion in the context of Juvenile and Family Law

Definition ofDiversion, published by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges: Procedures for handling relatively minor juvenile problems informally, without referral to the juvenile court.

Diversion in the Criminal Justice System

This section covers the topics below related with Diversion :


Case Processing


See Also

  • Courts
  • Case Processing

Diversion or Informal Diversion in Juvenile Law

In this context, Diversion or Informal Diversion information is available through this American legal Encyclopedia.

Diversion: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Diversion. This part provides references, in relation to Diversion, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Diversion by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Diversion and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Diversion or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Diversion and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Diversion. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Diversion should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Diversion when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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