Diversion Eligibility Requirements
1. Must have not been previously granted diversion in Tennessee; and
2. Must have no prior felony convictions, or any prior misdemeanor convictions in which you served a jail sentence (the time from arrest to posting bond generally does not count); and
Diversion requires obtaining a certificate of eligibility prior to attending court. If traveling from out of state, it is very important you speak with an attorney prior to your court date.
3. The offense for which you’ve been charged must be appropriate for the type of diversion being requested. In other words, pre-trial diversion cannot be used for a felony charge. Either pre-trial or judicial diversion can be used in Tennessee on a misdemeanor crime.
Two Types of Diversion in Tennessee
There are two types of diversion in Tennessee, Pre-trial and Judicial Diversion. Although Pre-Trial Diversion is more favorable, the discretion as to which will be offered in misdemeanor cases is entirely up to the district attorney in the jurisdiction where you are charged. Some Tennessee counties will only offer Judicial Diversion.
Judicial Diversion summarized, is a conditional plea of guilt. Although you must plead guilty, the court does not find you guilty and ultimately never will (the case will be dismissed) as long as you comply with the terms of probation. If you violate the terms of probation your diversion status may be revoked, your plea of guilt will be accepted (becoming a permanent conviction) and you could be subject to serving jail time.
Judicial Diversion is frequently offered in Davidson (Nashville, TN), Cheatham (Ashland City, TN), Coffee (Manchester, TN), Cumberland (Crossville, TN) Dickson (Dickson, TN), Giles (Pulaski, TN), Loudon County (Lenoir City, TN), Maury (Columbia, TN), Robertson (Springfield, TN), Rutherford (Murfreesboro, TN), Sumner (Gallatin, TN), and Williamson (Franklin, TN) counties.
Pre-Trial Diversion is an agreement with the district attorney’s office that in exchange for you complying with what is in effect supervised probation, then they will not prosecute your case. As long as you successfully complete probation, the case is dismissed. Unlike Judicial Diversion, you are not required to plead guilty with Pre-Trial Diversion.
Pre-Trial Diversion is frequently offered in Putnam (Cookeville, TN), Montgomery (Clarksville, TN) and Wilson (Lebanon, TN) counties. Pre-trial diversion is not available for felony crimes in Tennessee, rather only judicial diversion.
If I am eligible, is it guaranteed they will offer diversion?
No, the district attorney has discretion in whether or not to offer diversion to an eligible defendant however if diversion is refused to an otherwise eligible defendant, there must be a legally sufficient justification as to the reasons for the refusal.