If you get into trouble with the law, you probably think immediately that you’ll go to trial and face a penalty. The court system is a little more complicated than that, and there are now many diversion programs you may be able to use to avoid a criminal record or to reduce the penalties against you.

Florida has several diversion programs including those for truancy, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, civil citations, juvenile issues and others. For juveniles, diversion is particularly important, since an early conviction could impact minors through the rest of their lives.

Minors are usually able to enter a diversion program if they committed a nonviolent offense or a misdemeanor. Any minor under 12 years of age can go through a diversion program instead of through the traditional court system as well. It’s hoped that with a diversion program, children can get the assistance they need to correct problem behaviors or other issues.

For those who are not juveniles, the felony pre-trial intervention program and misdemeanor diversion program are both important. The felony pre-trial intervention program, or PTI, gives first-time felony offenders the chance to divert the case from the court system. Only qualifying third-degree felony defendants may seek out help through this program.

As for misdemeanors, first-time offenders can immediately admit to their actions and divert their cases from the courts if they seek rehabilitation or assistance. An individual’s eligibility is determined at the arraignment, so it’s important to talk to your attorney ahead of time if this is something that you may want to participate in.

Source: Office of the State Attorney, “Diversion Programs,” accessed Dec. 08, 2017