Tennessee Diversion Laws
Nashville criminal defense attorney Lee Martin explains Tennessee’s diversion law. Diversion is a generic legal term that allows those charged with a criminal offense to have their case dismissed and expunged after the successful completion of a probationary period. In most first time offender cases, diversion is a possible and desirable outcome. The end goal allows the defendant to resolve their criminal case(s) while still being able to keep their record clean. Tennessee recognizes two types of diversion: judicial and pretrial diversion. They each have separate criteria and qualifications. However, they both have the same end result. The accused’s case is dismissed and their record is expunged.
Judicial diversion is the most common form used in Tennessee and is governed by Tennessee Code Annotated 40-35-313. It is commonly referred to as deferred adjudication. Under this statute, the applicant takes a conditional plea and is not found guilty after the plea is entered. The sentence is not imposed. When the defendant successfully completes probation, the case if later dismissed and they are eligible to have the charges expunged from public view. If the defendant does not successfully complete the terms of probation, the sentence is put into effect and a permanent criminal record will result. In order to qualify, the defendant must have never been convicted of a class A misdemeanor or greater criminal offense. This special type of probation can only be used once and a formal application process is required.
Pretrial diversion is governed by Tennessee Code Annotated 40-15-105. This type of diversion is often referred to as a suspended prosecution. A formal plea agreement is not entered. Instead, a memorandum of understanding is entered into by the defendant and the State of Tennessee. This is similar to a contract where the defendant must meet all the terms of the contract or understanding. Once all the terms are met, the case is dismissed and the defendant has the right to have their offense removed from public view. If the terms are not met, the prosecution is no longer suspended and the government is allowed to proceed with their case. This usually means the prosecution will reopen the prosecution and proceed toward trial. In essence, the prosecution is reinstituted and the criminal prosecution starts anew.
Both judicial and pretrial diversion requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to analyze and approve the applicant’s eligibility. The application process must be followed in order for the accused to receive a diversion eligibility certification. It is a good practice to apply for diversion well in advance of the upcoming court date. This ensures that eligibility is met prior to entering into a plea agreement. It also allows the attorney to rethink the defendant’s defense if the accused is not eligible. This makes sure that all bases are covered before a final disposition is reached.
The legal process does not have to be intimidating and I work hard to make sure my clients get optimum results in their criminal cases. I also work hard to make sure my clients are put at ease and informed of all their rights and options. Please do not go to court alone and assume the truth will win out. It seldom does. Call today at 615-345-1988. I will be happy to discuss all of your options in dealing with your Nashville misdemeanor charges.
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-Lee Martin is a nationally recognized DUI and criminal defense attorney. He provides premier legal services by limiting his caseload exclusively to DUI and criminal matters. Lee knows how to build a solid defense strategy for your upcoming court date. Let Lee Martin be your choose as your Nashville area criminal defense lawyer. If you have pending charges, give him a call at 615-345-1988.
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