Diversion Programs FAQ

Those charged with minor offenses such as theft under and possession of marijuana in Ontario, Canada, can often have their charges withdrawn by participating in a diversion program. This article is an FAQ of questions often asked by those charged with such a crime.

What is diversion?

Diversion is a program which the Crown Attorney can allow an Accused person to enter that, if successfully completed, will result in charges against an Accused person being withdrawn.

For what offenses is diversion available?

Diversion is usually offered for offenses of a minor nature. The most commonly diverted charges are theft of a small amount of goods and possession of small amounts of marijuana. Those Accused of soliciting prostitution may be offered a special form of diversion as well.

What are the requirements of diversion?

If diversion is offered, they may be asked to complete any number of tasks. These may include:

· Community Service Hours.

· A charitable donation.

· Writing a letter of apology or short essay.

· Participating in a classroom program about the effects of a given offence.

Why would someone not be offered diversion?

The Crown Attorney considers a number of things when determining whether to offer someone diversion. One of the two main factors is the facts of the offense. Seeing how only the most minor offenses can be diverted, if the Crown Attorney feels there are factors which aggravate the nature of the offense then they may decide not to offer diversion. For example, offenses involving theft of items from one’s employer will often not be diverted as this is viewed as a breach of trust.

The other major factor the Crown Attorney will consider is the criminal history of the Accused person. If the Accused person has a criminal record, or has been offered diversion in the past, then they may not be offered it for offenses that would normally be diverted. The offer may also not be made if there is a record of police contact for a similar offense without a charge being laid.

Oftentimes a lawyer can convince a Crown Attorney to offer diversion in cases that were initially refused.

Is early intervention, or PARS, a diversion program?

No. These are programs that involve entering a plea of guilty and a sentence being imposed by a judge. The end result of diversion is the withdrawal of the charges. Contact a lawyer if there is any question as to whether a particular program offered is diversion or another type of program.

Does diversion carry a criminal record?

When the diversion program has been successfully completed the charges will be withdrawn. The result is there is no criminal record or finding of guilt. There will still be a record on the police database (CPIC) that a charge was laid.

Is a lawyer necessary when diversion is offered?

This is a very common question as the process of diversion, in most cases, is a very simple one. While a lawyer is not necessary in the majority of cases hiring one does provide a few benefits. A lawyer is able to provide some peace of mind. It is also possible, by signing what is called a designation, to have a lawyer attend court on behalf of an Accused person. This is often worthwhile as it can sometimes take a number of hours for one to have their court appearance which will always takes place during business hours.

In cases where diversion is generally offered but was not, a lawyer may be able to convince a Crown Attorney to offer the program. A lawyer may also be able to negotiate terms of a diversion program that are best suited for a particular Accused person.

Adam Goodman is a lawyer practicing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Prior to being called to the bar in 2008, Adam Goodman studied commerce at Queen's University and then attended Osgoode Hall Law School. After articling, Adam opened his practice in Toronto with a focus on criminal law and general litigation.

Adam has acted for clients charged with various criminal offenses. Adam is a lawyer licensee of the Law Society of Upper Canada and is a member of the Criminal Lawyer's Association. In additional to criminal law, Adam has experience with both family and civil litigation files.

Copyright Adam Goodman, Barrister & Solicitor
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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