Being charged with a criminal offense can be a frightening experience, especially if it is your first-offense. Most likely, you feel overwhelmed and frightened about what your future will hold. You are faced with many questions like, Will I go to jail? What kind of punishment may I face? Will I lose my job?, and you may not know where to turn. The possible punishment you could face will depend on the crime you have been charged with. However, the good news is that as a first-time offender you may be eligible for judicial diversion.
Judicial diversion for first-time offenders
Judicial diversion is a program for first-time offenders, meaning you have not had a diversion in the past, or any felonies or class A misdemeanors. It also means that you have not had your record previously expunged. Most offenses are eligible for diversion. However, there are some offenses that are not eligible including DUI, class A felonies, class B felonies or sexual offenses.
If eligible for the diversion program, you will have a probation period, but will not serve time in jail. During the probation period, you must keep a clean record. This means no new arrests or new criminal charges during probation. After the probation period has been completed, the records of the diverted charged will be dismissed and your attorney will apply to have the charges removed (or expunged) from your permanent record.
You must apply for judicial diversion by submitting an application to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), which will investigate your background and make sure you do in fact have a clean record and are eligible. The judge will decide whether or not to grant the judicial diversion period and may also impose alternative sentences such as,
- Pay a fine or restitution (to victim or business)
- Community service
- Treatment or counseling
- Report to a probation officer
If you do not meet the terms of your diversion during the probation period, it can be revoked and a conviction may be entered. This may lead to jail time depending on the offense and associated punishment.
Judicial diversion is a great option for a first-time offender to get your life back. If eligible, it is imperative to follow the terms of your diversion period in order to complete it successfully and have the charges removed from your permanent record. This means you won't have to worry about a negative impact on your future, related to getting a job, housing or any social stigma that you could encounter if convicted.
If you have been charged with an offense for the first-time, contact an attorney as soon as possible. At The Law Office of Sam Byrd, we are committed to do what's right for our clients. The best way to protect your rights will depend on you and your circumstances. Call 423-954-7949 for an initial consultation. We will discuss what occurred, help determine what is in your best interests and build a plan to defend your rights.