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Understanding Pretrial Diversion Programs in Virginia

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Virginia, you may have heard the term “pretrial diversion program” thrown around. But what does it mean? Pretrial diversion programs are an alternative to traditional criminal prosecution that can offer defendants a chance to avoid jail time and protect their criminal record. In this blog post, we’ll explore pretrial diversion programs in Virginia and how they work.

What are Pretrial Diversion Programs?

Pretrial diversion programs, also known as “diversion programs,” are programs established by courts or prosecutors that allow defendants to postpone or even avoid prosecution altogether. These programs do not operate uniformly across Virginia, and each court or prosecutor’s office has significant discretion in establishing and operating their own programs.

These programs are a type of agreement between a defendant and the prosecutor, which allows individuals to avoid a trial and potentially avoid jail time if they agree to complete certain requirements. The goal of these programs is to provide individuals with the necessary support and resources to turn their lives around and avoid criminal behavior in the future.

In Virginia, several pretrial diversion programs are available, depending on the crime committed and the particular jurisdiction. Some of the most common programs include the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program, the First Offender Program, and the Diversion First Program. Typically, individuals who have been charged with nonviolent crimes such as drug possession, property crimes, or minor traffic offenses are eligible for these programs.

Who is Eligible for Pretrial Diversion Programs?

Eligibility requirements for pretrial diversion programs vary widely depending on the specific program and the prosecutor or court in question. However, most programs are designed for first-time, non-violent offenders. Factors that may disqualify a defendant from participation include prior criminal history, the seriousness of the alleged crime, and the victim’s willingness to participate in the program.

How Do Pretrial Diversion Programs Work?

Pretrial diversion programs typically involve a set of requirements that the defendant must fulfill in exchange for avoiding prosecution or having their charges dismissed. These requirements may include community service, drug or alcohol treatment, counseling, and restitution to the victim, among others. The defendant may also be required to stay out of trouble for a certain period of time.

What Are the Benefits of Participating in a Pretrial Diversion Program?

The primary benefit of participating in a pretrial diversion program is avoiding the negative consequences of a criminal conviction. Defendants who successfully complete the program can avoid jail time and have their charges dismissed, meaning that they will not have a conviction on their criminal record. This can be important for future job prospects, student loans, and other important aspects of life.

How Can a Hampton Roads Criminal Defense Attorney Help You with a Pretrial Diversion Program?

Navigating the complexities of the legal system can be overwhelming, particularly when it comes to pretrial diversion programs. An experienced Hampton Roads criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether you are eligible for a pretrial diversion program, guide you through the process, and ensure that your rights are protected throughout. An attorney can also help you negotiate the terms of the program and advocate for your interests with the prosecutor’s office or court.


If you are facing criminal charges in Virginia, a pretrial diversion program may offer a viable alternative to traditional prosecution. These programs can allow you to avoid jail time and protect your future opportunities. However, eligibility requirements and program structures can be complicated, so it is important to work with an experienced Hampton Roads criminal defense attorney who can guide you through the process. 

The Hampton Roads defense attorneys at Shannon & Associates have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases throughout Virginia and can help you determine your best course of action. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling (757) 228-5529.

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