Is There a Benefit to Post-Charge Diversion?
Yes. A post-charge diversion is a process where Crown prosecutors decide to put those who have committed a minor criminal offence into a diversion program where, upon successful completion, the charge will be withdrawn, stayed or avoided altogether. This allows those charged with minor offensives to prevent having charges that lead to a finding of guilt – eliminating the possibility of having a criminal record. If this is the case for you, you also can benefit from eliminating the costs revolving around pleading guilty or going to trial.
Sometimes, the prosecutor will issue a warning or caution or refer you to a rehabilitation program to help avoid committing another offence in exchange for withdrawing the charge. Diversion is seen as “restorative justice”, allowing you to participate in a program that benefits your community and your existence within the community. It allows you to take some responsibility for the offence without officially admitting your guilt and prevent yourself from having a criminal record. Diversion is an alternative to prosecution for the Crown since not all crimes are worthy of a guilty plea or trial proceedings that overload the criminal justice system.
How Will I Be Eligible?
It depends. The Crown is responsible for examining the facts of a case and will determine eligibility. They will screen your case against you and your criminal record to assess your eligibility, and only the Crown – not a judge or justice of the peace – can assess your eligibility. Essentially, the Crown must consent to you being placed in a diversion program.
Only individuals who have been accused of a minor offence will be eligible for diversion. However, a number of factors can aggravate the nature of the offence. Typically, your chances of being placed in a diversion program will be higher if you have no prior criminal record or have never been offered diversion in the past. You may, however, be ineligible if you have a police record without a charge being laid for a similar offence.
What Is a Minor Offence?
Examples of “minor offences” may include:
- Minor fraud charges involving a small amount of money.
- Mischief that causes minor property damage.
- Causing a disturbance.
- Until Canadian drug laws change, possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal recreational use.
The terms of participation for diversion are specific to the facts of the offence. In the end, it’s really up to the Crown prosecutors to decide if you qualify for diversion. However, you can hire a criminal defence lawyer to help you make the case to the Crown that you should be placed in a diversion program.
What are Examples of Diversion?
Every courthouse has a different diversion program, but can include:
- Mental health diversion.
- Extrajudicial sanctions (for young offenders).
- Special classes where you will be educated about the consequences and effects of your offence.
- Informal diversion programs, such as performing community service, making a charitable donation, or writing an apology letter or short essay about your offence.
What’s the Difference Between the Charge Being Withdrawn or Stayed?
After diversion has been completed, the charge will be withdrawn or stayed. It is better to have the charge withdrawn. If it is stayed, the charge can be resurrected for up to one year of the day that it was stayed. If you commit a new offence within that timeframe, the Crown can reopen the charge and try you for it. If the charge is withdrawn, however, the charge cannot be prosecuted again and it will be never brought back against you.
Will a Diversion Still Be on My Criminal Record?
While you will not have a criminal record or finding of guilt, a police record of the charge will still be in the federal Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database and at the issuing police force. This applies whether the charge is stayed or withdrawn.
You can, however, apply to have your police record, photographs, and fingerprints withdrawn from the CPIC database. You can also ask the police force that made the charge to purge your record, too. In either case, you may or may not be successful at removing the record – it’s really up to the police force.
If you’ve been charged with a minor offence and want to know if post-charge diversion is an option for you, Armoured Suits offers a complimentary 30-minute private consultation. Contact Armoured Suits by phone at 613-233-0008 or e-mail at [email protected] to book your meeting.