Many individuals facing criminal charges have questions about alternate methods of making up for the harm caused by their alleged crime instead of a prison sentence. In this post, we’ll examine what is meant by diversion, go through the diversion procedures and discuss who is eligible and what is involved.
WHAT IS DIVERSION?
Diversion from the criminal justice system in Canada is just like it sounds, a person’s case is diverted out of the Ontario justice system and they are asked to make amends to the community and those they have harmed through other methods. When they have completed their diversion terms their charges are withdrawn or stayed. The idea is that in some cases, doing community service or paying a donation or undergoing anger management training, depending on the case, is a much more effective way of making up for the harm caused in the community.
Am I Eligible for Diversion?
This is a very common question for many people facing criminal charges. The answer is that it depends on many things such as the circumstances of your case, the cost of prosecuting the trial, the seriousness of the offence, your previous criminal record, your cooperation with the police, the impact that imprisonment could have on an individual’s life and the wishes of the person harmed.
The only person who can determine if someone is eligible for diversion is the Crown Attorney. They will screen each file and determine whether or not each person is eligible and usually let them know at their first court appearance.
If the Crown decides that your case is not eligible for diversion, you can also ask for a Crown pre-trial and get a lawyer to try to persuade the Crown attorney that your case should be eligible. For this reason, it is always a good idea to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer who can help you navigate through the system.
What Can You Do For Diversion?
If you are eligible for diversion, the reparation can be almost anything but most commonly it is something related to your offence such as some form of community service, a donation to charity, an anger management course, an apology letter, addition or mental health counselling or a combination of any of these.
Once you know you are eligible for diversion you will meet with a diversion court worker to determine the time you need to do community service or complete counselling or the amount you need to pay. They will advise you on the activity that you need to complete to have your charges withdrawn or stayed.
Often, as part of the diversion process, the individual needs to accept responsibility for their actions and the harm they caused. They will be interviewed by a social worker to determine if they have learned from their actions and take accountability. Your next court date will be scheduled after your diversion activity is complete.
IS WHAT DO I TELL THE DIVERSION WORKER ADMISSIBLE AGAINST ME AT TRIAL LATER ON?
What you say to the diversion court worker for the purposes of diversion is considered confidential and cannot be used against you later on in any civil or criminal trial. This is according to Section 717 of the Criminal Code. This section is there to make it possible for individuals to engage in this process of atonement through diversion and not worry about being punished for their confessions at a later time.
If you are facing criminal charges and have questions about diversion and if you are eligible you need to speak to an experienced Toronto criminal lawyer. William Jaksa has over 10 years of experience defending clients in the criminal justice system and can help get the best outcome for your case. Contact William Jaksa today for a consultation.