Avoiding a Criminal Record

A criminal record can have a lifelong impact on a person that continues long after a sentence has been served. A criminal sentence can cause you to miss time with your family and forever change your closest relationships and in some cases, having a criminal record can affect your ability to obtain future employment, for example. Thus, many people who have been arrested seek to avoid a criminal record.
Criminal defense lawyers can help some people avoid criminal sentences and the lasting effects of criminal records by:
·         Diversion: a diversion effectively puts a case on hold for a one year or another specific amount of time. During that time, the criminal defendant must complete all of the conditions required by the prosecutor. Those conditions typically include treatment or counseling and making restitution by reimbursing victims or performing community service. If at the end of the diversion period the criminal defendant has completed all of the requirements, has paid all of the fines and courts costs, and has had no further arrests then the case is dismissed and the defendant has no criminal record. 
It is important that the criminal defendant be extremely confident in his or her ability to complete the requirements of the diversion agreement and to stay out of trouble because diversion requires that the defendant plead guilty to the crime for which he or she was arrested. Since the defendant has pled guilty to the crime, he or she may be sentenced for the crime if the diversion program is not fully completed.
·         Alternative Sentencing: alternative sentencing not only allows a criminal defendant to avoid serving jail time but in some cases it may allow the defendant to avoid a criminal record. Alternative sentencing typically requires a defendant to plead guilty to the crime. The prosecutor, defense attorney, and the court then agree on a sentence that does not involve jail. It may instead include things such as house arrest, work release, or community service, for example. It is important to note that not all alternate sentences result in avoiding a criminal record, but that is something that may be able to be negotiated by your attorney.
·         Victim Compromise Program: in this type of program, the defendant agrees to reimburse the victims for the harm caused by the crime in exchange for the charges being dismissed. Typically, a victim compromise program can only be used in certain misdemeanor cases that are nonviolent and do not put the public at risk. It must be approved by a judge. Therefore, repeat offenders may not be eligible for a victim compromise program.
Of course, each of these solutions must be agreed to by the prosecutor and/or approved by the Court. They are not available to every criminal defendant. Most often, they are available to first time offenders who can show the prosecutor and the judge that there is a good reason for what happened, that they are deserving of mercy, and that there is a strong likelihood that they will not commit a crime again.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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