By Jedidiah McKeehan
There is a lot of confusion about the term judicial diversion, with many thinking it is something like a “get out of jail free” card.
Judicial diversion, at its base level, means you can plead guilty to a charge and serve the probationary period for that charge and then at the end of that time, if you have completed the probation and paid all of the fines and costs, the charge you pleaded guilty to can be expunged.
One thing to keep in mind, if you get your attorney to ask for a judicial diversion, the district attorney has to agree to it. That can sometimes be a tougher hurdle to clear than you might think.
When can you use a judicial diversion?
Keep in mind you can only use judicial diversion one time, but it can cover multiple offenses.
To be eligible to use judicial diversion, you generally have to be charged with certain types of misdemeanors or Class E felonies, which is the lowest level of felony. You can’t use judicial diversion on a murder or DUI or anything of that nature.
How do judicial diversions work practically?
When you go to court and are charged with a crime, you are able to apply for a judicial diversion by submitting a form to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) in Nashville. You have to pay $100.00 to get this form completed and sent back to you.
They are able to run your record and tell you if you eligible for a judicial diversion or not. If you are eligible, you will be sent a form that you can then submit to the judge and District Attorney when you enter your plea of guilty.
When you finish your probationary period, you send that form back to the TBI with a $350 fine and they will expunge that guilty plea from your record completely – as if it never happened.
What does this really get you?
If you get something expunged, all of a sudden you can answer that you have never been convicted of a crime. How can you do this? It’s been expunged, that conviction never happened.
I would add, this process sounds very easy, but it’s not. The paperwork that must be submitted to complete the expungement and remove something from your record has to be perfect. To that end, in Knox County, they have set up a certain dates and times at the courthouse specifically to help individuals complete expungement paperwork.
Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.