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Understanding Colorado Adult – Jail Diversion Programs

By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – Attorney

Understanding Colorado Adult - Jail Diversion ProgramsUnderstanding Colorado Adult – Jail Diversion Programs – The concept behind a diversion program is simple but the application of diversion in a Colorado criminal case can be complex. Diversion means admitting you violated the law.

While I have written on the subject of Colorado’s Adult Diversion programs before, it is important to periodically revisit the concept of adult diversion again.

The ACLU estimates that nationally about 10 percent of criminal Defendants are offered diversion. Diversion programs require the prosecutor’s consent. They are not automatic.

Diversion programs focus on rehabilitation – not punishment. Essentially a diversion program allows a so called “low-level” Defendant to completely avoid criminal charges. The word “diversion” is literally a diversion out of the criminal justice system.

A“diversion”offer is a contract between the District Attorney and the Defendant that is consists a legally binding agreement – which means it is enforceable. If the Defendant complies with his or her end of the contract – successfully completing diversion –  the case must be dismissed “with prejudice”essentially the best result you can have in the criminal justice system – the charges are dismissed and can never be filed in that specific case again and can be sealed – expunged.

There are various names for this procedure – in Jefferson County Colorado, for example, it is called ADP or “adult diversion.” In other Colorado counties it may be known as “pretrial diversion.” The result is the same.

Totally Within The Discretion And Authority Of Granting Or Denying Diversion

A person must “qualify” for diversion and a diversion offer”  must made by the District Attorney before it can be “accepted into the program.”


Diversion is legally a privilege in Colorado, it is not a right. Colorado's Diversion Law
The District Attorney has the right to deny an individual from entry into ANY Colorado diversion program.

Because prosecutors have almost total control over a diversion “offer” they alone have discretion over whether to grant diversion. It is also noteworthy that they also have the responsibility for determining whether a violation of diversion has occurred. That decision is mostly non reviewable by the Judge.

The typical conditions of a Colorado diversion program include classes such as anger management, domestic violence, theft etc. Usually there is some form of community service hours, alcohol and or drug addiction treatment, mental health counseling, and the payment of court costs and restitution, if any.

Diversion – The Prize

I inform my clients that the single most important result in any criminal case after avoiding incarceration is avoiding a criminal history – keeping your “record” clear.

Diversion programs are the most compassionate method to address, not only the root causes of crime, but are viewed as a means of relieving Colorado’s overburdened courtrooms, crowded jails, and nearly impossible daily dockets.

On the other hand, from the defense perspective, Colorado’s diversion programs save offenders from the adverse often lifetime consequences of a criminal conviction.

Usually the intensity of the diversion program that is offered is directly proportionate to the nature of charges. If it is a misdemeanor case the diversion program will be less intensive than a felony diversion program. There will also be cases when certain speciality courts will include diversion type programs that require, for example, drug and alcohol treatment or veterans courts.

Diversion Programs Are Not Favored By District Attorneys

As an ex-career prosecutor (Arapahoe County), I can say that many, if not most, District Attorney’s offices are “skewed” towards pursuing a conviction and then seeking the longest possible sentence – rather than making a diversion offer. It is ingrained in the prosecutor’s culture.

Diversion – by it’s very nature – flies in the face of this culture. The Defendant must “earn” a diversion offer and never take the offer for granted.

Understanding The Colorado Diversion Law

What follows is a LINK to Colorado’s Diversion Law as of 2018. To read the law directly – follow this link to Justia. § 18-1.3-101(1)

The Legislative intent of the law is important. It will tell you the reasons why the law was enacted. In this case the law was intended to:

facilitate and encourage diversion of defendants from the criminal justice system when diversion may prevent defendants from committing additional criminal acts, restore victims of crime, facilitate the defendant’s ability to pay restitution to victims of crime, and reduce the number of cases in the criminal justice system.Colorado's Diversion Law

The law is also intended to:

ensure defendant accountability while allowing defendants to avoid the collateral consequences associated with criminal charges and convictions. A district attorney’s office may develop or continue to operate its own diversion program that is not subject to the provisions of this section.Colorado's Diversion Law

Understanding Colorado Adult – Jail Diversion Programs

Colorado pretrial or adult diversion offers are not automatically offered in all first offender cases. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Denver, it may be possible to negotiate a pretrial diversion or ADP offer, a deferred prosecution offer or another type of favorable plea bargain.

While being charged with a criminal case in Colorado can sometimes cloud your judgement – it won’t cloud ours…. if you under investigation or charged with a Colorado crime, please don’t hesitate to call our firm for a free consultation.H. Michael Steinberg Best Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer

To schedule your free phone consultation, complete the form on this page or call us at the numbers provided.

Understanding Colorado Adult - Jail Diversion Programs
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Understanding Colorado Adult - Jail Diversion Programs
The concept behind a diversion program is simple but the application of diversion in a Colorado criminal case can be complex. Diversion means admitting you violated the law.

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H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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