What is Court Diversion?
The Court Diversion Process
- Your case may be referred from the State’s Attorney to Court Diversion.
- You will have an initial meeting with a court diversion staff person who will explain the process.
- A Review Board meeting is scheduled, at which time a contract is developed
- You must complete the contract requirements with support from FGICD staff.
- After successful contract completion and payment of program fees, the State's Attorney dismisses the case.
- Two years later, your court files are sealed.
The time it takes to complete the program varies, depending upon the contract conditions.
The Review Board is a meeting with trained volunteers from the community who talk with Diversion participants about what happened. The case manager will be at the meeting. Victims of the offense are invited to participate to their desired degree. A Review Board only meets with both the Diversion participant and the victim at the same time when staff feel that the meeting will be safe and productive for everyone. These community volunteers support those most affected to collaboratively develop agreements focused on repairing the harm and preventing future offenses. These agreements become the terms of the contract.
The contract is a list of things the Diversion participant needs to do to successfully complete the program. Effective Diversion contracts are collaboratively developed with the participant, those affected, and the volunteers. Effective Diversion contracts align with guiding principles and specifically provide participants with opportunities to:
- Repair the harm to those affected to the degree possible
- Learn how to address the underlying causes for the violation and learn new strategies to avoid reoffending
- Empower Diversion participants to make more positive life choices
- Gain an understanding of the impact of their actions
While every contract is different, many contract requirements involve paying for property that was lost or damaged, apologizing to the victim(s), and/or completing service in the community. If the charge involved alcohol or other drugs, a substance abuse screening with a licensed drug and alcohol counselor is typically required. Case managers support Diversion participants in completing the contract, but the Diversion participant is responsible for following through with the contract conditions. The contract is signed by the participant and in some cases, the Review Board members. The Review Board Panel may want to meet with a Diversion participant again to learn about the progress they have made. Additional meeting with the same participant should be reserved for participants who have elevated risk to commit future offenses.
When all contract requirements have been completed, the Diversion participant has successfully completed the program. The Court Diversion Program then informs the State’s Attorney and the Court dismisses the case. Two years after successful completion of Court Diversion, Vermont law requires all parties (the Court, law enforcement, and Diversion) to seal all associated files and records. Two things may prevent the record from being sealed: (1) the individual is convicted of another offense within the two-year period or (2) the Court is not satisfied with the person’s rehabilitation. According to law, once the records are sealed, the proceedings shall be considered never to have occurred. Unfortunately, some records and public information, such as arraignment lists and articles in the newspaper, cannot be erased or sealed. Some trace of the incident and the charge may exist even after records have been sealed. Court Diversion advises participants to check with the court to ensure that all possible records have been properly sealed.