North Carolina Criminal Diversion Programs Explained

A misdemeanor or felony conviction can result in a long jail/prison sentence, costly fines, and other severe penalties—even if it is your first criminal offense. In addition, having a permanent criminal record can compromise your ability to get a job, find housing, apply for college and student loans, and take advantage of other opportunities in life.

Fortunately, there are several criminal diversion programs available in North Carolina for first-time offenders and minors. While most programs are available for those facing drug or alcohol charges, there other informal programs which apply to other minor crimes.

The following are the diversion programs available to adults:

  • Conditional Discharge 90-96 Program – This type of diversion program enables defendants facing first-time drug charges—such as drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia—to get them dismissed. Qualifications for this program include having no previous drug or felony convictions. Once enrolled in the program, defendants must complete community service and a drug abuse assessment program, as well as pay fines and court fees. Once all the requirements are complete within an approved time period, the entire case will be thrown out.
  • Drug Education Program – For those facing first-time misdemeanor drug charges without an intent to distribute, this diversion program provides these defendants with life skills and education to help them avoid drug use. Defendants must admit guilt, submit to drug testing, finish 15 hours of classes, stay employed or in school, avoid committing other crimes, and pay court and program fees. The charges will be dismissed once the program is complete.
  • Felony Drug Diversion Program – For those who have been charged with a first-time felony drug crime may be eligible for this program. Since felonies are more serious than misdemeanors, this program lasts longer than the conditional discharge program—specifically one entire year. Requirements include admitting guilt, completing over 200 hours of community service, take random drug tests, stay employed or in school, meet with a case manager every month, and avoid committing other crimes. The case will be dismissed once the program is complete.
  • Alcohol Education Program – This diversion program is specifically for defendants facing misdemeanor alcohol crimes such as possession of a fake ID, possession of alcohol despite being under 21 years of age, selling alcohol or tobacco to minors, and aiding in underage drinking. The requirements of this program are similar to the drug education program; however, classes are geared toward alcohol education.
  • Informal First Offenders Program – For other low-level, first-time offenses, this program is available through a deal with the Assistant District Attorney. This program consists of community service, restitution, court fees, and counseling.

Youth diversion programs include:

  • Misdemeanor Diversion Programs – Since minors as old as 16 or 17 years of age can be tried as adults in North Carolina, this program is available before an arrest or charge is made. These programs are specified to address each individual’s specific needs in order to develop positive life skills.
  • Juvenile Diversion Team – Considered a short-term, voluntary program, it is designed for minors and families who are not involved in the criminal justice system. Rather, it addresses issues such as running away from home, missed attendance in school, and disruption in the classroom. The goal of each individualized plan is to encourage positive behavior and avoid being involved int eh courts system in the future.

If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense in North Carolina, our Raleigh criminal defense lawyers at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh are ready to help you get your entire case dismissed or avoid serving time behind bars. For more information, contact us and schedule a free consultation today.


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