Tennessee Prosecutors Fight To End Pretrial Diversions


Some Tennessee defendants are allowed to get a form of immediate probation without going to trial and without admitting their guilt. If they behave for a certain period of time, they can have their records wiped clean as if the crime never occurred. Those practices may be coming to an end, The Tennessean reports. Prosecutors support ending the practice because they say the alternative sentencing option is too cumbersome to manage. Defense attorneys say if the crime is a first offense and if it’s not violent, defendants should get a break.

“There are instances where the judicial system should be rehabilitative and helpful,” said Nashville criminal defense attorney David Raybin. “It avoids the cost and trauma of a trial and focuses on rehabilitation. To me, that is critical.” A bill moving through the state legislature would eliminate the alternative called pretrial diversion. It comes into play when district attorneys and the accused agree to essentially put off the prosecution of a case for a certain amount of time – typically a year or two. If the defendant makes it through that period of time without getting into any more trouble, the charges are dropped. Police keep documentation of the arrest, but other public records connected to it are erased. Davidson County District Attorney argues that pretrial diversion “has kind of outlived its usefulness.” “It’s become a very convoluted process,” he said. If prosecutors don’t believe pretrial diversion is the right choice, a defendant can challenge that, opening an appeals process that can take years.

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