In the context of criminal law, diversion refers to diverting a defendant out if the criminal justice system by having them complete a diversion program rather than be incarcerated or serve another alternative sentence. Criminal charges are typically dropped when a defendant successfully completes a diversion program. The defendant therefore avoids the stigma of a criminal conviciton.
Diversion programs are usually only available to defendants charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies involving drugs or alcohol. In some jurisdictions, diversion may be available to defendants charged with domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, traffic-related offenses, or even writing bad checks. Diversion programs are primarily governed by state laws, which vary by state.