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Options when facing a first criminal offense

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP March 17, 2021

Facing an arrest of any type is a nerve-wracking experience, but if it’s your first offense, you may also have many questions regarding what will happen to you.

Will you face jail time? Will you lose your license or your job?

If you are a student, you may worry about losing a scholarship or financial aid. On a positive note, Colorado does offer options to some first-time offenders. An experienced criminal law attorney will help you minimize the effects of your arrest and determine if any of those options apply to you.

Pretrial adult diversion programs

Colorado law allows certain offenders to participate in a program meant to help them avoid the criminal court process. Diversion programs vary greatly by jurisdiction, but diversion always requires the participant to take responsibility. Separate diversion programs exist for juvenile and adult offenders. When a defendant successfully completes the conditions of a diversion agreement, their charges are dismissed.

Who is eligible?

Each district attorney’s office runs its own program. They decide on the type of offenders who will be eligible for their program. They consider the following factors:

  • Seriousness of the charge
  • Criminal history
  • Failure to appear in court
  • Victim input
  • Public interest

Although eligibility for diversion programs varies depending on the jurisdiction, diversion is most often offered to low-level first-time offenders in cases without victims. Those charged with certain offenses cannot qualify, including many types of sexual assault charges.

Boulder County uses a restorative justice program, which invites community members, families and victims to participate in the process. Successful completion of a diversion program can help keep your criminal record clean. If you think you may qualify, it is certainly worth your time and effort to explore this option.