Art in Court Kayla RollandMany Michigan District Courts allow for diversion programs which basically give you a period of probation and if you do follow the requirements of the programs such as taking a class, not getting into further legal hot water and staying in school or keeping a job you will not have a criminal record and the matter will disappear as if it never happened.  This is not true in all Michigan Courts and for all criminal misdemeanor defendants.  For example, if you have a prior MIP or other alcohol related criminal offense it could result in denial of the diversion programs.

However, many courts in Michigan do offer a diversion program. This is especially the case for the major colleges in Michigan and the Flint area.  There are some colleges towns that make it difficult to get into a diversion program or simply won’t offer a first offender a chance at a clean record.  That is where you really need good, experience legal counsel.  Two such places are Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University and in Saginaw County with Saginaw Valley University.

The MIP Diversion Programs don’t usually start at the first hearing called an arraignment.  Many judges won’t counsel a student or person under 21 years of age as if they are your buddy to plead not guilty and see the prosecutor.  That is why having experienced an MIP attorney to guide you is critical even at the earliest stage of the case.  The arraignment is simply the time when a MIP offender is informed of the charges against them and then enter a  plea of Guilty, Not Guilty or No Contest (Which is basically Guilty without Admission).  The only plea at arraignment in most instances for an MIP defendant is Not Guilty if they want a shot at diversion and keeping a conviction off their record.

If you are given diversion this means probation with special conditions.  In a college town like Flint, East Lansing, Ann Arbor or Mt. Pleasant that could mean hundreds of new probationers each school year and big caseload.  So Judges are careful not to fill up the rolls with students that are not contrite and qualify for the program.  Often they leave it to the Prosecutors to figure out if one is worthy of such diversion program treatment during the plea bargaining process.

I have had experience where some District judges will let student or under 21-year-old simply plea guilty at arraignment and not offer the diversion program to students unless they either hire an attorney or negotiate this resolution with the prosecutor on their own.  That clearly is because they want to make double sure the student defendant qualifies for the local court diversion programs.  So hiring an experienced MIP lawyer is very important at this stage.

Occasionally a very kind and compassionate District Court Judge will let student plead guilty at the arraignment and sentence them to the MIP diversion Program where you would get lucky and not end up with a criminal record.  THIS IS NOT THE CASE IN EVERY COURT!

In progressive towns like Ann Arbor the judges and prosecutors have worked together to offer diversion at arraignment. They have you complete an intake form and then if you qualify they offer the diversion program in exchange for a guilty plea.

There are things that can go wrong even in these seemingly progressive cool towns like Ann Arbor.  If you plead guilty and you have a prior MIP or you have used up your diversion program chance in the past or have other pending legal cases you could be in hot water!!!  For example, the penalties could be more severe and you may get denied the diversion program after further investigation of your past by the probation department.  At that point you have already entered a guilty plea and you get to take your medicine for the habitual offender MIP offense.  That is why having a good competent MIP lawyer near your side even in what may seem like a harmless situation is a smart thing to do.  PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS and don’t get talked into doing dumb things simply to make a court docket move faster.

Diversion Programs and How They Work—–

In an MIP diversion program, an underage drinker or  student is put on  probation for 3 months to a year in most cases by the judge as recommended by a probation department. You could be ordered to  attend an alcohol awareness class,  attend several sessions of Alcoholics Anonymous, give breath samples at your local police department or a specialized center for alcohol testing or attend alcohol counseling or therapy. The programs vary by District Court.

Michigan law provides for a Diversion Program in such circumstances.  In all Michigan court diversion programs defendants must enter a guilty plea before the door is open to entry into the program.   In addition, the judge “may” place the minor on probation and require other terms. Therefore, it is not an automatic that the judge will grant diversion programing. Most diversion programs in Michigan are six months of probation with fees, classes and alcohol testing.

Unlike nearly all other criminal matters a diversion program for MIP is not made part of the public record so long as you comply with the conditions of your program or probation and the case is then dismissed by the court.

In other words, even though the police issued a ticket for MIP, summons you to court and faced the probation program you would not have to declare on an application for a job or answer questions to a college recruiter or admissions office that you a criminal conviction of a misdemeanor MIP. This is true even though you are on probation at the time.

If you flunk out of the diversion program by not paying your fine, failing alcohol breath testing, not attending your classes or counseling then you would be subject to immediate conviction of the MIP misdemeanor after a court finding that you did not follow the court’s Order of Probation or Diversion Programing.  So at that point, it is too late to run to your family lawyer to seek help.  Thus, getting an experienced and competent MIP attorney beforehand to know if you have a good defense to the MIP charge is desirable.  It could be that you would be able to fight the case before you have to even be placed on a diversion status.  The law is full of ambiguity and technicalities.  That is what lawyers do is find the legal problems in the case and bring it to attention of the Prosecutor and Judge.  Hopefully one of these will apply to your situation and help you avoid a lifetime record of conviction.


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