If law enforcement charges you for a crime in NC, there are programs in many counties that help you rehabilitate and learn rather than facing conviction and prison time. These helpful county-sponsored plans help get you back on the right track so that your life is not thrown off course. Let’s look at what a diversion program is and how it can help when charged with a crime.

How Do I Qualify?

Working with an attorney who can negotiate your charges with the district attorney can often make a diversion program possible. Otherwise, you face charges in the courtroom and the chance of a sentencing hearing and life with a criminal record. You may also pay fines, spend time in prison, and do community service under a parole officer’s supervision. 

Even when you finally finish your sentence, you live with a criminal record that may affect your chances at good housing, a stable job, threaten relationships, and hurt your reputation. Diversion programs exist so that those facing charges for the first time or for something minor might find a better way.

Which NC Counties Have Diversion Programs?

According to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, six counties in North Carolina (Durham, Wake, Orange, Cumberland, New Hanover, and Buncombe) had a Misdemeanor Diversion Program in 2019.

Each county that has a diversion program has different qualifications for getting in. Sometimes, the district attorney may send you to the program. Other times, an attorney may negotiate to get you a spot. Still, other times, a law enforcement officer may refer you. 

There may be age restrictions on the programs. Some are specifically for 16 to 17-year-olds who only commit certain misdemeanors. In Durham county, there is a program for ages 18 through 26 called the “Misdemeanor Diversion Program.” Durham county also instituted a new program in 2020 for everyone called the “Post-Arrest Diversion Program.” Wake County has a “Recovery Court Program.”

What Do I Do During a Diversion Program?

County diversion programs spend time and money to help you recover from a life of drug abuse and addiction or to reevaluate your life’s direction. Sometimes, they may ask you to live in a drug-free community. Other programs involve check-ins with the court. 

You may earn your freedom by completing whatever the program case managers ask for you to do. Some of the more common conditions of completion include:

  • Probation supervision or reporting to case managers
  • Substance use disorder treatment 
  • Mental health treatment 
  • Drug and alcohol testing 
  • Court sessions with the recovery team 
  • Community service

How Long Do Diversion Programs Last?

Programs generally last four months to a year, and once completed, show on your records as a completed diversion program. You no longer face a criminal record if you complete your program. 

However, if you do not finish the requirements for your program, your case may be sent back to the prosecutor, and you may face the original charges once again, this time with no chance to work off your crime. 

Programs take more or less time, depending on your needs. In Durham county, case managers determine your program assignment at intake based on your charges and needs. (1)

Who Is Not Eligible for a Diversion Program?

In Durham county, for example, you may not participate in a diversion program if your charges include:

  • Dealing drugs 
  • Current or prior trafficking of drugs 
  • Are a sex offender (prior or current sex offender) 
  • Gun charges (considered on a case by case basis)
  • Prior violent criminals (evaluated on a case by case basis)

In addition, Durham county diversion programs work with those with a street drug problem, not with those taking legally prescribed narcotics or benzodiazepines.

Other Solutions

Check with your attorney to find out about diversion programs available in your county of residence. Many counties have resources for those facing charges. Even if your county does not offer a diversion program, it is often possible, with an experienced attorney, to get your charges reduced, dropped, or deferred. Even if there is no official diversion program, often criminal defense attorneys work with prosecutors to find the best way to help you rehabilitate. Judges will also often give community service or a lighter sentence for those facing first-time charges. 

We Can Help

At Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna, we understand the need for you to find your way through the legal system and keep your individual freedoms. We also know how crucial it is to keep your record clean so that your life remains on track. Our experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys work with prosecutors to ensure your best path forward. We look at the constitutionality of all charges, investigate all allegations, and look at all possible solutions. Contact us today and find out we can help in your particular situation.


  1. https://www.dconc.gov/county-departments/departments-a-e/criminal-justice-resource-center/diversion-program/post-arrest-diversion
  2. https://www.wakegov.com/departments-government/health-human-services/public-health-and-medical-services/drug-use-and-overdose-prevention/recovery-court-program
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