Underage Drinking: Diversion/Education vs. Punishment

The Florida State Attorney's office has a program to help college students avoid jail time for a minor mistake. For certain misdemeanor crimes, some first-time offenders are offered an opportunity at diversion.

About two-thirds of the defendants in the program are there because of underage drinking. Most are very cooperative and thankful for the opportunity to avoid having a criminal record for an infraction. About 2,000 people participate in the program each year and fewer than 10% are believed to commit another crime.

“As a condition of the deferred prosecution, defendants are required to pay a $200 fine, complete one day at a county work program within 90 days and watch a video that explains the diversion process and reminds them that their crime could have sent them to jail.

“Although the arrest remains a blemish on an otherwise clean record, the case is filed as a no-information charge. That means if the defendant is asked on a job application about any previous convictions, he or she can truthfully answer ‘No.’“

After diversion is successfully completed, the charges are dismissed. In addition, students can have the charge taken off of their record for a fee.


  • Shannon, Andre. Alternative to jail aim of program: Colleges seek diversions for first-time offenders. Tallahassee Democrat, March 3, 2005.