Diversions and DPA’s Help to Avoid Convictions

Not all arrests result in convictions, or even criminal charges.  The obvious way to avoid a conviction is to take your case all the way to trial and have the jury return a not guilty verdict.  But some people can avoid a criminal conviction short of a trial even if they are arrested or investigated by law enforcement.  The way to do this is through diversions, deferred prosecution agreements (DPA’s), or conditional discharge.


A diversion occurs before criminal charges are issued.  It is an agreement between the defendant and the state that often requires the defendant to complete some programming, such as drug treatment or anger management.  If there was a victim, the defendant might be required to pay any medical bills or loss incurred by the victim.  And the defendant is often required to complete some community service.  The important part about a diversion is that no charges are ever filed if the defendant completes the requirements of the agreement.  If the defendant is unsuccessful, then criminal charges are often filed and the case proceeds through the court system.


DPA’s (also called Deferred Judgment Agreements or DJAs) are very similar to diversions except that they occur after charges have been filed.  The defendant must go through the court system and the DPA is essentially a plea agreement with the state.  The requirements can be similar to that of a diversion, but the length of the agreement is often longer and there is more stringent monitoring of the defendant.

To enter into a DPA, the defendant must enter a plea to one or more charges in open court.  The court will then withhold entering judgements of conviction into the record. Depending on the length of the agreement, the defendant may be required to come back to court for review hearings during the pendency of the DPA.  If the defendant is successful, the charges may be dismissed or reduced.  However, if the defendant is unsuccessful, then the court will enter judgements of conviction and the case will proceed to sentencing.  DPA’s are governed generally under Wisconsin Statutes 971.37 through 971.41. 

Conditional Discharge

Under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act located in Section 961 of the Wisconsin Statutes, there is a special section titled “Conditional Discharge for possession or attempted possession as first offense.”  Found in 961.47, it provides that anyone not previously convicted of a drug offense who pleads guilty to a drug crime under 961.41(3g)(b), may have their case held open for a period of time by the court.  The person will be placed on a form of probation and if successful, shall have their case dismissed.  Conditional discharge is virtually the same as a DPA except that it focuses solely on drug cases.

If your case is being reviewed by the DA’s office for possible charges, you should not delay in contacting an attorney.  Diversions can only be negotiated prior to charges being issued.  But even if you have been charged, a DPA may still be possible.  Contact one of our attorneys today for a consultation!

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