Canadian criminal justice: Pre-charge diversion

6 - Pre-charge diversion

In the Canadian criminal justice system, “diversion” (for adults) or “extrajudicial measures” (for young persons) is a process where police or prosecutors agree to take a course of action that either avoids charges altogether or avoids having charges lead to a finding of guilt.

Pre-charge diversion (for adults) or “alternative measures” (for young persons) happens when the police agree not to charge a person with a criminal offence, normally where the person has been arrested for a minor offence – instead, the police will issue a warning or caution or refer the person to a rehabilitative program to help avoid re-offence.

  • For young persons, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) has several specific procedures relating to alternatives measures. Section 6(1) of the YCJA directs police officers to consider whether alternative measures are appropriate – they can take no action, issue a warning or a caution, or refer the young person to an appropriate program or agency.
  • For adults, there are no provisions in the Criminal Code relating to pre-charge diversion – police officers simply have the discretion to offer pre-charge diversion to people in appropriate circumstances.

The benefit of pre-charge diversion is that the person is never even charged with a criminal offence, thereby avoiding the stigma of criminal charges and the costs associated with defending against charges.

Some police officers will consider and offer pre-charge diversion or alternative measures, but some will not. If a person is able to contact a lawyer before being arrested, the lawyer may be able to raise the issue with the police and persuade them to offer a pre-charge diversion program or alternative measure before they make up their mind to lay charges.

There are a number of organizations in the East Region of Ontario that offer pre-charge diversion and alternative measures programs.

Our lawyers are available to assist with persons under investigation or arrest who want to explore the option of pre-charge diversion or alternative measures. If appropriate, we can speak with police officers, propose programs, and facilitate the application process.

Contact the lawyer of your choice for a free consultation.

This blog post is part of our Canadian criminal justice series – we hope that these blog posts will shed some light on the Canadian criminal justice system for clients and potential clients, members of the community, and law students. Feel free to e-mail us at to propose any changes or updates.