Individuals who take part in diversion programs in Georgia or any other state likely need to plead guilty in their cases. This is true in spite of the fact that a charge may be dismissed if an individual successfully completes the program. Although the case may be considered dropped at the state level, a guilty plea could still be considered a conviction at the federal level.
This was the conclusion reached by the Seventh Circuit in the case of Aldaco v. Rentgrow. Therefore, it could show up on a background check under the terms of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Per the FCRA, convictions are allowed to remain on a person’s record indefinitely. If a person is merely taken into custody, it will stay on his or her record for seven years. In the Aldaco case, a woman was denied the ability to rent an apartment after a battery charge appeared on a background check that the landlord conducted.
The charge appeared despite the fact that the case was dropped after she completed a diversionary program. To avoid similar cases, it may be possible to change the law so that individuals don’t have to plead guilty to take part in such a program. It may also be possible to simply expunge a person’s record after this occurs to keep a criminal charge from appearing in background checks.
Individuals who have been charged with a crime are generally considered innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, they are under no obligation to plead guilty to a charge for any reason. A criminal defense attorney may be able to suppress evidence or present an alternate theory as to how a crime occurred. This might be enough to get a case dropped or for jurors to acquit a defendant.