Diversion

In his 10 years in office, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has given second chances to more than 4,800 arrestees through the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office Diversion program.

The OPDA’s Diversion program enables qualifying offenders the opportunity to avoid prosecution and conviction by completing a program tailored to individual needs, including educational programming, job skills training and substance-abuse counseling. Our program is one of the largest of its kind in Louisiana, helping clients ranging from misdemeanor arrestees to those charged with some felony offenses. There is no longer an OPDA Diversion program for DWI or traffic offenders, as those cases primarily are prosecuted by New Orleans city attorneys at the Orleans Parish Traffic Court.

Counselors who work with Diversion clients in both one-on-one and group settings are required to have a master’s degree-level education in either social work or counseling. Interns assisting with the program are graduate students working toward their master’s degrees. The work of this robust program lessens the number of people tainted by a criminal record, reduces the number of criminal defendants incarcerated in the parish jail, and contributes to a safer, stronger and healthier New Orleans.

Under DA Leon Cannizzaro’s leadership since 2009, the suggested fee for participants has been reduced from $1,000 to around $200 in many cases, an amount that offsets only a fraction of the program’s costs. Plans to expand the felony Diversion program to include a new level for higher-risk defendants had to be placed on hold after the New Orleans City Council reduced the OPDA operating budget by $600,000 for 2017 and 2018. That expansion plan is going forward in 2019 after that budget cut was restored and the Mayor’s office pledged additional funding devoted exclusively toward hiring three more Diversion counselors for the next two years.

The OPDA’s Diversion program operates on four tracks:

  • Yellow Track is pre-acceptance of criminal charges in Criminal District Court. This track is for narcotics and/or non-violent property crime offenders who have little or no criminal history with no history of substance abuse or serious mental health issues.
  • Blue Track is post-acceptance of criminal charges in Criminal District Court. This track is for narcotics and/or non-violent property crime offenders who may have prior arrests, failures to appear and/or convictions, prior community supervision, some substance-abuse history or documented mental health concerns.
  • Green Track is a post-plea program for higher-risk offenders. These defendants are required to plead guilty to their charges, but sentencing is deferred. If they successfully complete their Diversion program requirements, they are permitted to withdraw their guilty plea and have their case dismissed. This track is for narcotics and/or non-violent property crime offenders who have prior arrests, failures to appear and/or convictions, prior community supervision, some substance-abuse history or documented mental health concerns.
  • Red Track is a post-plea program for higher-risk offenders. These defendants are required to plead guilty to their charges, but sentencing is deferred. If they successfully complete their Diversion program requirements, they are permitted to withdraw their guilty plea and have their case dismissed. This track is for narcotics and/or non-violent property crime offenders who are currently on community supervision for a prior offense, have open current cases, have multiple convictions, have serious substance dependence or have serious documented mental health issues.

How successful is the OPDA’s Diversion Program?

The DA’s office tracks individuals who complete the program for three years to determine adult recidivism rates. The most recent data available is for individuals who graduated from the program between July 1, 2015-June 30, 2018. In that period, 903 participants successfully completed their Diversion programs. Of that group, only 6 were convicted of a new felony offense within three years of graduation (less than 1 percent) and 18 were convicted of a new misdemeanor offense.

For information on OPDA Diversion programs, email Diversion@orleansda.com

Office Location

  • Main Office
  • 619 South White Street
  • New Orleans LA 70119
  • (504) 822-2414