In an effort to keep the number of incarcerations down, California allows some persons convicted of certain crimes to participate in diversion programs that will allow them to avoid time behind bars and a criminal charge on their record. While not everyone who is convicted for a crime in San Diego will qualify for a diversion program, they are an excellent choice for those who can participate. Your criminal lawyer will usually provide you with information on participating in a diversion program if your case may qualify under the law.
Requirements for Qualifying for a Diversion Program
Diversion programs are only available to select offenders in California and generally only first-time offenders with no prior convictions on their record. The four most common programs are those for juvenile offenders, drug offenders, current and former military personnel, and those with mental health issues.
Both juvenile and mental health diversion programs are available for felonies and misdemeanors, however if you hope to enter a drug crime and military diversion program in California, you can only be accused of a misdemeanor. The mental health diversion program applies to those who have been accused of either a felony or misdemeanor as long as the defendant has a mental health disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, which played a significant role in the crime, they are amenable to treatment and do not pose an unreasonable risk to public safety.
The military diversion program is also an option for anyone who is or previously has served in the military who is charged with a misdemeanor in California, and has substance abuse, PTSD, sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, or another mental health disorder which is related to his or her military service.
Different diversion programs have drastically different eligibility rules from one another, which is why it is so important to get more information from your defense attorney before attempting to enter a diversion program. Even if your case may qualify, it is at the discretion of the court as to whether or not you will be allowed to enter the program. An experienced diversion program lawyer in San Diego may be critical in convincing the judge that you deserve such an opportunity.
It is worth noting that DUI and sex crime charges are never eligible for diversion programs, nor are serious or violent felonies.
The Diversion Program Process
Again, these programs vary wildly based on the type. In a drug diversion program, defendants will first meet with a probation officer who will prepare a report for the court detailing their recommendations for the program based on the individual’s needs. Judges usually agree to these terms, which generally include around six months of classes and programs focused on drug and alcohol treatment.
Juvenile diversion programs may include community service, counseling, outreach programs and/or “scared straight” programs. A California state mental health diversion program, including those for members of the military, will always involve some form of counseling, but may also include in-patient treatment, medication or other techniques to aid the individual with his or her condition.
In all of these cases, being charged with another crime or failing to meet the program’s terms can result in the termination of the diversion program and a hearing will be ordered so the court may review whether or not criminal proceedings should proceed once again.
Completion of Diversion Programs
After a diversion program has been completed, the defendant’s plea may be withdrawn and the charge can be dismissed entirely. Essentially, this means that the charge never happened for legal purposes. You will not be required to list it when filling out background checks while applying for jobs or housing and while it will prevent you from being eligible for another diversion program, the charge will not count against you as a prior offense if you face criminal charges in either California or any other state in the future.
If you have been charged with a crime and are interested in completing a diversion program in San Diego County, discuss this possibility with your attorney. You can contact Peter M. Liss to schedule a free initial consultation in his Vista office by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.
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