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 qualifies for diversion programs in San Diego, they are an excellent choice for those who can participate. Your criminal lawyer will usually let you know if you may qualify.
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 drug crime and military diversion programs are only available for those who are accused of misdemeanor crimes. The mental health diversion program applies to both felonies and misdemeanors if a person 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, and has substance abuse, PTSD, sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, or other mental health disorder which occurred as a result of military service.
Different diversion programs have drastically different rules from one another, which is why it is so important to talk to a defense attorney before attempting to enter a diversion program. Even if you qualify, it is at the discretion of the judge 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.
What Happens in These Programs
Again, these programs vary wildly based on their type. In drug diversion programs, defendants will first meet with a probation officer who will prepare a report for the judge 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. Mental health programs 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 to determine if criminal proceedings should proceed once again.
Completion of a Diversion Program
After one of these programs 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. 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 the future.
If you have been charged with a crime and are interested in completing a one of these programs, discuss this possibility with your diversion program attorney. You can schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.
Creative Commons Image by Matt Brown