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Diversion Programs in California

It’s no secret that not only does the United States have an exploding prison population, but so does the State of California. Our overloaded prisoner population places a great strain on our state’s jails and prisons, not to mention our taxpayers. So, it only makes sense for the state to have to prioritize its criminal cases; low-level offenders must be dealt with in a reasonable, cost-effective manner so the state can invest its energy and resources into the violent offenders who threaten society.

Like many states, California takes a lighter approach to low-level offenses, especially those that are “first time non-violent offenses.” Certain types of offenses do not necessarily trigger the harsh hand of justice. If the state were to imprison every offender that walked through the courts’ doors, our resources would be drained and even more burdened than they already are.

Courts across the country recognize that many first-time offenders do best when they avoid the regular prosecution process and go through what’s called “diversion.” We’re referring to counseling or rehab, which address the “reasons” behind the criminal behavior, rather than punishment, and does a much better job at deterring future criminal activity.

Diversion accomplishes a lot. It focuses on helping the individual identify the issues in their life that led to the criminal behavior and handling them. It gives defendants the opportunity to take responsibility for their crimes, while avoiding the stigma of a criminal conviction.

California’s Diversion Programs

There are different types of diversion programs in the California criminal justice system. Let’s take a closer look at what they are and how they work:

1. Prefiling Diversion Programs: If a defendant successfully completes a prefiling diversion program, he or she can petition the court to have the court seal the criminal records from the arresting agency and the associated court files.

2. Pretrial Diversion: When defendants successfully complete a pretrial diversion program, their criminal charges are dismissed once the diversion period is over. Meaning, the arrest will be as if it never occurred. The defendant may say that they were never arrested or diverted, unless they apply to be a peace officer.

3. Deferred Entry of Judgement: If a defendant satisfactorily performs during the deferred entry of judgement period, their criminal charge will be dismissed. Meaning, the arrest under that the deferred entry of judgement was based will be as if it never happened, unless the defendant applies to be a law enforcement officer.

4. Preguilty Plea Drug Court Program: When a defendant performs well under a preguilty plea drug court program, the drug arrest will be deemed to have never taken place, and the arrestee can legally deny ever being arrested or diverted for the drug offense, except when applying to be a peace officer.

Related: What is Bail in California?

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges for a minor first offense, we’d be happy to explain your defense options as well as the diversion programs available in Orange County. Contact us today to learn more.

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