Are you Eligible for a Deferred Judgment?

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If you’ve recently been arrested and charged with a drug-related offense, you’re probably considering your options in regards to how you’ll plead and handle your defense. You may have heard of programs for those arrested for drug crimes which can help you avoid doing time in jail and obtain substance abuse treatment which you may need. In fact, California offers two options which may allow those facing drug-related charges to avoid jail time: Deferred entry of judgment with participation in the drug diversion program provided for by California Penal Code § 1000, and, for those who don’t qualify for deferred entry of judgment, probationary sentences under Proposition 36’s Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act. We’ll describe in detail the participation requirements of the deferred entry of judgment program below.

Who qualifies for deferred entry of judgment?

In order to qualify for deferred entry of judgment, the defendant must meet criteria regarding both the charges filed against them and in regards to their personal history. For instance, the defendant must have been charged with a nonviolent crime of possession of drugs for personal use. If the charges involve possession with intent to sell, or an actual sale, then the defendant is not eligible for diversion. Aside from personal possession of a controlled substance, charges eligible for deferment include possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, cultivating marijuana for personal use, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In addition to meeting criteria regarding the charged crime, a person seeking diversion must not have any prior drug-related convictions, must not have participated in a prior drug diversion program in the last five years, must not have had probation or parole revoked for failure to comply with the terms, and must not have any prior felony convictions within five years of the drug charges for which diversion is being sought.

What happens in the drug diversion program?

Essentially, participation in the drug diversion program allows participants to be diverted out of the criminal court system and into a drug rehabilitation program. If you meet the criteria and your judge finds you to be a good candidate for participation in diversion, you must plead guilty to the charged offenses and waive time for the pronouncement of judgment. This allows the court to postpone sentencing for 18 months while you complete the drug treatment program. The judge will then determine what form of treatment would work best for you. Within two weeks of receiving the judge’s determination, you must prove to the court you’ve enrolled in this program, and then provide proof that you’ve completed the program within six months of your enrollment. You will also be required to pay for the treatment program, depending on your ability, and you will pay certain fees required for participation in the diversion program. Should you successfully complete your drug treatment and pass any drug tests administered, pay all required fees, and complete the 18-month period without committing any new offenses, then the drug charges will be dismissed. Failure to complete the 18-month period successfully could lead to additional treatment, increased fees, or loss of the opportunity to participate in diversion and a return to the criminal court system for sentencing.

Not only does diversion allow you to avoid jail time, but you will also not be required to disclose the arrest or your participation in the diversion program at any point when applying for jobs, professional licenses, or certificates (unless you apply to become a peace officer). It’s very nearly like the arrest didn’t happen. This can be a great option for someone who had a brief problem, but who can and will get their life back on track, and wishes to do so without a criminal record. Speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about whether drug diversion could work for you.

If you’ve been arrested for a crime involving drugs, driving while intoxicated, or another California misdemeanor or felony, contact skilled Ventura County criminal defense attorney Paul Tyler for a consultation on your case, at 805-981-3916.

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