Drug crimes are some of the criminal offenses in California which carry stiff penalties, including a potential prison sentence and hefty fines. A drug charge could arise from simple possession, distribution, manufacturing, and dealing with controlled or illegal drug substances like cocaine. In California, defendants with non-violent drug charges like simple marijuana possession can engage in diversion programs/rehabilitation instead of a prison sentence. Pre-diversion for drug crimes is a perfect way to avoid possible severe penalties associated with drug crimes if your offense is non-violent because it also helps you reform if you’ve got a drug use disorder.
Since not everyone is eligible for pretrial diversion for drug crimes, you need to consult with The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney to review circumstances surrounding your alleged charge to determine if you are eligible. Our criminal defense attorneys have helped several clients with drug charges avoid prison sentences through pretrial diversion programs.
An Overview of Drug Crimes in California
The public perception of the term drug has changed over time, especially after enacting laws that allow recreational and medical marijuana use. Since these laws change, you might find yourself facing drug charges unconsciously, even from simple possession of a controlled drug substance like marijuana that you had no intention of distributing.
A prosecutor in California may charge a drug crime offense as either a misdemeanor or a felony, considering its nature and the defendant’s criminal history. Possession of particular types of controlled drug substances, for example, marijuana, in California, is a misdemeanor offense while transportation or trafficking can be a felony. Drug charges become severe if there are other aggravating factors surrounding the alleged offense, such as the use of violence or weapons.
Luckily, since January 1st, 2018, people facing a particular type of misdemeanor drug charges can avoid prison sentences and fines by engaging in a court-approved rehabilitation program, also known as “pre-trial diversion.” A pretrial diversion for drug crimes gives the defendant a chance to recover from drug addiction while undertaking an approved drug treatment program instead of facing a prison sentence.
A pre-trial diversion for drug crimes also helps reduce overcrowding in prisons for some petty crimes. If you’re under arrest for any drug-related offense in California, it’s imperative to consult with a criminal defense attorney to know if you might qualify for a drug diversion program before opting for a trial for the alleged offense.
Evolution of Pre-trial Diversion for Drug Crimes
Pretrial drug diversion for drug crimes is an evolution of the former pretrial diversion law, which was initially known as “Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ)” under California Penal Code section 1000.4. According to the Narcotic Addict and Rehabilitation Act, Congress passed this law to give people with non-violent drug charges a chance to reform and recover from substance use disorder.
Since 1971, Californians have been able to engage in drug rehabilitation programs instead of prison sentences for non-violent drug crimes. However, you have to plead guilty of the alleged charges to qualify for a deferred entry judgment for a non-violent drug crime charge. If you complete the court-approved rehabilitation program successfully, the judge presiding over your case will clear arrest records and seal your case. Failure to complete the rehabilitation program or failure to obey the Proposed probation conditions would make you remain guilty.
Fortunately, since January 1st, 2018, these drug diversion laws became a little more favorable to a defendant facing drug crime charges after adopting the “pre-trial diversion for drug crimes law” rule to replace “deferred entry of judgment laws.” California Penal Code section 2000 defines laws and eligibility requirements for pre-trial diversion for non-violent drug crimes.
The good thing with this new drug diversion law is that you don’t have to plead guilty for the alleged drug charge to qualify for rehabilitation treatment instead of a prison sentence. After completing the court Proposed drug treatment program, your case will be dismissed and sealed. After expungement or sealing of your case, you do not have to disclose the existence of this drug crime charge to your future employers unless you are applying for a job as a police officer.
These drug diversion programs’ primary purpose is to help you transition back to a healthy, drug-free life. Apart from avoiding a prison sentence, adopting a drug diversion program also enables you to recover and reform from drug substance addiction for more quality and healthy life. Therefore, you shouldn’t hesitate to take a drug diversion program if you are under arrest for any eligible drug crime under California’s Penal Code section 2000.
Eligibility for Pretrial Diversion for Drug Crimes in California
California Penal Code section 2000 defines pretrial drug diversion laws and eligibility requirements for people arrested with particular types of non-violent drug crimes. Under certain circumstances, you would still be eligible for a pretrial drug diversion if it’s your first-time offense, and you had no drugs in possession during the time of the arrest. A drug diversion program helps you divert from the usual prosecution process for criminal offenses by participating in a court-approved rehabilitation program for drug use treatment.
Once you choose to opt for a pretrial diversion, the court presiding over your case will provide you with a list of approved treatment courses or lessons that you must undertake for a certain period. A court Proposed drug treatment list often include the following:
- Alcohol treatment
- Drug treatment
- Victim compensation
- Additional relevant classes
After completing the above Proposed pretrial drug treatment programs, which might last for one to two years, your drug charge will be dismissed and sealed for a fresh start. However, unfortunately, not everyone qualifies for this alternative to avoid prison sentences.
The court presiding over your case will consider certain eligibility factors per California’s Penal Code section 2000 before authorizing you to undertake a drug diversion program. Below are some of the general factors the prosecuting attorney will consider before certifying you eligible for a pre-trial diversion in California:
Whether the Arrested Offense Was One for Possession of Drugs for Personal Use
Regardless of the type of controlled drug substance you had in possession during the time of arrest, as long as it was for your personal use, you will be eligible for this drug diversion program as per California’s Penal Code section 2000. Manufacturing or trafficking of controlled drug substances is considered a serious drug offense in California, making you ineligible for this drug diversion program.
Whether You Will Benefit from the Drug Diversion Program
If the defendant of the alleged drug offense is suffering other mental problems, the prosecuting attorney will consider him/her unfit for a drug diversion program. Instead, he/she might qualify for other diversion programs such as mental health diversion under California Penal Code section 1000.36. Mental health diversion programs help people with mental disorders achieve good treatment through a relevant diversion program to avoid jail terms.
To ascertain if this drug diversion program will be used in your situation or case, the judge will send a probation officer to investigate you. Anything you say during the investigation with the probation officer is considered inadmissible evidence. The probation officer cannot use inadmissible evidence against you on the alleged charges. The probation officer will consider your employment, age, education, and military history before coming to a conclusion about your eligibility for a pre-trial diversion program.
After investigation, the probation officer will recommend an appropriate treatment that he/she believes can help you. Since the judge has the final judgment over the right treatment program for you, he/she may choose to accept the recommended treatment program. If you don’t accept the judge-imposed treatment program, you will have to proceed with the usual criminal prosecution process, which is riskier to your freedom.
Other Legal Considerations for Pre-Trial Diversion Program Eligibility
The prosecuting attorney will also take other legal considerations surrounding your specific offense before approving a pre-trial diversion program. According to the California Penal Code section 2000, the following additional legal requirements must also apply for you to be eligible for a pre-trial diversion program:
- The alleged drug offense did not involve violence or any kind of threats
- You had no past felony conviction in the last five years before the commission or arrest of the alleged drug offense
- You had no prior conviction history in the past five years involving controlled drugs substances listed under California Penal Code section 2000
- There is no existence of other simultaneous drug charges relating to illegal drug substances or narcotics apart from the alleged charges listed under California Penal Code section 2000
After all those considerations for pretrial diversion program eligibility, the judge will give his/her final decision on an appropriate treatment program to undertake as per your alleged drug charge/case. If you are eligible for the pre-trial diversion program, the prosecutor will send you and your criminal defense attorney a notice via mail or letter which includes:
- A detailed description of appropriate procedures for pre-trial diversion
- An overview description of the authorities and roles of the prosecuting attorney, probation officer, the drug diversion program, and the court presiding over your case
- A statement explaining the consequences of failing to complete the Proposed pretrial diversion program
- A statement describing your legal rights after successful completion of the Proposed pretrial diversion program
- A statement that shows what you must do to proceed with the Proposed pretrial drug treatment program. To continue with the pretrial diversion, you’ve to:
- Plead “not guilty” on the alleged drug crime charge(s)
- Waive your legal rights to a speedy trial and trial by the jury
If you choose to undertake a drug diversion program, you must complete all the courses within the required period. During the treatment process, the probation officer will supervise you to meet all the pre-trial diversion requirements. Beware the court presiding over your case might choose to terminate the pretrial drug treatment program under the following circumstances:
- If there is a violation of the requirements of the pre-trial drug treatment program
- Failure to participate in the Proposed drug diversion program
- Failure to take a drug test
- Conviction of any California felony offense during the treatment
- Conviction of any offense that shows a tendency for violence
It’s imperative to complete the Proposed drug treatment programs without violating the treatment requirements because consequences resulting from termination of this pretrial diversion are unbearable.
Don’t give up on your rights of engaging in a pre-trial diversion if you are under arrest for any drug offense. Let your criminal defense attorney and the judge presiding over your case decide whether you are eligible for a pre-trial diversion program before giving in to the alleged charges. A pre-trial diversion for drug crimes might work in your favor to avoid the possible penalties that might result from a trial of the same drug offense.
How Pre-Trial Diversion for Drug Crimes Work
According to the California Penal Code section 1211, a pretrial drug diversion you enroll for drug treatment must have certification from the county drug administrator to be credible and effective. Both the court and county drug administrator must certify the programs you will be undertaking to be credible and effective towards your drug charge case. You can request a treatment program in other countries or states as long as the drug treatment program you will be undertaking meets the necessary court requirements or criteria.
During the treatment, you might have to take drug tests once in a while, often through urinalysis, as per the California Penal Code section 2000. The outcome results of the urinalysis cannot build new criminal charges against you. Hence, you must comply with the treatment program to avoid termination of the pre-trial diversion. The purpose of conducting these drug tests is to make sure you are complying with the requirements of the California Penal Code section 2000.
If you are a narcotic addict, a licensed healthcare provider may order provision of particular types of medications to handle withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Levo Alpha Acetylmethadol (LAAM)
The use of the above drugs during the treatment process while following the drug treatment program instructions does not create grounds for termination of the pre-trial diversion.
Failure to comply with the drug test requirements or general requirements of the treatment will lead to termination of the pre-trial diversion program, which you wouldn’t wish for yourself since you will have to face the criminal court prosecution process.
A court prosecution process can lead to imprisonment and fines, which will affect your reputation since that specific charge will remain on your criminal record. But even if your case comes to this, we at The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney will be with you through the whole court process to fight for reduction or dismissal of the alleged drug offense.
Upon completing the pre-trial diversion, which usually lasts less than eighteen months, the judge will clear and seal your criminal charge pursuant to California Penal Code section 2000. You can confidently say you don’t have any past arrest record or criminal conviction whenever you are interviewed or asked about your criminal history. However, you might be required to disclose this information during recruitment as a law enforcement officer. You can always consult with your criminal defense attorney to know when to disclose information about the pre-trial diversion for drug crimes.
Examples of Drug Offenses That Qualify for Pretrial Diversion in California
In California, most non-violent misdemeanor drug offenses usually meet pre-trial diversion criteria as per the California Penal Code section 2000. Some of these drug offenses include (but not limited to):
- Public intoxication
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Illegal cultivation of cannabis for personal use
- Unlawful possession of prescription sedatives
- Being under the influence of an illegal or controlled drug substance like marijuana
- Possession of methamphetamines for personal use
- Unlawful possession of a controlled drug substance, for example, marijuana
California Penal Code section 2000 permits most defendants under arrest for simple possession of controlled drug substances to undertake a drug treatment program instead of prosecution. However, regardless of your type of drug charge, it’s important to consult with a criminal defense attorney to make knowledgeable decisions because you might be eligible for a pre-trial diversion, which will work in your favor to avoid conviction.
Other Alternative Drug Diversion Programs in California
In addition to the California Penal Code section 2000 for pre-trial diversion, there are other drug diversion programs you might be eligible to participate in instead of a prison sentence. These drug diversion programs include:
California Proposition 36
Like a pretrial diversion, California Proposition 36, also known as Prop 36, is also a drug diversion program you can undertake instead of a prison sentence. California Penal Code section 1210.1 defines laws and requirements for eligibility in Prop 36 drug diversion programs. Prop 36 is almost similar to pre-trial diversion, but there are four significant differences, they include:
- After completing pre-trial diversion, your drug charges are dropped and dismissed while in Prop 36, the judge may choose to dismiss the alleged charge or not
- Prop 36 will require you to plead guilty of the alleged drug offense to be eligible for the drug diversion program while in the pre-trial diversion, you don’t have to plead guilty to meet the eligibility requirements
- In the pre-trial diversion, you can be eligible for a treatment program if you're under arrest for the cultivation of marijuana, but in Prop 36, you won’t be eligible
- If you had a severe prior felony offense, you might still be eligible for pretrial diversion, but with Prop 36, you will not be eligible to take any treatment program
California Drug Court
If you don’t qualify for pretrial diversion, you might be eligible for drug court. California drug court is a diversion program for defendants who are under legal representation by public defenders. California Penal Code section 1000.5 defines laws and requirements for undertaking a drug court treatment program. California drug court requires eligible defendants to do the following:
- Participate in the relevant drug education class
- Seek or maintain your job employment
- Attend school
- Submit drug testing results periodically
- Participate in group or individual counseling
- Participate in vocational and educational counseling
- Meet with the probation officer regularly
- Satisfy other court requirements that will be beneficial to your case situation
Just like in pre-trial diversion, when you complete a drug court treatment program, the judge presiding over your case will dismiss and expunge your alleged drug charge from the criminal record. Non-compliance with the drug court diversion program requirement will lead to termination of the treatment program as with other drug diversion programs such as pretrial diversion.
Los Angeles County Drug Court Program
Another drug diversion program is the Los Angeles County Drug Court Program, which was effective in 1994, allowing non-violent defendants with chronic substance use disorders to enroll for a drug treatment program instead of a jail term. The Los Angeles County drug court program is non-accusative and comes into success after collaborating with the judicial officer, probation officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and the drug treatment provider. Drug treatment and recovery services provided in Los Angeles County drug court programs depend on the severity of the defendant’s drug addiction.
If you are under arrest for any California drug charge, you must seek a criminal defense attorney’s services to understand your rights and know which drug diversion program is suitable for your type of case to avoid a prison sentence and fines.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Any simple arrest of drug possession in California can ruin your life and reputation. A pre-trial diversion for drug crimes is an opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss if you love your freedom. If you complete pre-trial drug treatment, you’ll be on your way to your freedom because the judge presiding over your case can entirely dismiss and seal it. We invite you to call The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney at 310-564-2605 to know which diversion program will work in your favor per your particular type of drug charge to avoid a possible jail term or fine.