Over the last few decades, states across the country have recognized that certain low-level offenses should not necessarily be handled by the traditional criminal court proceedings. This is particularly true for low-level offenses committed by first-time offenders. California has acknowledged the need for diversion programs for certain misdemeanor offenses. Studies from universities and criminal justice reform advocates have shown that diversionary programs are less costly than sending a misdemeanor charge through the normal court process and that they give those facing charges the opportunity to compensate victims through restitution or community service.
Under California law, a judge has the discretion to determine whether or not a person is eligible for a diversion program. Specifically, the law says that diversion can be offered “at the judge’s discretion, and over the objection of a prosecuting attorney, offer diversion to a defendant pursuant to these provisions.”
Some of the most common types of crimes that can be diverted include the following:
The number one benefit of a misdemeanor diversion program in California is that, upon completion of the terms and conditions of the programs ordered by the court, the arrest of the defendant for which they were referred to the diversion shall be deemed to have never occurred.
This has incredible benefits. A misdemeanor on a criminal record can prevent a person from obtaining employment, attending school, and even affect where they live. However, if a person successfully completes a misdemeanor diversion program, they will be able to indicate to anyone asking that they do not have a prior criminal record and that they were not arrested.
It is important to note that the arrest upon which a diversion was successfully completed may still be disclosed to the Department of Justice in response to a police officer application.
When a defendant has their case moved to a diversion program, there are various steps in place that they will have to follow. This includes the following:
If you or somebody you love has been charged with a misdemeanor in California, we strongly recommend that you work with a criminal defense attorney in Riverside. Even if you are certain that you are eligible for a diversion program, having an attorney by your side can help increase your chances of success. First, an attorney will get involved early and handle communication with law enforcement officials and prosecutors on the case. If a misdemeanor diversion program is available, your attorney will work diligently to ensure that that is the outcome for your case.