California’s Diversion Program

Effective January 1, 2021, misdemeanor diversion programs have been made available for many non-felony arrests as part of California’s criminal justice reform efforts. This means if your case meets the criteria for diversion, you may be able to avoid jail and possibly even have the arrest wiped from your record.

A diversion program is a system ordered by a judge and requires that you complete a set of goals or tasks within a predetermined period of time.  Each diversion program is tailored to your exact circumstances depending on what type of crime you are charged with, your criminal record, and your situation in life.

For instance, in a DUI case, a diversion program may require you to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, attend California’s drunk-driving school, participate in community service and have restrictions placed on your license.  Once you complete the terms of your diversion program and have no other legal issues, a judge will then dismiss your case. You may also request the arrest be removed from your record upon completion of a misdemeanor diversion.

The program is designed to avoid creating repeat criminals by keeping non-violent offenders out of jail and in the work force. Since a misdemeanor conviction can still have a serious impact on your life, diversion is designed to get you back on the right track and prove you are not a continuing threat to society.

Diversion programs are not automatically granted and should be requested by your defense attorney as a part of your defense strategy. You must show the Court you are an eligible candidate for the program and, even so, you may not be granted the opportunity for a diversion program. 

The new law regarding California misdemeanor diversion does specifically exclude domestic violence charges and stalking, including cyberstalking.  Therefore, if you are facing either type of criminal charge, the diversion program is not available to you.

Additionally, it is still unclear whether the diversion option applies to misdemeanor DUIs. While some courts apply diversion to DUIs, others have refused to do so, and the Appellate Courts are divided. Since the law is still fairly new, it may be some time until California’s misdemeanor diversion program is standardized throughout the justice system.

Uncertain whether you are eligible for the diversion program?  Contact Dias Law Firm, Inc. and schedule a consultation today.  Our experienced attorneys and staff are here to help.

By: Vanessa M. Freitas, Law Clerk

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