As of January 1, 2018, California courts are offering pre-plea diversion in certain drug cases.  The benefit to this pre-plea diversion, over the more traditional “formal” diversion, is that the defendant never enters a plea and, thus, is never actually convicted of anything.  They can earn a complete dismissal of the charges without suffering a conviction on their record.

Prior to this change, and for about the last 10 years, California offered a diversion called deferred entry of judgement or “DEJ.”  In the older DEJ diversions, the defendant had to plead guilty, sentencing was continued for 18 months, and the defendant would complete a drug-treatment program.  If the defendant successfully completed a drug-treatment program and had no other arrests for the diversion period, the defendant could withdraw his plea of guilt, enter a not-guilty plea and the court would dismiss the case.

There was, and still is in cases not eligible for pre-plea diversion, devastating consequences for some defendants.  First off, the federal government does not recognize diversions as a dismissal.  Thus, for purposes of your FBI criminal background, even if your case was ultimately dismissed after successful completion of DEJ, the federal government still views that as a conviction.  If you are an immigrant who is here illegally, or have limited status in the country, the conviction under federal law means that you are subject to deportation, denial of naturalization or exclusion from re-entry into the country.  Additionally, people who hold certain licenses or security clearances could lose their jobs and/or licenses as a result of this conviction.

All for a minor possession charge.

With the availability of a pre-plea diversion, there is no longer any conviction on your record.  The defendant simply waives his right to a speedy trial for up to two (2) years and the case remains “pending” while the defendant completes a drug-treatment program.  After completing the program, paying court fees and avoiding any new arrests, the case is dismissed and the defendant walks away without any conviction, ever, on his or her record.

If you have been charged with a drug crime, contact attorney Ross Erlich to talk about your rights and options with the court.  You might be eligible for pre-plea diversion, veteran’s court or a mental health diversion.

Ross Erlich handles drug charges in all courts throughout southern California, including the Airport Court, CCB Courthouse, Pasadena Court, Burbank Court, Van Nuys Court and the San Fernando Court.

Federal prosecutors are no longer going to seek “mandatory minimum” sentences for many low-level and nonviolent drug offenders.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder plans to announce this major shift in the United States criminal drug offender policy today.

Holder cites the years of explosive growth in the federal prison population and the ballooning costs associated with this increase in incarceration.  Holder further stated that too many people go to too many prisons for too long, and, a lot of times, for “no good law enforcement reason.”

Under Holder’s new policy, prosecutors would send fewer drug offenders to federal prison for long terms and send an increasing number of these offenders to drug treatment and community service programs instead.  This change in policy also addresses a long-standing goal of civil rights groups who say that long prison sentences disproportionately hurt low-income and minorities.

The “war on drugs” that started in the 1980s brought about strict federal laws that required judges to impose long prison sentences on anyone caught with certain amounts of illegal drugs, regardless of the circumstances.  The public’s demand for these long sentences has decreased recently as stories of unfairness and skyrocketing costs have become more apparent.

In other words, drug offenses look to be much more manageable in the near future.  With the policy shifting on federal drug offenses, local offenders will also likely see more non-custody options associated with disposing of their case such as Deferred Entry of Judgement (DEJ), PC 1000, and Proposition 36.  With the help of a skilled and knowledgeable attorney, many of these options can be made available to you and, if needed, effective substance abuse programs and rehabilitation.

If you have been charged with drug possession, drug transportation, possession for sale or with the intent to sell, contact attorney Ross Erlich before you go to court and before you make any statements to law enforcement.  It is important to have a skilled attorney help you in the Airport court, CCB, Downtown Courts, Pasadena Court and all Los Angeles County courts.

Rapper “2 Chainz” was arrested on Tuesday at LAX, according to reports.  In fact, he was actually taken off a plane waiting to depart the airport after a TSA search of checked baggage showed the presence of marijuana and promethazine.

Reports state that the marijuana was less than 1 ounce, a misdemeanor, while the possession of promethazine got Chainz a felony narcotics possession charge.  Promethazine is commonly mixed with codeine and juice or soda to create a very intoxicating drink known as “sizzurp” in the hip-hop community.

2 Chainz will likely be booked and then released on bond and given a date to appear at the Airport Courthouse for the felony and misdemeanor drug possession charges.  While having a felony drug possession charge against you is serious and something that should not be taken lightly, there are favorable ways to resolve these cases which may even involve a dismissal of the charges.

If you have been charged with felony drug possession in California, you are most likely eligible for Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) or what attorneys refer to as PC 1000 (California Penal Code section 1000).  There are certain requirements that must be met before someone is eligible for DEJ.  First of all, the charged violation must be for simple drug possession only and not for possession for sales or transportation and the crime must not involve any violence or threatened violence.  Secondly, you must not have had any prior drug-related convictions, had you parole revoked without successfully completing your terms and conditions, completed DEJ in another case within 5 years of your current charges and you must not have had any felony convictions in the 5 years preceding the current charge.

If all of these elements are met and you are eligible for DEJ, you can enter a plea of guilty to the charges and have your criminal proceedings suspended for, typically, 18 months.  During this 18 month time period, you must enroll and successfully complete a county-approved PC 1000 class, which is typically 20 hours of drug education to be completed within the first 6 months.  After completion of the DEJ class, the court gives you the remaining 12 months to stay out of trouble and not suffer any new arrests, after which time your plea of guilty is withdrawn, a plea of not guilty is entered, and your case is then dismissed.

If you have been charged with drug possession, possession for sales, transportation or manufacturing, you need to speak to an attorney as soon as possible.  A lot of times law enforcement is looking to catch the “bigger fish” and can put unfair pressure on you to talk and make incriminating statements.  Do yourself a favor and tell law enforcement to talk to your lawyer and that you have nothing to say to them.

Attorney Ross Erlich handles drug-related charges in the Airport Court, CCB (Criminal Courts Building), East Los Angeles, Pasadena and all over Southern California.  If you have been arrested on drug charges in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills or LAX, contact our office today.


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