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.