The New California Diversion Program
This year, many new laws have gone into effect in California. One of them is Assembly Bill 3234, commonly referred to as AB 3234. This new misdemeanor diversion law bestows upon superior court judges throughout California the authority to offer a diversion program to those who are charged with a qualifying misdemeanor. Judges are allowed to offer such diversion programs even if the prosecutor in the case objects.
What is Diversion and How Does It Work?
Diversion is simply an alternative to criminal prosecution. Judges in diversion programs choose to “divert” the case rather than allow it to go to trial. This diversion involves mandating the defendant to fulfill certain conditions, terms and programs. A judge can continue a case under a diversion program for up to two years. During that two-year period, the defendant must comply with all of the judge’s orders. If they complete the diversion program successfully, at the end of the two-year period, their case will be dismissed.
What Constitutes Successful Completion of a Diversion Program?
As all diversion programs are different and each is tailored to a specific case, completing a diversion program may involve the defendant:
- Fulfilling all of the court-ordered conditions of the judge.
- Paying the victim restitution.
- Not violating any protective orders against them.
- Not violating any orders that may prohibit them from owning firearms.
Any violation of the terms of a diversion program will land the defendant back in court. The judge will hold a hearing to determine if the violation of the terms occurred. If so, the judge will likely end the diversion program and resume the trial against the defendant.
Prior to enactment of AB 3234, each county in California determined whether an alleged misdemeanor offender could be offered a diversion program. Now, under AB 3234, this diversion program can occur across the state.
Does the Diversion Program Apply to All Misdemeanors?
Judges have the latitude to offer the diversion program to defendants who are charged with a wide variety of misdemeanor offenses. These include, but are not limited to:
- Making criminal threats
- Dissuading a witness
- Child abuse
- Elder abuse
- Possessing a firearm in a school zone
- Carrying a concealed firearm
- Hate crimes
Judges are not allowed to offer a defendant a diversion program if the following offenses are alleged to have occurred:
- Offenses that would require the defendant to register as a sex offender
- Causing bodily injury to a spouse
What Are the Benefits of a Diversion Program?
Diversion programs have benefits for the defendant, of course, as they are given an alternative to costly, lengthy trials and possible time in jail. They will avoid having a criminal record, as, if they fulfill all of the conditions of their diversion program, the case against them will be dismissed. No mention of their arrest will be kept in records, so it will not be found in background checks for jobs or housing. The only exception is that, if the defendant ever applies for a position as a peace officer, their arrest information can be accessed by the Department of Justice. If you are asked if you have ever been arrested when applying for a peace officer position, you must disclose this arrest.
How Can I Request a Diversion Program for My Misdemeanor Offense?
If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor offense and are interested in possible diversion programs in the state of California, contact our law offices today. Our criminal defense attorneys can review your case and, if appropriate, file the required motions for diversion and present your case to a judge. The benefits of a diversion program versus going to trial are many, and the drawbacks are few if any.