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Pretrial Judicial Diversion

Pretrial judicial diversion in California is a legal process where people charged with non-violent offenses are offered a chance to participate in rehabilitation or treatment programs rather than facing traditional criminal prosecution, probation, or jail.

Instead of going through regular criminal court, your attorney can file a motion asking the court to grant you Judicial Diversion.

The focus of Pretrial Judicial Diversion is on first-time or low-level offenders. The discission to grant Judicial Diversion is made by the Judge in your case instead of the Prosecutor. This is an important distinction. Prosecutors must stand for re-election which may cause them to consider how it will look if they agree to rehabilitation rather than push for jail time. Courts can focus more on how to help a person charged with a crime to get their life back on track and to stay out of the courts and the justice system long-term.

Are You Eligible?

For the most part, Judicial Diversion is allowed for people charged with misdemeanor offenses. Eligibility for judicial diversion depends on what crime you were charged with and your criminal history. Non-violent offenders with underlying issues such as substance abuse or mental health issues are often good candidates.

If you are charged with these types of offenses, are you likely NOT eligible for Diversion:

  1. Violent Crimes: Diversion programs exclude people charged with violent crimes, like murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, armed robbery, and aggravated assault.
  2. Serious Felonies: Serious or “high-level” felonies, including offenses related to organized crime, terrorism, or drug trafficking, are not eligible for diversion.
  3. Repeat Offenders: Most Judicial Diversion programs exclude individuals who have a history of multiple prior convictions or who have participated in diversion programs in the past. The focus is often on first-time or low-level offenders.
  4. Crimes Involving Firearms: Offenses involving the illegal possession or use of firearms may be ineligible for diversion due to public safety concerns.
  5. Crimes with Mandatory Minimum Sentences: Crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences or sentencing enhancements may be ineligible for diversion, as these laws require a minimum number of “jail” days if you are convicted. Even certain low level drug offenses carry minimum sentencing requirements.
  6. Crimes Against Certain “Vulnerable” Victims: Crimes against vulnerable populations, such as child abuse, elder abuse, or hate crimes, are not normally eligible for diversion due to the severity of harm and societal concerns.

How Do I Complete Diversion?

The Court sets your personal diversion program requirements based on the charges against you, the facts that led to your arrest, the types of rehabilitation programs your County offers and your past criminal history.

To successfully complete diversion, you must comply with specific requirements, which might include attending counseling sessions, passing drug tests, or completing educational courses.

What Happens Once I Complete?

The best thing about getting Judicial Diversion is that once you complete, the charges against you are dismissed. So, if you successfully complete your diversion program, the charges against them you will be dismissed. This means that you will not have a criminal conviction on your record for that case.

However, if you fail to successfully complete the diversion program, most times your case is returned to the regular criminal court process, and the original charges proceed.

Pretrial Judicial Diversion may or may not be right for you. But it is one more arrow in a competent attorney’s quiver that might both keep you out of jail and get your case dismissed and keep it off your record.

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