One way to resolve a criminal case in California State courts is through a diversion program, sometimes known as a conditional plea or deferred entry of judgment. In general, a diversionary outcome is one in which the defendant is presented with a carrot and a stick.
If certain requirements are fulfilled in a specified period of time, the defendant receives a benefit, usually in the form of a reduced offense or even a complete dismissal of the charges.
Deferred entry of judgment is a program in California that permits a judge to avoid entering a conviction in a criminal case. However, the defendant has to plead guilty to the crime they were accused of committing. In exchange for pleading guilty, the court provides the defendant an opportunity to complete a term of supervised probation.
If the defendant successfully completes all of the terms, the court will dismiss the criminal charges. Thus, in the end, a defendant is able to avoid a conviction on their record for a crime they committed. In other words, deferred entry of judgment could be considered a type of plea bargain. On the other hand, if the defendant is not successful in fulfilling their obligations or is arrested for a new offense, they will suffer a conviction for a more serious offense. Contact our California criminal defense lawyers at Eisner Gorin LLP to review your case.
Who Qualifies for Deferred Entry of Judgment?
The deferred adjudication program is not an option for all criminal offenses. Under California law, it only allows using this type of program for certain non-violent misdemeanor crimes. You will typically qualify for deferred entry of judgment if you meet the following requirements:
- You are charged with a non-violent offense
- You were not convicted of a drug crime in the past
- You were not in a diversion program in the past 5 years
- You have not been convicted of a felony crime in the past 5 years
- You have not ever violated probation or parole
The California deferred entry of judgment is frequently used as an alternative sentence for defendants facing allegations of first-time, non-violent drug crime.
Making a Deferred Entry of Judgment Agreement
After you enter a guilty plea or no contest, the court will defer a judgment in your case. In other words, the court will not enter a conviction or a final judgment on your case. During this time while your case is deferred, you will have to complete a term of supervised probation. You are required to successfully complete all of the terms ordered by the court, which will typically include the following:
- No use of drugs or alcohol or committing new crime
- Treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, such as AA meetings
- Counseling for mental health
- Community service
It's important to note that the specific terms of your probation are normally designed for rehabilitation. The terms set by the court are typically selected to directly deal with the issues that are relevant to your crime.
Diversion Case Example #1 – Marijuana Extract Trafficking
A few examples taken from actual cases our law firm has worked on will help illustrate the benefits of a diversion program for our clients.
In one case, we represented an out-of-state resident accused of trafficking a large quantity of marijuana extract through the airport. We were able to negotiate an outcome whereby the client entered a No Contest plea to possession for sale of marijuana, but sentencing was continued for a year.
Under California law, judgement is not final, and therefore the defendant is not convicted, until the time of sentencing. By completing an online drug education class and paying mandatory court fees, the client was able to earn a dismissal of the charges.
When the date of sentencing occurred, one year from the date of the plea, the No Contest plea was withdrawn and all charges were dropped. However, if the client had failed to complete the drug program or failed to pay his court fees, the consequences would have been a sentencing hearing on the drug sales charge.
As the plea had already been entered, the client would have forfeited his right to a jury trial and thereby lost his ability to contest the charges. In this way, the diversionary outcome functions as both a carrot and a stick - if successful, the case is dismissed; if unsuccessful, the defendant faces sentencing.
Diversion Case Example #2 – Check Fraud
In another case, the client was charged with check fraud resulting in over $15,000 in losses to a bank which cashed the fraudulent check. The cash was never recovered.
Although the client was charged with a felony level offense, we were able to negotiate a diversionary outcome which gave the client the opportunity to earn a misdemeanor by paying full restitution over the course of 18 months and completing a significant amount of community serve.
This was a major benefit for the client, a registered nurse, as her employment would have been in serious jeopardy if she had been convicted of a felony. Again, she was required to enter a plea to the felony offense at the beginning of the diversion such that she was subjected to immediate sentencing if she failed to timely complete her obligations.
In other cases, particularly lower-level offenses, an informal diversion may be available where a plea is not taken. In these cases, a pretrial or similar hearing is simply continued for a period of months while the defendant completes his or her diversion terms.
This is typically not available in more serious offenses, particular felony offenses, as the prosecuting agency will not agree to provide the defendant with the opportunity to earn reduced charges or even a dismissal without the certain consequence in place in the event that the defendant fails to abide by the agreement.
Final Result of Deferred Entry of Judgment
When a defendant earns a dismissal through a diversion program, one major benefit is that under California law, they have never been convicted. This allows them to honestly answer ‘no' to a question on a background check, job application, or similar survey which asks about criminal convictions.
However, federal law differs in this area. Under federal law, the defendant is convicted at the time of the plea, not at sentencing. Therefore, certain federal background checks, such as those conducted by law enforcement or when applying to jobs in the national security field, will always return information about the case even after a successful diversionary resolution has resulted in a dismissal.
If you, or a family member, has been charged with a crime and is interested in learning more about diversionary outcomes, including deferred entry of judgement and/or conditional pleas, diversionary settlements, call our experienced criminal defense attorneys for an initial consultation. Contact our law firm at 877-781-1570.
Eisner Gorin LLP 1875 Century Park E #705 Los Angeles, CA 90067 310-328-3776