A conviction for drug possession results in jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record. Even a first-time offense can make it difficult for you to obtain employment, find housing, apply for college, and take advantage of other opportunities life has to offer.
However, the courts recognize most drug offenses are not committed by criminals, but rather addicts or those who abuse narcotics. Even if a defendant is guilty of a drug crime, it is possible that he/she is still able to avoid the penalties associated with conviction and even get the arrest expunged from their record.
California offers a pretrial diversion program for drug crimes. This allows non-violent drug offenders to take education courses, receive treatment, and pass drug tests, instead of serving a jail sentence. If all conditions are met, the entire case is dismissed and the criminal record will remain clean.
The following are other conditions requirements to apply for drug diversion:
- Has not been convicted of a drug crime within the past five years
- Has not been convicted of a felony within the past five years
- Has not been charged with a violent crime
- There is no evidence of the drug crime being more than simple possession
The prosecution initially reviews the defendant’s case. If the defendant appears to be eligible for the program and would benefit from drug treatment, the prosecutor will advise the defendant and his/her lawyer.
Before determining if a defendant is eligible for pretrial diversion, the court may order the probation department to conduct an investigation of the defendant’s background and history. The probation department will advise the court the programs the defendant would most benefit and which ones he/she prefers.
The defendant must consent to participation, plead “not guilty” to the charges, and then complete a Tahl waiver, which waives his/her rights to a speedy trial, trial by jury, and speeding preliminary hearing.
The program generally lasts between 12 and 18 months. If the defendant fails to complete the program, he/she will be subject to a trial in front of a judge.