The California Courts of Appeal, 3rd District, ruled that a defendant who qualifies for deferred entry of judgment cannot then be removed from it simply because the defendant is unable to pay the fees for the diversion programs.The defendant in the case, Anita Trask, faced criminal charges that included possession of methamphetamine. She entered a “no contest” plea to the possession charge and was granted deferred entry of judgment (diversion) pursuant to Penal Code Section 1000.
For non-violent drug possession convictions, the judge can suspend the conviction, or defer the judgment, to allow the defendant time to attend a drug rehabilitation program. Upon the successful completion of the program, the judge will dismiss the case entirely. In this way, the defendant can avoid incurring a drug conviction on his/her criminal record.
Trask, however, could not attend the drug diversion program that she had been assigned because she could not afford the program’s intake fee or its monthly payments. Although the trial court acknowledged Trask’s inability to pay, it did not provide any free programs or approved alternatives. As a result, criminal proceedings were reinstated and Trask was placed on formal probation for three years and a 60-day jail sentence.
On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s ruling on the grounds that deferred entry of judgment may not be terminated solely because the defendant was unable to pay for the diversion program. In reaching this decision, the court stated that Section 1000 explicitly provides ground for termination of diversion only when:
- The defendant is performing unsatisfactorily in the assigned program,
- The defendant is not benefiting from the treatment, OR
- The defendant has been convicted of a misdemeanor that indicates a violent propensity or unsuitability for deferred entry of judgment.
In Trask’s case, she was never given the opportunity to even perform unsatisfactorily in the program, and nothing in the facts indicate that she had violated any other requirement under the code section. The termination, therefore, was improper.
The ability to enter a drug diversion program is extremely valuable because it gives you the opportunity to avoid a criminal conviction. It is therefore imperative that you seek the legal guidance of an experienced drug defense attorney who can arrange to have you entered into such programs. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been representing clients in drug possession matters for over 30 years. Call us today at 888-749-0034 or visit us online at www.wklaw.com. We will be there for you when you call.