The recently passed Prop 47 changed some felony and wobbler offenses to misdemeanors, but local jails continue to feel the burden of overcrowding. To help reduce inmate populations, some counties are introducing new alternatives to serving jail time. San Luis Obispo County recently launched a diversion program that will offer some first-time misdemeanor offenders classes as an alternative to jail time. Orange County launched the same program in 2011, and it has had positive effects.
How Misdemeanor Diversion Works
Under this program, a person charged with a misdemeanor offense may be able to take one or two-day classes on theft and property, drug and alcohol, life skills, anger management, vehicle code violations, and/or victim impact rather than face jail time. Participating in these courses is not an admission of guilt. After completing the classes, the criminal charges are dropped and will not show up on any background checks.
The district attorney’s office contacts those eligible for the jail alternative and gives them 30 days to sign up for the program. Those who sign up for the program pay a $100 administrative fee as well as a fee for the class, which ranges from $250 to $450.
Only first-time offenders who have been charged with the following crimes are eligible for the program:
- Petty theft
- Public intoxication
- Misdemeanor assault with no injury
- Driving without a license
- Driving with a suspended license
- Some drug crimes
- Simple possession crimes involving less than 3 grams
Offenders who have been charged with DUI, sex crimes, offenses involving weapons, hate crimes, domestic violence, or vehicle code negligence will not be eligible for the program.
Does Misdemeanor Diversion Work?
Counties that offer these misdemeanor diversion programs work with Pacific Educational Services, which offered the first diversion program in 1992 in Placer County. The company currently provides classes in 14 California counties, including Sacramento, Santa Barbara and Fresno.
According to Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham, a study conducted in 2011 on recidivism rates in Orange County showed that the county’s 22 percent re-offense rate prior to the diversion program dropped to just 6 percent after implementing the program.1
Misdemeanor Diversion Program or Deferred Entry of Judgment (PC 1000)
Under California Penal Code Section 1000, first-time drug offenders who have no prior drug convictions may be eligible for diversion from prison or jail by entering a drug treatment program. Under PC 1000, persons charged with possession (not sales or distribution) of drugs can have their criminal case stayed for up to 36 months while they complete the court-approved drug diversion program. Upon successful completion and the payment of all court and diversion program fees, the offender can petition the court to have the drug charges dropped.2
The misdemeanor diversion program is different from deferred entry of judgment. It is only available for some drug offenses, while deferred entry of judgment is available to those who are charged with crimes involving more serious dugs like heroin, cocaine and meth. Additionally, misdemeanor diversion includes non-drug crimes such as theft and misdemeanor assault.
Share Your Feedback with Us
We at Wallin & Klarich would like to hear from you about this program. Do you agree that some offenders should be able to take classes or enter treatment programs to avoid going to prison or jail? What are some of the benefits of these new alternatives? Please feel free to leave your comments below.
1. [http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2015/03/25/3556303_misdemeanor-offenses-classes.html?rh=1 ]↩
2. [http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&division=&title=6.&part=2.&chapter=2.6.&article= ]↩