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What is the LEAD Program and How Can It Impact My Case?

LEAD program diversionLaw Enforcement Assisted Diversion (or LEAD) is a growing pilot diversionary program originally implemented in Seattle and now being used by some California counties. Established in 2011, the program was developed as an innovative solution to drug- and prostitution-related crimes. Criminalization and imprisonment are increasingly seen as inappropriate responses for these non-violent, low-level crimes.

Between the years 1990 and 2008, over 85,000 bookings were made for drug offenses in Seattle alone.1 As a result, experimental diversionary initiatives such as LEAD have been enacted as possible alternatives.

LEAD, with private funding totaling $4 million, was a pilot experiment in which 203 voluntary participants were selected randomly over a period of four years. The program was offered to arrested people who:

  • were not carrying over 3 grams of illegal drugs,
  • had no history of violent crimes, and
  • were not involved in promoting prostitution or exploiting minors within an organized drug enterprise.2

What are Diversion Programs and What Makes LEAD Different?

If you are arrested for a drug possession charge, entering a diversion program may be in your best interest. These programs seek to more effectively reduce the negative social and individual effects which are connected with drugs, such as homelessness and disease. Rather than criminalize drug addiction, diversion programs use a “harm reduction” strategy in which placement in social programs replaces incarceration for those convicted of these crimes.3

There are two main types of diversionary programs: pre-booking and post-booking. A pre-booking program occurs before you are arrested or formally charged, while post-booking occurs after charges are filed.4

DEJ Orange CountyLEAD is different from current California diversion programs because it is a “pre-booking” measure. Under LEAD, you may be diverted into housing, rehabilitation treatment and other social services immediately instead of being arrested and booked. Unlike California’s existing drug diversion programs, Proposition 36 (see Penal Code 1210 and 3063.1) and the Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) Program (see Penal Code 1000), LEAD would transfer you directly to case management instead of through the traditional court and prison system.

Under Prop 36, if you are a first or second time offender, you may qualify to serve one year of rehabilitation instead of jail time, but the arrest will still be on your record. Under the DEJ program, if you are a first time offender of a minor drug offense such as public intoxication or marijuana possession, you have the option to plead guilty and enter a rehabilitation program. If you successfully complete treatment, all charges will be dismissed.5 However, these measures would still require an expensive and time-consuming court proceeding, a guilty plea or probation.6

How Effective is LEAD?

LEAD has been proven to reduce repeat offenses of offenders by up to 60%. Further, from 2010 to 2011, drug arrests in Seattle declined by over 30%. In addition to reducing recidivism (repeat offenses by an individual), LEAD is also more cost effective. In a cost-benefit analysis of the Santa Fe, New Mexico LEAD program, analysts believe its diversionary program would reduce the $1.5 million annual cost of drug criminalization by half.7

Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help Me Get into a Diversion Program?

If you are arrested for a drug crime, a diversionary program can help you avoid a criminal record. A criminal record can interfere with finding a stable job and other future prospects. We understand how stressful facing criminal charges can be. If you are accused of a crime, contact our experienced attorneys at Wallin & Klarich. Wallin & Klarich has over 30 years of experience successfully defending our clients. We are confident that we can help you achieve the best outcome, including possible entry into a diversionary program. Our capable attorneys may be able to reduce charges to lesser offenses, or even have them dismissed altogether.

We have offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, so there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us at (888) 280-6839 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [http://cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/04-2013/seattle_leads.asp]
2. [http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/lead-program-for-low-level-drug-criminals-sees-success/]
3. [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/28/seattle-lead-program_n_5697660.html]
4. [https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=XDBmBgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA107&dq=police+diversion+programs&ots=1cBdkmhP3d&sig=Uqv0kKAhS9olg6O2xMYy0lOFGhI#v=onepage&q&f=true ]
5. [http://www.lacba.org/files/lal/vol29no9/2311.pdf]
6. [http://www.cjcj.org/news/6784]
7. [http://www.mayorsinnovation.org/images/uploads/pdf/5_-_DPA_Fact_sheet_Law_Enforcement_Assisted_Diversion_LEAD_Feb2014.pdf]

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About Wallin & Klarich

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.