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The Pros and Cons of Pretrial Diversion Programs

Posted on in Criminal Defense

San Jose criminal defense attorney, pretrial diversion programs, criminal charges, first time offenders, criminal convictionFacing criminal charges in California is a serious matter. Regardless of how seemingly minor the crime, a conviction can have significant impacts in every area of your life. In addition to heavy fines, court costs, and a potential jail sentence, having a criminal conviction on your record could prevent you from obtaining work, from being eligible for student loans, and even from obtaining a lease or a mortgage. In these situations, you need a strong criminal defense attorney by your side.

Depending on the circumstances and your charges, you may be offered a pretrial diversion program. While often presented as a second chance, allowing you to avoid a criminal conviction and serious penalties, jumping into these agreements may not be in your best interests.

Pretrial Diversion Programs In California

Pretrial diversion programs can help to address the problems associated with overburdened courts and overcrowded jails. These programs allow first time offenders of certain types of crimes to undergo mandatory counseling, classes, and community service, rather than facing a court hearing and conviction on their charges. According to the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), California is one of a handful of states that offer diversionary programs based on the needs of certain populations, which include the following:

  • Those with substance abuse problems and charged with drug and alcohol crimes;
  • Juvenile and first time defendants;
  • Those charged with certain types of domestic violence related crimes;
  • Traffic offenders and those accused of property offenses; and
  • Defendants accused of crimes who are disabled veterans, homeless, or victims of human trafficking.

These programs are generally available through local municipalities and county criminal courts. For more serious charges filed in U.S. District Court, the Northern District of California offers Conviction Alternatives Programs (CAP) that can help keep a defendant out of jail. These include pretrial diversion, post plea diversion, and deferred sentencing.

The Downside to Pretrial Diversion Programs

Critics state the downside to pretrial diversion is that it often costs the individual significant amounts of money and relies on intimidation to persuade people to enter the program, rather than risk having their case heard in court. The Marshall Project reports on one private program which caused controversy in California over the way it handled those accused of shoplifting. Marketed to major retailers, it eliminated pressing charges or even going to the police by offering ‘restorative justice’ through private classes and the payment of a $400 fee. In August of 2017, a San Francisco Supreme Court judge agreed with the City Attorney’s office that the for profit program essentially amounted to extortion, and banned the company from operating within the state.

Let Us Help You Today

When charged in any type of criminal matter, you need legal guidance to ensure your rights and best interests are protected. Contact Jachimowicz Law Group and request a consultation to see how our talented San Jose criminal defense attorneys can help you.

Sources:

http://www.cand.uscourts.gov/CAP

http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/pretrial-diversion.aspx

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/10/30/restorative-justice-for-shoplifting-a-court-calls-it-extortion

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