Drug Courts and court approved treatment programs are specially designed as an alternative to traditional criminal justice prosecution for nonviolent drug-related offenses. The goals of these programs are to reduce recidivism and substance abuse among substance abusing offenders and increase the offender’s likelihood of successful rehabilitation.
Here in Sacramento, there are three common alternatives to jail and/or drug convictions; Proposition 36, Drug Court, and Deferred Entry of Judgment also known as DEJ. Each program has its requirements for eligibility and varies from one to the other with regards to the level of treatment and supervision.
Proposition 36 is one type of California drug diversion. Prop 36 allows eligible people to have their criminal charges or conviction dismissed if they successfully complete the drug treatment program. This treatment program includes drug education, outpatient services or residential treatment, drug detox or narcotic replacement therapy, and/or aftercare services.
The Prop 36 law requires that first and second time offenders who have been convicted of nonviolent drug possession offenses are eligible. They can receive up to twelve months of substance abuse treatment instead of time in jail or prison.
Nonviolent drug possession offenses include unlawfully using and or being under the influence of any of the drugs listed in the United States “Controlled Substances Act”, and/or possessing or transporting narcotics for personal use. Convictions for sales and manufacturing related drug crimes do not allow a defendant to participate in Prop 36 drug treatments because they are not considered nonviolent drug possession offenses. This includes California’s law against cultivating marijuana.
Even if the offense qualifies for prop 36, the defendant must also qualify for the treatment program. If you have previously been convicted for one or more violent or serious felonies you are not eligible for sentencing under Prop 36 unless the qualifying nonviolent drug possession offense occurred at least five years after you were released from prison and were convicted of either a felony other than a nonviolent drug possession offense or a misdemeanor that involved physical injury or the threat of physical injury to another person. If in addition to the qualifying drug offense you were convicted in the same proceeding of either a misdemeanor nonrelated to the use of drugs or a felony, you are ineligible for Prop 36 sentencing.
After successful completion of the California Prop 36 drug treatment, the court can be petitioned to dismiss your conviction. As long as you have successfully completed treatment, and have substantially complied with all terms of your probation, the judge must set aside and dismiss the case.
DEFERRED ENTRY OF JUDGMENT (DEJ)
Penal Code 1000 allows eligible defendants the opportunity to have criminal proceedings suspended while they attempt to complete a drug treatment program. The term “suspended” means the court will give you time to complete the program and upon the successful completion they will conclude the case by dismissing the charges. The programs include an initial assessment, a minimum of 20 hours of effective education and/or counseling as well as an exit interview.
A defendant must meet certain eligibility requirements to participate in the DEJ program. The offense must involve personally possessing or using drugs and the crime must not involve any violence or threats of violence. PC 1000 allows convictions for certain offenses that Prop 36 do not. For example, cultivating marijuana for personal use and forging prescriptions for your personal use are two areas in which PC 1000 is broader and less restrictive.
In order to qualify for DEJ a person cannot have any prior drug-related convictions, have had parole or probation revoked without completing its terms, participation in a drug diversion or DEJ program within 5 years prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense, and any prior felony convictions within five years prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense.
In order to participate you must enter a guilty plea to the charges and then give the court permission to postpone sentencing so you can participate in drug diversion.
If successfully completed your criminal charges will automatically be dismissed. Once the charges are dismissed, you can truthfully state that you have never been arrested.
CALIFORNIA DRUG COURT
Drug court is designed to assist an individual in overcoming their addiction to narcotics. Attending drug court can be beneficial because it allows a person to participate in drug treatment without first pleading guilty or no contest to the charges. The treatment can include therapy, drug testing, close court monitoring and supervision, educational counseling and other conditions. Each drug court establishes its own protocols and requirements.
The goals of the California drug court include reducing drug use and recidivism and integrating drug treatment with other rehabilitation services. To be eligible a person commits a drug crime that involves personal possession, being charged with a sales offense renders you ineligible for participation in drug court.
Drug court has a few different models which require a participant to either plea to the charges before they start treatment or after they have completed treatment. This depends on individual criminal history, and the nature of the case. Successful completion of your drug treatment program can result with a dismissal to the charges and keep a person out of jail.
These three programs are not an exhaustive list. Here in the Sacramento County Superior Court we do have a few other diversion options that fall under the Deferred Entry of Judgment category. These are classes that are one, two or three weekends, depending on the charge, and can lead to a dismissal to the charges if successfully completed.
A good attorney can evaluate your case and see if you are eligible for any of these programs. Just because you were arrested for a drug related crime does not mean that it needs to follow you for the rest of your life.