In 2014, the California legislature enacted a law that allowed Los Angeles County criminal courts to dismiss many misdemeanor crimes without a conviction. The law allowed this to be done over the objection of the prosecution. If a defendant met the requirements of Penal Code Section 1001.94 and 1001.98, then the court would generally order community service or community labor and to stay out of trouble for a year. If everything went well, the defendant would have the case dismissed without a conviction. Even better, for those who successfully complete diversion, the arrest is deemed to have never occurred. This is a tremendous benefit. The purpose of the law was to prevent people with minor criminal offenses from finding employment.
Unfortunately, the law expires at the end of 2017. There are no current plans for the legislature to expand it. This means that beginning January 1, 2018, courts will no longer be permitted to unilaterally offer diversion and dismiss cases. It reverts to where we were before 2014, where prosecutors are the only ones who can offer diversion programs.
What Will Happen to First-Time Misdemeanors Going Forward?
Will city prosecutors and DAs across Los Angeles County be willing to take the reins and offer diversion on minor, first-time misdemeanors? It’s tough to say. Before the court diversion law went into effect, every prosecutor’s office in every courthouse had a different policy. Some prosecutor offices were active in offering diversion, others…not so much. Some offices allowed the court to make diversion offers over their objections as part of an “Early Disposition Program.” It really depended on which courthouse you were in and the particular policies of that office.
Since the culture of Los Angeles County courts really does determine which exact courthouse you are in and which prosecutor office is handling the case, I predict that diversion will revert back to a “hyper-local” policy. This is why it is critical for anyone who is facing a criminal case to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the particular policies of the prosecutors’ offices.
What If I Already Met the Requirements of PC 1001.94?
If you’re already on court diversion pursuant to PC 1001.94, don’t worry. Your diversion order still stands. It’s not like the court takes it away from you (unless the court makes a finding that you violated the terms of the diversion).
Bottom line: Find yourself a criminal defense attorney who knows the local courthouses and the policies of the local prosecutors. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, you can contact the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg at (323) 633-3423 to discuss your matter, or you can get in touch via this confidential contact form.