Avoiding a drug possession conviction in California is possible if you know your legal rights including both diversion programs and prop. 36. If you are charged with possession of drugs in California including Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego County, you may avoid a conviction altogether if you can qualify for Diversion (Deferred Entry of Judgement) or a Prop 36 drug program. As long you are not charged with possession a large quanity of drugs for sale whether it be marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to negotiate a plea agreement that can result in eventual dismissal of your drug possession charge.
Diversion Without Entering a Plea (“Pre-Plea Diversion)
In some counties an arrangement can be made of a pre-plea diversion program. In such an instance, the defendant does not enter a plea of guilty to any charges and the court date is continued for a certain time (often 18 months). During the time of the continuance, the defendant usually will be required to complete a drug program or a substance abuse class that may include drug testing but often times an experienced criminal defense lawyer can seek a program without testing. If you successfully complete the diversion program, your case is then brought before a judge where the case is dismissed and there will be no conviction on your record.
In the majority of cases in California including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino, the Diversion sentences occur in a post-plea procedure. In post-plea diversion cases, the defendant enters a plea of guilty to the drug charges but he or she is not sentenced and no conviction is entered. Instead, the Court continues and/or suspends the proceedings for usually 18 months (sometimes a lawyer can negotiate a lesser amount of time). During the time the case is pending, the defendant must complete a drug program which usually involved attending NA meetings and at times submitting to drug testing. If the defendant successfully completes the program, the case is then dismissed by the Court and no conviction appears on the defendant’s record. This result is clearly beneficial to the defendant and other than the charges being dismissed at the time of filing, is usually the best result when facing felony drug possession charges.
Drug charges that are eligible for Diversion
- California Health and Safety Code section 11358 (growing marijuana for personal use);
- California Vehicle Code setion 23222 (b) (possession of marijuana while driving);
- California Health and Safety Code section 11357 (Possession of Marijuana or Concentrated Cannabis (hash);
- California Health and Safety Code section 11368 (Obtaining a narcotic drug by using a false/forged prescription);
- California Health and Safety Code section 11350 (possession of cocaine or other illicit drugs for personal use);
- California Health and Safety Code section 11364 (possession of drug paraphernalia);
- California Penal Code section 653(f) (soliciting a person to get illegal drugs for your personal use)
- California Health and Safety Code section 11357 (possession of prescription drugs without a prescription)
In many cases, where a Defendant’s prior record or current felony charges make them ineligible for diversion, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can negotiate a reduction in a charge which would make a defendant eligible for Diversion.
Proposition 36 Drug Programs
In many cases, where a Defendant has previously been conviction of a drug crime especially within 5 years of the new drug charge, they will not be eligible for Diversion but still may be able to get their drug possession charges resolved by completing a more rigorous drug program under California Proposition 36. Under Prop 36, a defendant enters a plea and is sentenced to a Prop. 36 drug treatment program. Many counties in California including Los Angeles will have special drug courts that preside over Prop 36 cases. In many Prop 36 cases a defendant is required to attend a more intensive drug treatment program which will include attendance in a program for at least 6 hours a week for the first 5 months and then follow-up treatments thereafter.
As with Diversion, even if a Defendant ‘s past criminal record does not qualify them for a Prop 36 program, an experienced criminal defense attorney can still get a person Prop 36. Many cases the facts surrounding the drug possession charges including any possible defenses can persuade a prosecutor or Court to allow a defendant another chance to attend a Prop 36 drug program.
If you violate a Prop 36 program, most courts will not sentence a defendant to state prison but will increase the amount of drug testing and drug treatment a defendant needs to attend. This may happen with multiple violations of Prop 36 but usually only when the violation do not involve picking up new violent or serious felonies but rather are related to relapses of drug use and positive drug tests.
The Importance of Hiring a Knowledgeable and Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Familiar with California Laws
Having a misdemeanor or felony conviction on your criminal record can trail you for the rest of your life. Job applications will need to disclose this information and many times it will affect your ability to even hold certain positions with any needed security clearance. Both diversion and prop. 36 are great tools to allow you to avoid having this stain on your reputation. You will never have your best chance of a prosecutor granting this type of disposition for your case, though, without competent legal counsel. The help of a good lawyer who is familiar with the court system in Southern California, including L.A., O.C. and the Inland Empire, cannot be stressed enough. You have only one chance to resolve this in a way that will help you move on with your life so, get it right! For questions, call us toll free statewide at 866-229-0101. The consultation is always free and we are always willing to work with you on fees.