Under California Penal Code 1001.80, those arrested for nonviolent firearm offenses can participate in a diversion program rather than serve jail time.

Diversion programs work by offering the defendant a suspension of prosecution (i.e. the court process will stop for a period of time) in exchange for participation in a criminal diversion program. If the defendant completes the diversion program successfully, the charges will be dismissed. If the defendant fails to complete the program for some reason or another, he or she can end up right back in court; these reasons may include failure to adhere to the terms of the program or subsequent criminal behavior.

Diversion programs are typically reserved for low-level offenses, particularly committed by first-time offenders. These programs, which often last between six months and one year, focus on counseling, behavior modification, and treatment.

The prosecutor for your case will take a number of factors into account when deciding whether or not the diversion program is appropriate. These factors include:

  1. Whether the defendant has ever had probation or parole revoked
  2. Whether the defendant has previously participated in a diversion program
  3. Whether California Penal Code 1001.80 precludes the defendant from participating in any way

It is important to keep your rights as a defendant in mind when considering a diversion program. Here is a quick look at certain aspects of California diversion programs:

  • Admission of guilt: You will not be required to admit guilt in order to join the diversion program. In addition, no statements made by you during the process of determining eligibility for the diversion program can be used against you in a court action.
  • Fees and payment: There are certain fees and fines associated with the diversion program, but no one can be denied access to a diversion program based solely on their inability to pay. Also, any bail bond or deposit paid on behalf of the defendant will be cleared (as long as the defendant completes the program successfully).
  • Timeline: Criminal prosecution may not be diverted more than two years. Therefore, it is important to get started on your diversion program as soon as possible to avoid running out of time to do so (although this is rarely a problem).

A pretrial diversion program, when offered, is often the best choice for a defendant. These programs are designed to cut down on the number of nonviolent or first-time offenders in state prisons, as well as reduce future violations. The program also seeks to encourage responsibility and knowledge about firearms and California firearms law, as well as reduce firearm-involved accidents.

If you have questions about your eligibility for a nonviolent firearms diversion program, contact the Law Office of Peter Blair. Mr. Blair has extensive experience in California firearm violations, and he can help you determine whether or not a diversion program is appropriate for your case.