Being charged with a crime can be stressful and overwhelming. Being charged with a crime that you committed can be especially worrying, as you may not think there are any options for defending yourself or avoiding a conviction.
Before you resign yourself to a conviction and whatever sentencing might follow, make sure you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. You have rights to protect and may have options you don’t know about, including the possibility of diversion.
What Is Diversion in a Criminal Case?
Diversion refers to processes and programs that allow a criminal case to be diverted off the traditional path. Usually, this involves an agreement of some kind between the defendant and the prosecution. It may also involve the application of the defendant to an existing program and subsequent approval by the court.
The specific details of diversion vary by case and program. Typically, though, the defendant agrees to plead guilty or otherwise not fight charges. In exchange, the prosecution agrees not to go forward with charges or agrees to no criminal conviction.
Diversion isn’t a get-out-of-jail free card, though. It typically requires the defendant to go through some other process, such as getting professional help for a substance abuse or mental health issue.
Are There Any Diversion Programs or Options in Orange County, CA?
Yes, there are numerous diversion programs and options in Orange County. You don’t typically automatically qualify for diversion, so it can be helpful to have a criminal law attorney on your side who understands what programs are available and how to negotiate for them. A brief summary of some general options is included below.
In many cases, if you are charged with a misdemeanor crime, you may have an option for diversion. This is especially true if this is your first time being arrested and charged with a crime. The Orange County District Attorney may agree to a diversion that involves:
- You pleading guilty to the crime but not actually being convicted of it
- You attending a class or series of classes
- You giving a DNA sample
For the county, this arrangement is beneficial. It can reduce how many people have to be processed through the court system and potentially the jails. It also builds a large bank of DNA records for the purpose of solving future crimes.
For defendants, the arrangement can also be beneficial. Because you aren’t actually convicted of a crime, you may experience fewer hassles and retain rights that you might not retain if you are convicted.
Misdemeanor diversion is only available for certain types of crimes. It’s not usually an option in cases involving charges such as drunk driving, domestic violence, or anything that would require sex offender registration upon conviction.
Mental Health Diversion
Orange County launched a pilot program in early 2022 called the FIRST Point Diversion Program. FIRST stands for Focused Intervention Route to Services and Treatment.
The goal of this program and other similar diversion programs is to offer a path that allows people to get professional help with mental health conditions. If someone has committed a crime driven by or related to their mental health issue, this diversion allows them to get immediate treatment and care for that condition rather than being shunted through the criminal justice system.
Substance Abuse Diversion
The FIRST Point Diversion Program and other diversion options also take into account substance abuse and addiction. In this case, individuals are connected with substance abuse programs and treatment options. This may be an option, for example, when someone is potentially facing drug-related criminal charges but has fallen into those crimes because of a substance addiction.
Find Out About Your Options With an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Diversion may sound simple, but it can be a complex consideration in your criminal defense case. First, you have to consider if diversion is right for you. If, for example, you didn’t commit the crime and feel you have a good chance of clearing your name, diversion may not be the right strategy.
In some cases, diversion may not be on the table at all. These programs typically target people who have been charged with low-level, nonviolent crimes. If you are being charged with a more serious or violent crime, you might not want to spend time trying to negotiate a diversion. Consider talking with a criminal defense attorney to learn more about what options for a defense you have.
If diversion does seem to be the right choice for you, you may need to consider which program is a fit for you. Some programs are pre-filing diversions, which means charges are never filed. Others may require you to plead guilty to the crime. A good criminal defense lawyer can help you negotiate for the diversion details that best protect your rights and your future.
If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, contact the Law Offices of Jerry Nicholson today to learn about your options and get help with your defense strategy.