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Deferring A Drug Conviction

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2014 | Firm News |

Drug crimes provide an interesting study in social justice. While few people will seriously argue that drug addiction is good for society, that the commercial side of the drug business is acceptable as it currently operates, or that the violence often surrounding the importation of illegal drugs is sustainable, there is strong debate about how best to address these issues; particularly from a criminal justice perspective. For many years there has been a movement towards approaching the drug problem from a health and welfare perspective rather than a purely retributive criminal angle. Recently, this movement has gained substantive momentum. Today, twenty states plus the District of Columbia have laws legalizing at least some forms of marijuana use and two states, Washington and Colorado, have legalized the drug for recreational use. Many more states have developed programs to help drug offenders and abusers rather than simply punishing them for their addictions; California is among this latter group.

Penal Code 1000

Faced with a severely overcrowded prison system and budget difficulties, California has developed a program under which drug offenders can obtain help and treatment rather than a criminal record and a jail sentence. Authorized by Penal Code 1000, California courts have the authority to delay a criminal drug conviction pending successful completion of an approved drug treatment program; successful graduates of such a program can then have their charges dismissed. This is known as a Deferred Entry of Judgment and typically requires a defendant to plead guilty to the charges prior to entering the program. Failure to complete the program will result in those charges being finalized in a conviction.

Who is Eligible?
To participate in a DEJ program, defendants must satisfy two broad requirements. First, the crime with which the defendant has been charged must match one of the several crimes specifically listed in Penal Code 1000. Generally this means that the drug crime in question must be related to personal use or possession, as opposed to possession for sale, and there must be no allegations of violence associated with the drug charge. Second, a defendant must be personally eligible, meaning that they must not have certain other drug related convictions on record, must not have participated in a DEJ program within the last five years, must be in compliance with any parole or probation requirements, and must not have certain other felony convictions on record.

TreatmentDuring the program the court will determine which course of treatment is best for the defendant. This process will take into consideration factors such as the defendant’s age, education, employment situation, community and family situation, and drug history. Failing to fully participate in the program can result in the court entering judgment against the defendant which will result in a sentencing hearing to determine the appropriate punishment for the crimes charged.

After a defendant successfully completes a DEJ program, the court will set aside the charges. This means that successful program graduates can truthfully state that they have never been convicted of the crime in question and that the associated arrest record cannot be used against the individual with regard to employment or professional licensure or certification.

Other Alternatives

Penal Code 1000 is only one of several different alternatives for drug offenders. While it is arguably the best and broadest, not everyone is eligible for a DEJ program and, as such, some defendant’s must rely on other options. These options include the Proposition 36 drug treatment program or entry into California’s Drug Court; both of which differ in several ways from the DEJ program discussed above. Specifically, Proposition 36 programs do not conclude with an automatic dismissal of charges while in drug court there is no requirement that a defendant plead guilty before participating.
Call us for helpBecause there are multiple options that apply to different types of crimes and circumstances, it’s best to seek professional legal help before attempting to negotiate any type of drug crimes alternative treatment option. If you are facing a drug related crime, don’t wait to contact us as any delay may jeopardize your legal rights.