At the beginning of this year, AB 3234 went into effect. This is California's new misdemeanor diversion law, which gives superior court judges throughout the state the authority to offer a diversion program to a person charged with a qualifying misdemeanor. They can do this even if the prosecutor handling the case objects.
How Does Diversion Under AB 3234 Work?
A diversion program provides an alternative to criminal prosecution. Instead of the defendant going through a trial, a judge may "divert" the case and order the defendant to complete specific terms, conditions, and programs. Under AB 3234, the judge can continue the case – meaning postpone it – for up to 24 months. During that time, the defendant is required to comply with all orders. If they successfully complete the diversion program, the case against them will be dismissed.
Successful completion of a diversion program includes:
- Completing all court-ordered conditions
- Paying restitution to the victim
- Complying with protective or stay-away orders
- Complying with orders prohibiting firearm possession (if applicable)
If the defendant allegedly violates any of the terms of their diversion program, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether such violation occurred. If it finds that the defendant did not adhere to program conditions, their case will recommence.
Before the new law took effect, each county determined whether an alleged misdemeanor offender was offered a diversion program. AB 3234 allows this to happen statewide.
Does the Diversion Program Apply to All Misdemeanors?
A judge may offer the diversion program to defendants charged with a wide range of offenses.
Misdemeanors to which AB 3234 applies include, but are not limited to:
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Elder abuse
- Child abuse
- Hate crimes
- Carrying a concealed firearm
- Possession of a firearm in a school zone
- Criminal threats
- Dissuading a witness
Although AB 3234 covers several misdemeanor crimes, there are still some for which a judge may never offer the diversion program.
- Offenses requiring sex offender registration
- Corporal injury to a spouse
What Are the Effects of Completing a Diversion Program?
The effects of successfully completing a misdemeanor diversion program are many. They have both immediate and long-term impacts. As far as immediate effects go, they include avoiding a costly, lengthy, and contentious trial.
Long-term, successful completion of a diversion program allows the defendant to avoid having a criminal record. As mentioned earlier, after the defendant meets all court-ordered conditions, the case against them is dismissed. It will be as if the arrest never occurred. This means that the arrest will not show up on the individual's criminal record. They can lawfully say that they have never been arrested for (nor convicted of) the crime for which they were placed in the diversion program. Also, no employment, benefit, or licensing decision may be based on the arrest.
Being free of a criminal record has many social implications. Having an arrest or conviction show up on a background check can make it difficult for a person to find a job or a place to live, making it hard for the individual to become a productive member of society. If the individual does not have a criminal record, they will not face these hurdles.
It must be noted, though, that even if the individual completed a misdemeanor diversion program, the Department of Justice can still access the arrest information if the individual applies for employment as a peace officer. Also, if they are directly asked during the hiring process about past arrests, they must answer that they have been arrested.
How Can I Be Placed on a Diversion Program?
If you were arrested for a misdemeanor offense and are seeking to be placed on a diversion program in Murrieta, speak with a member of our team at John Pozza Attorney at Law, PLC. We will file the appropriate motions and present your case in front of a judge.
Contact us at (951) 749-5598 to learn more about your legal options under AB 3234.