Starting from the least to the most restrictive, the three most common options for dealing with any drug case in a rehabilitation type of sentence include diversion, which can be formal or informal, and can utilize the assistance of a judge or a prosecutor, which will usually happen in a very low-level misdemeanor case, such as someone who is charged with possession of a smoking device, like a marijuana pipe. This is technically a misdemeanor, although, assuming the person had never been in trouble before, they may be ordered to attend 10-20 Narcotic Anonymous classes and the case will be dismissed; there is no guilty plea, just a continuance of the case. It’s called informal diversion.
The next level is more court involved, and it would be something called DEJ, a program in which the defendant enters a guilty plea, but the sentencing will be put over and the person will have participate in a drug rehabilitation program that will last approximately 18 months; even if the program itself is less than that, the case itself will still last for 18 months. It’s a bit less restricted than a county approved program, which is next option, called Prop 36, in which the defendant participates in on of several types of rehabilitation programs within a plea under Penal Code Section 1000 for DEJ.
Certain county related programs are certified for DEJ, although certification is not necessarily required, if the judge allows the defendant to participate in something else. Some of my clients have gone into live-in programs they succeeding with, so there is no reason for a judge to take them out and place them into a certified program. This gives the defense attorney and the client more flexibility, and if they complete the program and there are no new arrests during that 18 months, the guilty plea will be withdrawn, and the case will be dismissed, so there will be no conviction.
These are the three most typical types of alternative rehabilitative programs that may come up in connection to drug-related programs.
It’s possible to apply to have a conviction expunged, although one misunderstanding among the general public that having something expunged takes it off the person’s record, whereas it does not; it simply means a judge issued an order to allow the person to withdraw their plea; the case will be dismissed, but it will still be on their criminal record with the Department of Justice and law enforcement will still see it.
That said, it will protect my clients from having to disclose it on a job application for employers or potential employers to see and/or be able to use it against them. A police officer conducting a traffic stop will still be able to see it and they will still have to disclose it if they apply for a license with a state agency to become a lawyer or a doctor or another profession. Many applications also ask the applicant to list any case that was dismissed or expunged and to give an explanation.
Often, when this issue does come up, I offer to prepare a letter on my client’s behalf to offer up to the state licensing board what the nature of the case was, how the person rehabilitated, the programs they went through and how they are now proceeding with their life in a positive way, which I have found to be very helpful in allowing my clients to move forward in life.
Juvenile cases can be sealed, which is a different process than expungement; their record will become sealed when they reach 18 years of age.
For more information on Sealing, Expungement & Diversion Program, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (626) 714-3112 today.
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