Criminal Defense

What Types of Diversion Programs Are There in California?

By March 13, 2022February 23rd, 2023No Comments

Facing criminal charges of any kind in California can be stressful, especially if you start picturing the worst-case scenario. However, California’s recent efforts to offer alternatives to jail time aim to provide qualifying defendants access to rehabilitative programs instead of spending time behind bars. Currently, California recognizes three main types of diversion programs for eligible defendants: Low-level misdemeanor diversion, mental health diversion, and military or veterans diversion. Here’s what you need to know about California’s pretrial diversion programs.

Misdemeanor Diversion Programs in California

In some cases involving low-level misdemeanor offenses, defendants may qualify for a pretrial diversion program. California Penal Code section 1000 allows certain nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, including many drug offenses, to be diverted from the traditional criminal justice system. Instead of moving through the system, the defendant can complete any required drug treatment or other programs. To participate, the defendant waives their right to a speedy trial and must complete the required treatment program within a specific period. Upon completion, the court will dismiss the charges and seal them from the individual’s criminal record. However, if the defendant fails to complete the terms of the diversion program, their criminal case will resume.

California’s Mental Health Diversion Program

Defendants struggling with mental health issues may qualify for a mental health diversion program, allowing them to receive treatment instead of moving through sentencing and spending time in jail. California Penal Code section 1001.36 states, “On an accusatory pleading alleging the commission of a misdemeanor or felony offense, the court may, after considering the positions of the defense and prosecution, grant pretrial diversion to a defendant,” as long as the defendant meets specific criteria. Mental health diversion programs are similar to drug treatment programs, as the defendant participates in court-approved mental health treatment programming and, upon completion, the court will dismiss and seal the criminal charges.

Military Diversion Programs for California Defendants

California courts offer qualifying defendants the option of participating in a pretrial military diversion program. Defendants who are actively or formerly members of the United States military and whose service has caused them suffering (i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, etc.) may qualify for military diversion programs. In lieu of jail time, the defendant may undergo court-approved treatment or therapy. Once the defendant completes the program, the court will dismiss and seal the criminal charges.


If you are facing criminal charges in Los Angeles County and you want to learn more about California’s diversion programs, call Wegman & Levin today at (818) 980-4000 to schedule a free consultation with a skilled criminal defense lawyer.

Michael M. Levin, Esq.

Michael M. Levin, Esq.

Michael M. Levin is an experienced attorney who has been in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer for over 25 years. He has conducted numerous jury trials in cases ranging from DUI to capital murder. Read More

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