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New California Law Offers Hope to Those Charged With Misdemeanors

Although misdemeanors are considered lower-level offenses when compared to felony convictions, they are still criminal offenses that carry no more than a year in county jail. Even as misdemeanors are considered low-level offenses, they can wreak havoc in the lives of those convicted. Among the many consequences that can come from a misdemeanor conviction, they can often cause the loss of workplace promotions, the loss of new job opportunities, the inability to obtain a professional license, and more. If you are facing a misdemeanor, California’s recent changes in the law concerning misdemeanors may provide renewed hope. Discuss your case with the well-versed attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP to learn more.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP are exceptionally versed criminal defense attorneys. For many years, the firm has advocated on behalf of those facing criminal offenses throughout Southern California. When facing misdemeanor charges in California, you will need the support of a skilled attorney who will aggressively represent your case. Consider obtaining a no-obligation case evaluation with Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP today.

Misdemeanor Diversion without Conviction

In California, District Attorneys will usually control if a case will be “resolved” before the start of a trial. For the most part, this will require that the accused person accepts a plea deal, in which he or she must plead no contest or guilty for a conviction. In other cases, the prosecution will offer what is referred to as a “diversion”. Diversion is a catch-all term that generally means that the case will reach any form of resolution that may result in a case dismissal. For instance, certain types of offenses, like simple drug possession cases, will require that an accused be notified of his or her eligibility for diversion. The defendant must then have met “formal” requirements for the diversion that could lead to the dismissal, like a court-approved 24-hour drug class. More of this can be found under the California Penal Code §1000.

In other cases, the prosecution can offer what is referred to as an “informal” agreement for diversion. This informal agreement will allow the accused individual to withdraw his or her no-contest plea deal if he or she completes terms. The informal agreement can also lead to a dismissal of the case without requiring the accused to plead no-contest when he or she has completed the terms, such as anger management, narcotics anonymous meetings, or other similar types of programs.

In the past, opportunities for diversion were only offered to defendants when the prosecution determined to make the offer. If the prosecution declined the defendant an opportunity for diversion, the judge overseeing the case had no legal authority to dismiss the defendant’s case. The judge also had no authority to offer the defendant the opportunity for diversion without the consent of the prosecution. Traditionally, criminal defendants only had the option to accept an offer made to him or her by the District Attorney’s Office or take his or her case to trial when all other options have been exhausted. The recent additions to the state legislature, however, have changed this. Thanks to the new Penal Codes §1001.95-1001.97, California courts now have legal discretion to offer the diversion it sees fit when it comes to a majority of misdemeanor cases. They can also do this without first obtaining approval from the prosecution.

Penal Code §1001.95-1001.97

California’s Penal Code §1001.95-1001.97 became effective on the first of January 2021. The changes to the Penal Code provided courts discretion to place defendants who are being charged with misdemeanors on a Court-Initiated Diversion grant over potential objections presented by the prosecution. The grant, however, is subject to certain exceptions.

The California Penal Code §1001.95 granted California courts discretion to provide those facing misdemeanor charges on a new form of pretrial diversion, tailored to the defendant’s needs, whether or not the prosecution provided consent. Based on Penal Code §1001.95(a)-(b):

(a) The superior court judge can offer a defendant diversion, even if it is over the prosecution’s objection.

(b) The judge could continue the case for a period that does not exceed two years and order the accused to comply with the requirements, programs, and/or conditions the judge deems necessary. This will be based on the accused individual’s specific situation.

Four Listed Exceptions to Court-Initiated Diversion

Currently, there are only four listed types of offenses where the Penal Code §1001.95 may not be available. Based on California Penal Code §1001.95(e), diversion may not be available under:

  • Offenses where Penal Code §290 registration is ordered upon the conviction,
  • There is a violation of Penal Code §273.5(a),
  • There is a violation of Penal Code §243(e)(1), and
  • There is a violation of the California Penal Code §646.9

When a diversion grant has been provided and the accused individual is not complying with the set terms ordered to him or her by the court, the court can hold a hearing that will determine whether criminal proceedings will need to be reinstated. Grants of diversion could be terminated if the accused is not complying with the court-ordered terms.

According to Penal Code §1001.95(c), once the defendant has complied with the terms imposed to him or her by the court, the court should dismiss the misdemeanor charges against the accused for which he or she entered into the grant. Moreover, in conjunction with the case dismissal, the arrest for which the case began will also need to be dismissed, unless the accused seeks employment as a police officer.

Obtain the Support of a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney

The new Court-Initiated Diversion establishes a way in which California courts can prevent unnecessary harm to defendants when it comes to their criminal records. By ensuring the accused person undergoes rehabilitation, monitoring, therapy, or other, the new additions to the law seek to prevent recidivism.

When facing a misdemeanor charge, a conviction can have long-lasting detrimental effects in many areas of your life. The criminal defense attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP can represent your case. Contact the firm today to obtain a free consultation and determine how the attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP can assist you.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.