Diversion is a program that has been created by the state legislature and signed into law. It identifies crimes and offender characteristics that will enable the defendant to enter the program. Under some diversion systems, defendants are “diverted” to counseling early in the proceedings. In some formats, the defendant doesn’t have to enter a guilty or no-contest plea in order to receive diversion. Other systems require that the defendant formally admit guilt, but suspend punishment until the defendant has had the opportunity to complete diversion. (The plea isn’t formally entered into the court system so it can be erased upon successful completion of the program.)
Types of offenses that make offenders eligible:
- Typically minor and non-violent,
- Petty theft
- Personal possession of certain drugs (not possession for sale)
Defendants typically pay for their diversion programs with a fee to the court, treatment center, or both. The cost can sometimes be more than a fine. Diversion programs can last from six months to a year or more.
These programs emphasize:
- Behavior modification over punitive measures.
Participants typically agree to:
- Attend classes and vocational training
- Participate in individual or group therapy or counseling
- Perform community service work
- Make restitution to any victim
- Pay fines
Proposition 47, the ballot initiative passed by California voters on November 4, 2014, reduces certain drug possession felonies to misdemeanors. It also requires misdemeanor sentencing for petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging/writing bad checks when the amount involved is $950 or less.
No one is automatically released from state prison because of Proposition 47. The new law allows people who are already serving a felony conviction for these crimes to petition the court for resentencing. In addition, Proposition 47 allows a person who has completed his/her sentence for the specified offenses to file an application before the trial court to have the felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor.