California has implemented a program known as the “Deferred Entry of Judgment Program”, or “DEJ.” California Penal Code §1000 is the statute that created the DEJ. DEJ is offered to individuals who have been convicted of a drug related crime for the first time and prefer to attend drug education programs or drug treatment programs instead of the other, much harsher penalties associated with a conviction for a drug crime[i]. Participating in DEJ provides a substantial benefit to individuals who have been accused of a drug offense for the first time; most notably is that it allows the individual to avoid incarceration. At Los Angeles Criminal lawyer, we understand that a conviction for a drug related offense can have a profound impact on the accused’s life, and we fight vigorously to help our clients avoid those consequences. LACL has decades of combined experience representing clients accused of all types of criminal conduct, and have successfully petitioned for entrance into DEJ on numerous occasions. If you have been accused of a drug related offense the attorneys at LACL will help you through the process of obtaining admission into DEJ so that you can put a troubling portion of your life in the past.
Whether or not you are eligible for the DEJ, which was created by California Penal Code §1000 is dependent on 2 factors: (1) the underlying offense, and (2) the Defendant’s history. Ultimately, granting admission into DEJ is a judgment call, which is made by the Judge. As such, having skilled legal counsel will increase your chances of successfully petitioning the Court to grant you admission into DEJ.
- In order to be eligible for DEJ, the crime you have been accused of must be a crime involving the possession or use of illegal substances for personal use. An individual who is accused of possession for sale is ineligible for DEJ.
- In order to be eligible, the underlying crime must not have involved violence or threats of violence.
The following section will list common drug offenses that are eligible for DEJ enrollment:
- HEALTH CODE §11377 and HEALTH CODE §11350 making it illegal to possess a controlled substance
- HEALTH CODE §11357 making it illegal to have possession of over 1 ounce of marijuana
- HEALTH CODE §11358 making it illegal to cultivate marijuana
- HEALTH CODE §11364 making it illegal to have possession of any items constituting drug paraphernalia
- HEALTH CODE §11365 making it illegal to be in an area where you know illegal drugs are being used
- HEALTH CODE §11550 making it illegal to utilize an illegal substance
- HEALTH CODE §11368 making it illegal to forge a prescription in order to obtain an illegal substance
- VC §23222(b) making it illegal to drive while in possession of marijuana PC §647(f) making it legal to be in public while high on an illegal substance
- Penal Code §653f(d) making it illegal to solicit the sale of drugs
A “controlled substance” is any drug or chemical whose use, manufacture, or possession is restricted by the federal “Controlled Substances Act.”
The “Controlled Substances Act” identifies a number of substances including:
The DEJ is slightly more lenient than the diversion program created by Proposition 36 in that an individual is still eligible for DEJ under certain offenses that are not allowed under Prop 36. An example of crimes that are DEJ eligible but not Prop 36 include: (1) growing marijuana to use personally, and 92) using a forged prescription to obtain controlled substances for personal use.
In addition to requiring and eligible offense in order to obtain admission to DEJ, the Court will also review the Defendant’s history. To be eligible, the Defendant must have:
- Never been previously convicted for a drug related crime
- Never have violated the terms of parole or probation resulting in a revocation of parole or probation
- Not have been enrolled in DEJ for 5 years
- Not have received a guilty verdict for a felony within the last 5 years.
- Have not been involved in a DEJ program, or a drug diversion program, within the last five (5) years.
- Have not been convicted of a felony within the last five (5) years of your current conviction.
The process of becoming eligible for a decision allowing the Defendant to participate in DEJ, the Defendant must first enter a plea of guilty for the crime they are accused of. The Defendant then waives their right to an entry of judgment, and allows the Court to delay the entry of judgment until you complete DEJ.
After you have received admission into DEJ, an official of NA will render a decision based on a review of your file and your history. This decision will determine which drug treatment program or drug education program you will be required to complete. In determining the proper program, the individuals making the decision will take into account:
- Your age
- Previous work history
- You level of education
- Your involvement with the community and your family
- Prior drug history
Unamenable to Treatment
In certain circumstances, the Defendant will be found Unamenable to treatment, and essentially flunked out of DEJ. If this occurs, the Court will utilize the guilty plea you entered previously in order to obtain admission into DEJ and impose a penalty as though DEJ had never happened. In order to do this, the program administrator that you have been assigned to must determine that: (1) the Defendant is not following the rules of the program they are enrolled in, (2) the Defendant is not obtaining the benefit of the program they were intended to obtain, (3) The Defendant has been convicted of a crime that suggests the Defendant is prone to violence; or (4) the Defendant has performed a criminal act which leads them to believe you will not benefit from the treatment program you were assigned to.
Completion of DEJ
Once you have completed DEJ, there are significant benefits to the Defendant who opted to enroll in DEJ. First, the case against you is dismissed and your criminal record is void of any convictions.
To “complete” DEJ, the Defendant must have complied with the plan that was suggested, and there must be evidence to suggest that the Defendant is no longer susceptible to abusing drugs.
Alternate Diversion Programs
California passed Proposition 36 in 2000, and is also known as the “Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act.” Prop 36 provides individuals who are eligible, individuals accused of drug offenses not involving violence, to enroll in a diversion program instead of serving time in jail. California Penal Code §1210.1 - §1220 and §3063.1 are the California statutes which embody prop 36.
Prop 36 provides individuals who have been convicted for the 1st or 2nd time of drug-related offenses that do not involve violence to participate in a treatment program for up to 12 months instead of serving time in jail. This time line can be extended twice for a period of 6 months.
Prop 36 also provides individuals who have violated the terms of their parole by engaging in conduct that amounts to a drug related offense not involving violence to participate in a drug treatment program instead of serving time in jail as well.
Prop 36 and PC §1000 have a few notable distinctions, below is a list of some of the major differences between the two programs:
- PC §1000 makes more offenses involving drugs eligible to participate in DEJ, which allows offenders to have previous convictions for felonies involving violence to participate. Prop 36 does not allow individuals with a violent felony on their record to participate in the program.
- Prop 36, like DEJ requires that the Defendant plead guilty to the crime, however Prop 36 requires the Defendant be on probation while participating in treatment.
- If a Defendant enrolls in Prop 36, they will be sentenced in accordance with their guilty plea, but the sentence will be stayed until the completion of the program. DEJ does not impose a sentence but will impose a sentence if the Defendant is removed from or fails to comply with DEJ.
- When a Defendant successfully completes DEJ, the charges against them are automatically dismissed whereas completion of Prop 36 requires that the Defendant request that the Court dismiss the charges against them on the basis of their completion of Prop 36.
(2) drug court
California Penal Code §1000.5 is very similar to DEJ. Once the Defendant has completed either program, he Court will automatically remove all charges against the Defendant. However, in DEJ the Defendant must first plead guilty to the crime they are accused of, whereas Drug Court does not require the Defendant to plead guilty to the crime they are accused of.
(3)San Francisco’s “back on track” program
The city of San Francisco has enacted a diversion program of their own, which is known as the “Back on Track Program.” The San Francisco diversion program is available to Defendants in the age range of 18 to 30 years old, who have been arrested for minor drug sale crimes. Minor drug sale crimes involve the sale of drugs in an amount lower than 5g.
The San Francisco program requires participants in the program to successfully pass a 6 week phase where they are screened, and contribute 120 hours to the community through community service.
In order to move past the screening phase, the program requires the Defendant to plead guilty to the crime, and the Court will delay imposing a sentence for a year. If the Defendant’s participation in the program ceases, the Court will impose the sentence pursuant to the Defendant’s guilty plea. If the Defendant completes the program, the charges the defendant faced will be dismissed and the Defendant will have a clean criminal background.
The San Francisco program tailors their requirements to each Defendant in an effort to assist them in improving their life and finding a “way out” that doesn’t involve the sale of drugs. Some of these requirements include:
- The Defendant must obtain a high school diploma
- The Defendant must enroll in a community college
- The Defendant must obtain a full-time job
- The Defendant must take steps to improve his living environment
- The Defendant must participate in a drug treatment program.
Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer has applied for, and received entrance into diversion programs for a number of clients. With our expansive knowledge of the law, we will build the most persuasive argument for your participation in one of the programs describe above.
If you or a loved one has been accused a drug-related offense, contact Los Angeles Criminal lawyer today at 310-502-1314 for a FREE consultation.
i See Drug Possession.