Diversion, Delayed Entry of Plea & Deferred Entry Judgment

If one is facing charges of certain crimes, the term diversion often is mentioned as something the judge will permit as a way to resolve a case.  What is diversion?  After all, diversion is fun, right?  How can fun be part of what the court orders?

Diversion instead should be thought of as being diverted onto a different route, like a detour, rather than the normal path heading to trial.  In this regard, diversion usually takes the form of either delayed entry of judgment or delayed entry of plea.  Such programs are informal and increasingly rarer and rarer for judges to allow.  Both programs are good because they result in dismissals, which suggest to anyone looking at the criminal record that the charges lacked merit and the defendant was innocent.

Deferred entry of judgment involves a defendant entering a plea of "No Contest" to one or more of the allegations.  However, with an agreement between yourself, the prosecutor and the judge to handle the case via a deferred entry of judgment, the judgment is not entered.  It is deferred, or delayed.  No judgment is entered, which is significant because no conviction entered in the record against the defendant.
 
Normally, when one enters a "No Contest" plea, a judgment and a conviction is automatically entered immediately thereafter.  With a deferred entry of judgment, defendant is instead allowed to hit the proverbial “pause” button and given time to do a drug treatment program, a bunch of community service, community labor or Cal-Trans, complete an animal cruelty course, do a shoplifting prevention course, attend some anger management classes, complete a prostitution diversion program (PDP), attend a sex compulsion course, perhaps attend some Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meetings or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, stay away from a certain location, pay restitution or just stay out of trouble.  If these things are done in or for a specified period of time, one can return to court and have the plea withdrawn and the case dismissed.  This is great.

However, if one fails to complete the program, do the community service, etc., judgment is then entered and there is a conviction.  After all, defendant already entered a plea of "no contest" or "guilty."

A deferred entry of plea is similar to a deferred entry of judgment, except one delays entry of a plea, perhaps for six months or even a year, to be given the opportunity to do a drug treatment program, community service, etc.  A deferred entry of plea program is superior to a delayed entry of judgment form of diversion because no plea is entered.  This means that if an employer, college or landlord were to check on one’s criminal history, there would be only an arraignment shown, where defendant entered a “Not Guilty” plea.  There would be no “No Contest” plea shown.  This is good because most people equate a “No Contest” plea to an admission of guilt or at least a confession of committing the crime.

As with delayed entry of judgment, in delayed entry of plea, the defendant is given several months or up to a year to attend classes, perform some community service, perhaps stay away from a location, etc., and if this is performed or completed, the case is dismissed.

In Los Angeles County only, there is a five year pilot program called AB (Assembly Bill) 2124, effective January 1, 2015 to January 1, 2020.  The provisions are legislatively set out at Penal Code §§ 1001.94 to 1001.98.  Under AB 2124, defendant can request that the judge, over the prosecution’s objection, allow defendant to enter a plea, but delay judgment.  The program is designed for low-level misdemeanors only and has some exclusions that are listed out.  The most common things that disqualify someone from AB 2124 is that the person has a conviction in the last ten years, the case is a DUI, the case involves domestic violence or violence of any sort or the defendant is a registered sex offender. 

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