Every District Attorney’s office in California is empowered by state law to set up diversion programs for misdemeanors. Pre-plea diversion is an agreement to stay out of trouble and satisfy a few simple conditions, such as classes or community service hours, for a set period of time, usually between 6 and 24 months. If the diversion period is successfully completed, then the case is dismissed and, for all purposes (except if you apply to become a police officer), the former defendant can legally say that he or she has never been arrested. If, for some reason, the defendant does not successfully complete diversion, he or she still retains all legal rights to fight the original charges. This is one important reason why pre-plea diversion is better than Deferred Entry of Judgment, which is sometimes referred to as drug diversion.
Each county has its own requirements for diversion eligibility and for successful completion of diversion. Even if you are not immediately eligible for diversion in your county, it is possible that your attorney can get the District Attorney to charge you differently so that you can participate in diversion. District Attorneys often become willing to do this to avoid going to trial on a case where the evidence is questionable. Diversion is one of the best outcomes for a criminal defendant because it leaves you with no criminal record. I always look for every possibility to get a diversion deal for someone who would otherwise be looking at a criminal conviction.