If you are arrested for a drug offense, you may face severe penalties, including jail or state prison time, a misdemeanor or felony conviction, significant fines, probation, mandatory participation in a drug treatment program, and additional sentencing terms. Even after these terms have been satisfied, you may find it difficult to explain a drug conviction to a future employer or landlord. Fortunately, California offers important diversion programs for those facing drug possession charges. Proposition 36 (“Prop 36”) offers diversion in the form of participation in a court-supervised drug treatment program rather than incarceration. Alternatively, PC 1000 provides Deferred Entry of Judgment, so you can avoid incarceration by completing an 18-36 month drug treatment program.
If you retain an experienced Inland Empire criminal defense lawyer, the attorney can evaluate your eligibility for these alternate sentencing or diversion options to mitigate the impact of your criminal case. Our Rancho Cucamonga criminal attorneys also might be able to help you avoid the long-term consequences of a criminal record by seeking to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor or sealing a juvenile record where alternate sentencing options are not available. In this blog post, we discuss some alternatives for avoiding the full impact of a potential drug conviction.
What You Need to Know about Prop 36
The Prop 36 program was enacted by California voters in 2000 and provides a drug treatment alternative to jail or state prison for eligible non-violent drug offenders. While participation in this diversion program requires one to plead guilty at a first appearance or shortly after that, successful completion of Prop 36 will result in the conviction being dismissed. Anyone who is convicted of a first or second offense of a non-violent drug possession crime, or the criminal offense of being under the influence of an illegal narcotic, may be eligible for Prop 36 diversion. The drug treatment program will typically include some or all of the following:
While Prop 36 is available for misdemeanor or felony charges of simple possession, involving illegal drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and even certain prescription drugs like hydrocodone, this diversion option is not generally open to those convicted of possession with intent to distribute, cultivation, manufacturing, sales, or transportation.
However, our Inland Empire drug possession defense lawyers might be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce your charge to simple possession so that you qualify for Prop 36 diversion. The evidence supporting a charge of the sale of narcotics might include paraphernalia like a scale or baggies, though these items could merely serve the function of supporting an individual’s personal use. Because Prop 36 is an acknowledgment that many drug offenses are the by-product of drug addiction, the prosecutor may be persuaded to strike the drug sales counts and agree to Prop 36 in such situations.
Another advantage of Prop 36 diversion is that it permits the judge a wide degree of latitude if you make a mistake. If you produce a dirty test, fail to attend a class, or even pick up another case, the court may sentence you to some jail time but permit you to complete the program as opposed to sending you to state prison. Judges that handle Prop 36 cases understand that drug addiction often results in relapse, and they have more latitude to keep you out of state prison than if you were simply on felony probation.
How PC 1000 Differs from Proposition 36
PC 1000 (deferred entry of judgment) offers the benefit of automatic dismissal of the charge upon successful completion of the program. This alternative does more than protect you from a criminal record with a drug conviction. If you fulfill the terms of the program, you can indicate that you have neither been arrested nor completed a diversion program related to a California drug crime.
There are two basic requirements that must be fulfilled to qualify for PC 1000: (1) the criminal charge cannot involve a sales transaction or possession for sale (simple possession only), and (2) the offense cannot have involved actual or threatened violence.
PC 1000 “deferred entry of judgment” provides a different diversion option for those accused of certain drug-related crimes and results in automatic dismissal of the charges if you complete the program. PC 1000 prevents you from receiving a drug conviction on your criminal record, and it allows you to indicate that you have not been arrested or convicted of a drug crime. You also can state that you have not participated in a diversion program.
Another important advantage of PC 1000 is that it can be used in a broader range of situations than Prop 36. We have the ability to obtain PC 1000 relief for a person charged with cultivation if we can persuade the judge the marijuana plants were for personal use. Similarly, relief might be available under PC 1000 if you forged a prescription to obtain drugs from a pharmacy, where Prop 36 does not cover this situation. Even if you have a prior “serious felony” or “violent felony,” you might still qualify for PC 1000 though you will be ineligible to participate in Prop 36 diversion. The conviction of this type of felony must be more than five years old.
There are several requirements that must be satisfied to qualify for deferred entry of judgment:
PC 1000 also offers a few other benefits that tend to make it preferable to Prop 36. While you must complete a drug treatment program, you will not be subject to formal probation which carries other terms and conditions. Once you complete the PC 1000 program, your charges are dismissed without any further action whereas the issue of dismissal under Prop 36 falls within the discretion of the judge. PC 1000 also can be completed faster in most instances.
Post-Conviction Relief from the Consequences of a Drug Crime
While California criminal laws provide options for diversion to mitigate the harsh consequences of a drug offense, there are many people that suffer convictions for drug crimes. Sometimes relief from the long-term consequences of a drug conviction will be in the form of reducing a charge or sealing a juvenile record
Reducing Felonies to Misdemeanors
A felony conviction carries particularly serious consequences and can be devastating to your attempts to obtain employment. There are many crimes in California that are commonly referred to as “wobblers”, which means that they can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. Our Inland Empire criminal defense lawyers might be able to persuade the prosecutor to charge such an offense as a misdemeanor, or persuade the judge to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. When a person pleads guilty to a felony or is convicted of a felony on an offense that is a wobbler, we might also be able to request that the conviction be reduced to a misdemeanor if you have successfully completed probation.
This reduction in the severity of the charge can provide multiple benefits, including eligibility for certain state occupational or professional licenses, easier time seeking gainful employment, access to loans, and the right to own a firearm or serve on a jury. While you cannot seek to have your felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor until you have completed probation, we may be able to seek early termination of your probation at the same time.
Sealing Juvenile Records
Many people mistakenly believe that their juvenile records are automatically sealed until they run into problems obtaining a professional license, academic financial aid, a new job, or a promotion. Our Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense lawyers file motions and appear at hearings to seal the records of a juvenile offense, including the arrest record. This step prevents the documents from being available as a public record and allows you to answer honestly that you have never been arrested or convicted of a crime.
If you have been arrested for a drug offense in the Inland Empire, you can face serious penalties that include incarceration and substantial fines. Our diligent and seasoned Rancho Cucamonga drug crime defense lawyers at Schwartzberg & Luther, APC are committed to defending your rights and advocating for the best outcome in your narcotics case. Contact Schwartzberg & Luther, APC at (909) 457-4270 to schedule your free consultation!
Schwartzberg | Luther APC
8300 Utica Ave. Ste. 105
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730