California’s Deferred Entry of Judgment
Nonviolent drug offenders could benefit from treatment and drug education rather than jail and a criminal record. In California, the deferred entry of judgment, or DEJ program, allows this as a possible alternative. Eligible defendants are diverted out of the criminal system and into drug rehabilitation and education programs.
Defined in Penal Code 1000 PC, a deferred entry of judgment allows defendants the opportunity to have their criminal proceedings suspended while they attempt to complete a drug treatment program. The drug treatment program must be certified or deemed credible and effective by the county drug program administrator in order to qualify. The defendant has the ability to request to be referred to a program in any county so long as the program meets the requirements. A program must include at least some of the following:
- An initial assessment of the defendant
- Minimum of twenty (20) hours of effective education and/or counseling
- An exit conference covering the defendant’s progress and participation in the program
If the defendant successfully completes the program the charges will be dismissed by the judge. However, if the judge feels that the defendant would not benefit from the treatment program or if the defendant does not successfully complete the treatment course the judge will impose sentence on the original charges.
Who is eligible for drug diversion?
The charges against the defendant as well as the defendant’s personal history play a large factor in determining eligibility for drug diversion programs. Deferred entry of judgment is only available for certain offenses that qualify under Penal Code 1000 PC. If your charges are not specifically listed under Penal Code 1000 PC you will not be eligible. Eligibility has two primary factors:
- The charges must involve personally possessing or using drugs. This means that the charges cannot be related to possessing them for sale or actually selling them.
- The crime must not involve violence or threats of violence.
In regards to personal history, you will not be eligible for a deferred entry of judgment if you:
- Have any prior drug-related convictions
- Have had your probation or parole revoked without completing the terms and conditions
- Participated in a drug diversion or deferred entry of judgment program within five (5) years prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense
- Have any prior felony convictions within five (5) years prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense
In order to qualify you must meet these criteria, if you do not qualify the judge will rule you ineligible for deferred entry of judgment and you will be sentenced on the offending charges.
If you are determined to be eligible for a deferred entry of judgment under Penal Code 1000 PC you will be required to enter a plea of guilty to the charges against you. After pleading guilty you will waive time for the pronouncement of judgment, this means that the court now has permission to postpone sentencing while you participate in a drug diversion program. If you successfully complete the drug diversion program, the court is required to dismiss the charges. However, if you are ruled ineligible or fail to successfully complete a drug diversion program you will be sentenced on the original charges.
Benefits of a deferred entry of judgment
The reason that drug diversion is so attractive is because it makes it as if your criminal charges never occurred, due to the fact that they will be dismissed as long as you successfully complete the drug diversion program. The only case in which you must disclose the arrest is if you apply to become a peace officer, otherwise the arrest will be deemed to have never occurred. This means that you can truthfully state that you have never been arrested or granted deferred entry of judgment for the offense and your arrest record cannot be used against you in matters of employment or a professional license or certificate.