Alternative Drug Sentencing
If you have been charged with certain drug related offenses including under-the-influence or simple possession in the state of California, there may be two options available under the law that provide alternatives to traditional sentences:
1) Deferred Entry of Judgment and
2) Propostion 36
Both programs provide many benefits for individuals who are eligible and successfully complete the program.
Although Deferred Entry of Judgment and Prop. 36 function in different ways and have various requirements; both involve participating in a treatment/rehabilitation program instead of going to jail. You can read more about these options below.
California Deferred Entry of Judgment
What is it?: Penal Code Section 1000 outlines the Deferred Entry of Judgment” option for certain types of drug related offenses.
This program allows eligible persons to enter a court-approved drug rehabilitation program instead of being sentenced within the criminal justice system. This option puts court proceedings "on hold" for a period between 18 months to 3 years while you complete the rehabilitation program. This is accomplished by entering a plea of guilty with the court which it "holds" the plea during this time.
If you are unsuccessful in completing the program or the judge does not think you are benefitting from the program, you may be sentenced for the charges at any time. However, if the program is successfully completed, the guilty plea is withdrawn, the judge dismisses the charges, and all record of the arrest and charges are removed.*
CA Deferred Entry of Judgement Eligibility:
Individuals are assessed to determine if they are eligible to participate in this program. In order to qualify, the charges generally must have been of a non-violent nature and the substance involved must have been for personal use and not for sale to others.
You must not have been previously convicted for an offense involving controlled substances or have been convicted of a felony within the past five years. Additionally, if you have ever been on parole or probation you must not have ever had it revoked.
This option is not available if you have participated in a court administered rehabilitation program within the past five years. If you meet all of these criteria, you may be considered eligible for this program. However, it is ultimately up to the judge to decide your eligibility.
How Deferred Entry of Judgement Works:
In order to complete this program, you must enter a guilty plea with the court. The court "holds" this plea for the duration of your participation in a court approved rehabilitation program.
In order to determine what kind of treatment is best for you, the court may request the local probation department to evaluate you. The evaluation is based upon several factors including your age, your employment status, how much education you have, community/family involvement and support, and prior drug history. This evaluation may help the judge choose the type of treatment that best for you. There will be periodic reports sent to the court on your progress during this time.
You must remain in compliance with all requirements of your program in order to successfully complete it including appearing in court for updates and random drug testing.
Getting your CA Drug Charges Dismissed:
If you complete the requirements of your court approved rehabilitation program, the charges against you will be dismissed in their entirety. This means that on any type of employment application or questionnaire, you may state that you have never been arrested or charged.
The one exception to this benefit is if you apply to become a peace officer you must disclose the arrest and outcome.*
You may or may not have some financial obligation to the rehabilitation program if enrolled. The court will consider your ability to pay and whether you have already paid any fees to determine any financial obligations.
What is it?:
Proposition 36 is the name of a law passed by Californians in 2001. If you are convicted of possessing or being under the influence of drugs this law allows the judge to place you on probation and in a treatment program instead of serving jail time.
If the treatment program is successfully completed and the conditions of probation have been met, you can ask the court to dismiss your charges. If the charges are dismissed, you will only have to disclose your arrest in a limited number of circumstances.
Prop. 36 Eligibility:
In order to qualify under Prop. 36, the offense must not have been related to the sale or manufacture of drugs and must have been of a non-violent nature. If you have a prior conviction for a violent felony, you are not eligible for this program unless you’ve been out of prison for at least five years with no offenses during that time. Even if you are eligible for this program, you also retain the choice to “opt-out” of treatment and choose to be sentenced under pre-existing law instead.
How Prop. 36 Works:
In order to qualify for this option, you must be convicted of a drug possession or being under-the-influence.
This means you will have to plead guilty or no contest to your charges. The judge will then order you to be placed on probation and complete a drug treatment program. Convictions involving many types of drugs are eligible under this program.
However, you are not eligible for this option if: you have been convicted of growing marijuana (even if it was only for personal use); you possessed a controlled substance and a firearm at the time of your arrest; you forged a prescription to obtain drugs; or you were convicted of a non-drug related misdemeanor or a felony at the time you were arrested for the drug or under-the-influence charge. Often, you will be evaluated by an approved provider to determine which program is appropriate for you.
The rehabilitation program can last up to one year and there may be some additional conditions to your treatment imposed by the judge such as counseling, community service, check-ins with the court, drug testing, or contributing to the cost of your treatment. The treatment provider will keep the court updated through regular progress reports throughout your treatment.
If any of the terms are violated, your probation may be revoked subjecting you to the normal sentencing imposed under the law. However, if you successfully complete the rehabilitation program, you may ask the court to dismiss the charges.
Getting your Charges Dismissed:
If you successfully complete the drug treatment program, you must ask the court you dismiss your charges, it won’t happen automatically. It is up to the judge’s discretion to grant dismissal – judges are given great flexibility to handle each drug offense.