Deferred Entry of Judgment in California is a Pretrial Diversion Program (PTD). A PTD is an alternative to prosecution. For instance, a PTD allows offenders to divert from traditional criminal justice processing into a probationary program. Therefore, someone accused of a crime can ask the court to defer judgment on their case. Deferred Entry of Judgment would allow the accused to avoid trial and complete a PTD.
Two kinds of PTDs that postpone the entry of judgment:
2. Misdemeanor Diversion (Drug Charges Diversion)
The charges get dropped and sealed if the defendant completes their program. However, if the defendant does not complete their PTD, the case will resume with the initial charges. Before 2018, a defendant had to plead guilty to pursue a deferred entry of judgment.
Deferred Entry of Judgment Vs. Pretrial Diversion?
A DEJ and PTD relate to the same type of case. However, aspects of the way they get handled changed in 2018. As a result, the amendment created a need to separate the terms.
Before 2018, Pretrial Diversion used to fall under the same category as Deferred Entry of Judgment. The defendant would plead guilty and, deferring judgment, giving the defendant a chance to complete a diversion program. If the defendant completed their diversion program without any new arrests, their case got dismissed without any convictions. However, if the defendant fell off of diversion for any reason, the court could enter judgment based on the guilty plea.
However, under AB208, effective January 1, 2018, it isn’t necessary for a defendant to plead guilty to pursue diversion. Today, the defendant has the option for pretrial diversion before entering judgment.
Mental Health Diversion
A defendant may ask the court to defer the entry of judgment if they’re suffering from a mental health condition. If the court grants them a DEJ, they will have to undergo a mental health program to divert their case from the trial.
The court must approve the mental health program. If the mental health program is approved, the defendant has no longer than two years for completion. Additionally, the defendant may complete the diversion program as either an inpatient or an outpatient.
All charges dismissed after the defendant completes their mental health program.
However, if the defendant fails to complete their program, the charges against them still stand.
Who Qualifies for Deferred Entry of Judgment?
Certain circumstances could make a defendant eligible for a DEJ. Firstly, there must be evidence of a defendant’s mental disorder that can be proven by the defense. Secondly, the defendant must consent to diversion and waive their right to a speedy trial (unless they are mentally incompetent to do so). Thirdly, the defendant must have a recent diagnosis of their mental health condition from a qualified mental health expert. As a result, the defendant will rely on mental health examinations, medical records, arrest reports, or any other relevant evidence to qualify for a DEJ.
For eligibility, the court must be satisfied that the defendant’s mental disorder played a significant role in the offense. The court may come to this conclusion after reviewing evidence, such as:
- The consistency of a relevant mental disorder at or near the time of the offense
- Medical Records
- Police reports
- Statements by the defendant’s mental health treatment provider
- Preliminary hearing transcripts
- Records or reports by qualified medical experts
- The role of the defendant’s mental disorder contributing to the involvement of the offense
- Witness statements
Furthermore, the court will need additional confirmation that a defendant qualifies for a DEJ.
This extra confirmation includes:
- A qualified mental health expert’s opinion that the defendant would respond to treatment
- Confidence that the defendant will not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety
- Views from the district attorney, the defense, or a qualified mental health expert
- Consideration of the defendant’s criminal history, current charges, and other relevant factors
Violent crimes, such as murder and rape, will automatically disqualify a defendant’s ineligibility.
Deferred Entry of Judgment for Misdemeanor Offenses
A defendant charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor may also qualify for deferred entry of judgment. As a result, the type of program the defendant must undergo depends on the specific charges against them. For instance, these pretrial diversion programs may include:
- Anger management classes
- Community service
- Drug or alcohol treatment
- Victim restitution
When and if the defendant completes their pretrial diversion program, the charges against them are dropped. Contrarily, if the defendant does not complete their pretrial diversion program, their case will go back to court.
Eligibility for a Misdemeanor Deferred Entry of Judgment
For misdemeanor DEJ eligibility, all charges must be misdemeanor offenses. There must be no aspect of violent or sex crimes involved. Minor drug possessions are common among eligible charges against a defendant. Similarly, CA Penal Code 1000 lists other crimes that are eligible for a misdemeanor deferred entry of judgment.
Additionally, a defendant is eligible for a misdemeanor Deferred Entry of Judgment if they do not have:
- A prior felony conviction within the last five years
- Any prior violent convictions
- Charges involving violent crime or threats of violence
- Evidence of an existing violation relating to narcotics or restricted dangerous drugs
- A conviction of a controlled substance offense within the last five years.