Drug Diversion & Sentencing Alternatives


If you have been charged with a drug possession offense, a knowledgeable San Diego drug crimes lawyer can help determine if you qualify for alternative sentencing through one of California’s various drug diversion programs. Drug diversion programs allow certain non-violent drug offenders to receive substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation instead of jail time so long as they successfully complete the requirements of the program.

Under California law, the term “nonviolent drug possession offense” means the unlawful personal use, possession for personal use, or transportation for personal use of any controlled substance identified in Section 11054, 11055, 11056, 11057, or 11058 of the Health and Safety Code, or the offense being under the influence of a controlled substance in violation of Section 11550 of the Health and Safety Code. The term nonviolent drug possession offense does not include the possession for sale, production, or manufacturing of any controlled substance and does not include violations of Section 4573.6 or 4573.8.

There are three main drug diversion programs:

  • deferred entry of judgment
  • probation
  • drug courts

Eligibility for drug diversion programs largely depends on the charges against you and your criminal background. If you are charged with the sale, production, manufacturing, or transportation of a controlled substance, you will not be eligible for a drug diversion program.

Below is an overview of the main drug diversion programs available in California. You should consult with a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney to determine whether you are eligible for sentencing alternatives in your case.

Deferred Entry of Judgment Program (known as PC-1000)

The Deferred Entry of Judgment Program is for first-time drug offenders and allows you to postpone sentencing while you complete a drug treatment program. To be eligible for the program:

  • You must plead guilty to the charges against you.
  • The charge against you must be non-violent.
  • You have no prior drug offenses on your record.
  • You do not have a revocation of probation or parole on your record.
  • You do not have any prior felony convictions within 5 years of the alleged commission of the charged offense.

As long as you successfully complete the program and you are not convicted of any other crimes during the treatment period, the charges against you will be dismissed.

Drug Probation (known as Proposition 36)

Those who are not eligible for Deferred Entry of Judgment may qualify for the drug diversion program under Proposition 36. Proposition 36 was a measure passed in 2000 that allows eligible non-violent drug offenders the opportunity to serve their time in substance abuse treatment in lieu of jail or prison. To be eligible:

  • You must be charged with a non-violent drug possession offense
  • You must plead guilty to the charges pending against you
  • You have not participated in the Prop 36 program twice before

In addition, you cannot have one or more prior violent felony convictions under California’s Three Strikes Law, you cannot be convicted of a non-drug related misdemeanor or felony offense in the same criminal proceeding, and you must be amenable to drug treatment.

Like with the Deferred Entry of Judgment Program, if you successfully complete the treatment program and comply with the terms of probation, the charges against you will be dismissed.

Drug Courts

California drug courts are another form of alternative sentencing for non-violent drug offenders. Unlike Prop 36 and deferred entry of judgment, you are not required to plead guilty to the charge against you in order to participate in a drug court treatment program. This means that criminal proceedings are suspended while you complete your treatment program. Successful completion of the treatment program will result in the judge automatically dismissing the charges against you.

How a Skilled San Diego Drug Attorney Can Help

If you are facing drug charges, experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney Jessica McElfresh can help you fight for your chance to enter a drug diversion program and avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction. McElfresh provides individualized service to each client and she works tirelessly to obtain the best possible outcome in each case. She has extensive experience representing clients facing drug charges and she understands the devastating consequences a conviction can have on your future.

To find out if you are eligible for a drug diversion program, call McElfresh Law Inc at (858) 756-7107 today to discuss your case. When you call us for a consultation, we will answer your questions, evaluate your case and explain your legal options.