For first-time drug offenders who qualify, a program called “pre-trial diversion” (Penal Code section 1000) requires an individual to successfully complete a licensed, outpatient drug treatment program for a specified period of time (usually a few weeks or months). Prior to beginning the drug program, the defendant will be advised of certain Constitutional rights he/she will be waiving by entering into pre-trial diversion, including the right to a jury trial (a defendant will retain the right to a bench trial or trial by judge only). The defendant will also enter a “no contest” plea.
The time-frame of the treatment program will be primarily dependent on the needs of the defendant, who in some cases, will meet with the court’s drug program coordinator. The entire probation period, however, will be for a period of at least 12 to 18 months, at which time the court can then dismiss the case.
In the event that the defendant fails to successfully complete the drug program or is re-arrested on a new offense, the judge will have discretion to re-refer the defendant back to the program, depending on the circumstances . Alternatively, at that point, the defendant may choose to pursue a plea deal or proceed to a court trial. In either scenario, the defendant will lose the opportunity to earn a dismissal.
Practical note: It has been my experience that in certain first offender, low-level drug possession cases, the local prosecutor may sometimes allow a defendant to merely attend narcotics anonymous (NA) classes, in lieu of a formal, out-patient drug treatment program.
Again, it is helpful to speak with an attorney like Jeffrey Armendariz who is familiar with the trends/policies of the local court!