DUI arrests don't always lead to convictions in court. Police officer mistakes, faulty breathalyzers and crime lab errors may get your charges reduced or dismissed. Visit our California DUI page to learn more.
Diversion programs allow eligible defendants to avoid the criminal court process by completing a program designed to remedy the issue which caused or led to an original arrest (for example, a drug, alcohol, or anger issue).
If you successfully complete your diversion program, then the court will generally dismiss your criminal case.2
The result is that there is no criminal conviction on your record or criminal history. Sometimes, this all happens “pre-prosecution,” which means that you can do diversion without having to enter a plea.
Note that many jurisdictions say that diversion is only available for first-time offenders suspected of committing non-violent misdemeanor offenses.3
Further, entry into a diversion program may be conditioned on approval by the:
3. Can a plea bargain help in a misdemeanor case?
It can. A plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor to resolve a criminal case.
In the deal, the defendant usually agrees to plead guilty to a charge and the prosecutor will often agree to reduce the charge or the penalties for the conviction.
Note that while a plea bargain means you plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge, the prosecutor may decide to reduce your charge to an infraction as part of the deal.5 This is a good thing since infractions will likely not result in a criminal record or show up on a background check.
Some common misdemeanors that a prosecutor might agree to reduce to infractions include:
If a judge grants one of these motions, the result could be that certain evidence gets excluded from your case. Exclusion might mean that the prosecutor drops your charges since there is no good way to prove them.
5. Can a criminal defense lawyer help?
Yes. A criminal defense attorney can provide invaluable help with misdemeanor crimes (for example, a DUI).
Defense attorneys or a public defender can help by:
finding exculpatory evidence and presenting it to the prosecutor,
negotiating with the prosecutor to reach a favorable plea deal, and
filing pretrial motions.
If for some reason you are ultimately convicted of a crime, a defense lawyer can help in misdemeanor sentencing by minimizing any penalties that you may face. For example, an attorney can try and help you receive community service rather than a county jail sentence.
Note that most criminal lawyers and law firms provide free consultations, meaning you can receive legal advice at no cost.
Further, your communications with your lawyer are protected by the attorney-client relationship. This means your defense attorney cannot disclose your confidences without first getting your consent.
See, for example, California Penal Code 17d and 19.8a PC.
About the Author
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.