Members of the military experience violent and dangerous situations and face intense pressures throughout their careers. These experiences and pressures can take a significant psychological and emotional toll, sometimes leading to criminal behavior. The State of California recognizes military service people suffering from service-related conditions and facing charges for non-criminal offenses are often better served through military diversion programs than jail time or fines.
If you are facing criminal charges and were or are currently a member of the United States military, speak to a criminal defense attorney about requesting a military diversion program from the court.
The Purpose of California’s Military Diversion Program Alternative
Active members and military veterans charged with misdemeanors may avoid jail time through the successful completion of a military diversion program, codified in California Penal Code 1001.80
These programs provide an alternative, more restorative justice, helping military personnel deal with underlying issues that may have prompted their criminal actions and avoid the consequences that come with a criminal record. If offenders complete the program successfully, their criminal charges will be dismissed and will not appear on their criminal records.
Exceptions for Employment and Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Offenders who complete a military diversion program do not have to disclose their arrest to employers. However, if pursuing a career in law enforcement, offenders must reveal the arrest when filling out the application questionnaire.
Offenders who faced charges of DUI may have their arrest record cleared but may not have their driver’s licenses returned by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV’s authority is not subject to the court’s issuance of a diversion program and, therefore, may maintain the offender’s license suspension.
The Military Diversion Program Process
Offenders do not have to offer guilty or no-contest pleas for judges to issue a diversion program. A military diversion program is one of several types of “pretrial diversion” programs. Usually, the offender’s attorney requests the court for the military diversion, and the court assesses the offender and overall situation and renders a decision.
If the diversion is granted, the judge suspends criminal proceedings after offenders waive their right to a speedy trial. Offenders then participate in mandatory treatment, and if they complete all elements of the program, they will see their charges dismissed. If they do not complete the program, their suspended criminal proceedings will resume, and they will face the ensuing consequences and penalties.
Military diversion programs typically last from 12 to 24 months. Our team of experienced attorneys is dedicated to getting members of the military the services and treatment they need to live healthy, happy, law-abiding lives.
Eligibility for Military Diversion Programs
Active military personnel and military veterans are eligible for the diversion program if the crime committed is a misdemeanor and a first-time offense, and the offender suffers from one or more specific conditions:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A mental disorder triggered by a traumatic event, causing flashbacks, paranoia, severe anxiety, nightmares, and other symptoms
- Military-related sexual trauma: Psychological trauma caused by sexual abuse experienced while on active military duty or in training for active duty.
- Mental health disorders: These can include, but are not limited to severe depression, anxiety, and excessive and uncontrolled anger
- Addiction or substance abuse: Addiction to alcohol, illegal narcotics, or prescribed drugs often leads to arrests for DUI or disorderly conduct
- Traumatic brain injury: Cognitive impairment caused by a violent injury to the head
Those with prior convictions for the same criminal act or military personnel charged with low-level, non-violent felonies are typically referred to Veteran’s Court and not eligible for a military diversion program. Common offenses warranting participation in a military diversion program are, among others:
- Drug Possession
- Disturbing the Peace
- Driving Under the Influence
- Driving with a blood alcohol concentration above .08%
- Public Drunkenness
How Military Diversion Programs Operate
There are different types of military diversion programs, and the court will determine whether the offender participates in a federal or community-based program, giving preference to those programs with successful treatment records. Sometimes, the court and the selected treatment program work in concert with the California Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, optimizing the offender’s treatment, service, and benefit options.
When offenders are assigned mental health services, the services may be given at the county level as long as the local agency agrees to meet all treatment requirements, organizes a referral to a county veterans service officer, and files reports with the court at least every six months or as often as the court orders.
Conditions of Military Diversion Programs
The court assigns terms or conditions offenders must comply with to earn credit for completion. Conditions vary based on what is in the best interest of the offender but may include:
- Counseling for domestic violence
- Counseling for substance abuse
- Attending court appearances, as mandated
- Submitting to random alcohol and/or drug tests
- Attending any required treatment sessions or classes
Military diversion programs also provide services to help offenders get back on their feet. Programs may offer housing assistance, job training and counseling, and job placement services.
Termination of a Military Diversion Program
The court can terminate the treatment program if evidence shows it is not helping the offender. Agencies must regularly report the status of the offender’s progress. If these reports reveal the offender is not meeting the conditions of the program satisfactorily or is not benefiting from services and treatments, the court can order and hold a hearing immediately.
Should the court determine the diversion is not working, it may terminate the program and resume criminal proceedings.
It Is Our Turn to Serve You
A criminal record can affect your employment and educational prospects, in turn affecting your earning potential and quality of life. As an active or former member of the military, you can have your criminal record sealed and the consequences of that record eliminated by completing a military diversion program. Our team is grateful for your service and is ready to serve you and help you get the restorative justice you deserve.
Contact us any day, at any time. We are here for you.