Are There Alternative Drug Court Programs For First Time Offenders In San Francisco County?
The state of California offers a number of different drug court programs as an alternative to traditional prosecution. The most commonly used and most popular alternative drug court program in San Francisco is PC1000 Drug Diversion. It’s outlined under Penal Code Section 1000 Drug Diversion.
Offenders are eligible for the PC1000 Drug Diversion program if:
- They have not had a prior offense within 5 years of the charged offense, and have not had a prior conviction within that 5-year period.
- The offense did not involve a crime of violence or threaten violence.
- The controlled substance was possessed for personal use, and there is no evidence of a concurrent violation relating to narcotics or dangerous drugs.
The PC1000 Drug Diversion program is so popular because it is much less disruptive to the course of one’s life. Typically, enrollees only need to complete a 6-month treatment program or classes and approximately 12 months of informal probation to complete the program. If it is completed successfully, the charges are ultimately dismissed and removed from your record.
Another alternative drug court program is Proposition 36 (often called Prop 36), which passed in California in 2000. It mandates that non-violent drug offenders should receive treatment rather than incarceration. Proposition 36 is generally less popular than PC1000, since it typically involves a much more rigorous program.
In order to participate in Prop 36, you have to enter a guilty plea to the drug charges, but sentencing is deferred until the program is completed or terminated. The Prop 36 program can last for much longer than PC 1000, for up to 3 years. However, like the PC1000 program, if you successfully complete the Prop 36 program, you can have the plea withdrawn and the case ultimately dismissed.
One benefit to the Prop 36 program is that it gives you some grace if you violate the terms of the program. You are allowed two positive drug tests before you’re ultimately removed from the program. This essentially gives you three strikes as far as opportunities for getting clean, a process in which the first try is not always successful. Typically, Prop 36 is reserved for those with more significant drug problems or more substantial charges.
Do You Recommend Diversion for Everybody, or is it Better Suited for Some Clients Than Others?
Typically, if somebody is interested in getting clean and cares about their criminal record, I recommend diversion. The right diversion program depends on the individual. PC1000 is perfect for the person who possibly has a less serious or longstanding issue with controlled substances, but still wants to get clean. Prop 36 is usually better for those clients who might have a more sustained connection with controlled substances and really need a longer treatment program. And again, the benefit of Prop 36 is that it gives you multiple chances, which PC 1000 does not. The end result of both programs is the same. If you complete the program successfully, the charges against you will be dismissed and removed from your record, and hopefully you stay clean. So yes, I would recommend diversion to anybody who is interested in sobriety as well as keeping their record clean, and who wants to avoid jail time.