California veterans and active duty military personnel suffering from severe mental health issues or trauma may qualify for entry into a state “military diversion” program, which offers treatment and education in lieu of spending time in jail for a criminal offense. If you are a current or former member of the military, and you are facing criminal charges in Los Angeles for a misdemeanor offense, don’t hesitate to protect your legal rights. The sooner you hire a knowledgeable Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, the sooner you can find out if you are eligible for military diversion, which can help you avoid a criminal conviction. Our lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles understand that serving time in jail is not the answer for many veterans or active duty servicemembers struggling with mental health issues. Contact our legal team today to find out how you can improve your chances of being approved for military diversion.
Affordable Military Diversion Attorney in Los Angeles
California’s military diversion program is an important service for current and former members of the United States military suffering from serious mental health disorders, which oftentimes result in substance abuse problems and related criminal behavior. Many of our country’s veterans and active duty servicemembers suffer from PTSD and other mental health issues stemming from their military service, and in many cases of a servicemember committing a criminal offense, there are underlying factors that contributed to the crime. The goal of California military diversion is to target the “root cause” of the individual’s criminal behavior and attempt to treat the underlying cause through individualized rehabilitation programs.
The state of California introduced its military diversion program in 2015, to assist veterans and active duty servicemembers who have been charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense get the help they need outside of jail. Under California Penal Code § 1001.80 PC, military diversion is a type of “pretrial diversion” alternative to jail time that gives qualifying offenders a second chance at a clean criminal record. In qualifying PC § 1001.80 cases, a California judge can elect to postpone criminal proceedings for misdemeanor offenses in order to allow the defendant to seek treatment for trauma or mental health issues arising out of his or her military service, including:
- Substance abuse
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Mental health disorders
- Sexual trauma
- Traumatic brain injury
The most common reason for military diversion is PTSD, a mental health disorder that is extremely common among those who have experienced traumatic events, such as military combat or sexual assault. PTSD can result in debilitating symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts occurring as soon as three months after the traumatic incident, or years later. Military sexual trauma is defined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as “Psychological trauma […] resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.”
Who is Eligible for Military Diversion Under Penal Code § 1001.80
California’s military diversion program is an option for any misdemeanor or wobbler offense, including driving under the influence (DUI), but just because you are a current or former member of the military struggling with a mental health issues does not mean you will automatically be approved for military diversion. Before being accepted into California’s military diversion program, you must prove to the court that you are both eligible and suitable for the program. In order to be “eligible” for California military diversion under Penal Code § 1001.80 PC, you must:
- Be a current or former member of the United States military;
- Be charged with a misdemeanor offense or a “wobbler” offense in California;
- Suffer from PTSD, substance abuse, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, or another mental health disorder as a result of your military service; and
- Have not previously been granted military diversion.
In order to prove that you are “suitable” for military diversion, you must be able to show the court that you will be successful in the program. This is where an experienced criminal defense attorney comes in. With a lawyer on your side who specializes in Los Angeles military diversion, you can effectively explain why you deserve to be granted diversion and what steps you plan to take to successfully complete the program. In many cases, simply highlighting the details of your active-duty military deployment and the issues you have faced since returning to civilian life is enough to prove suitability for military diversion.
How is Military Diversion Different from Veteran’s Court?
California military diversion is typically only available to first-time criminal offenders in Los Angeles. Defendants with a prior conviction for the same criminal offense may instead be referred to Veteran’s Court, which provides more structure and supervision than military diversion. In order to be eligible for the Veteran’s Treatment Court in California, you must:
- Currently serve or have served in the United States military;
- Plead guilty in a criminal case;
- Suffer from PTSD, military sexual trauma, substance abuse, traumatic brain injury, or another mental health problem; and
- Agree to participate in a 15- to 18-month treatment program.
How Does Military Diversion Work?
Once the court approves your petition for military diversion, you will be placed in a treatment program tailored to your specific mental health issues, and throughout the course of treatment, you and/or your attorney will be required to submit progress reports to keep the court apprised of your improvement. Once you have successfully completed the military diversion program, the court will seal the record of your arrest, which means there will be no trace of the incident on your criminal record.
To obtain diversion under California Penal Code § 1001.80 PC, defendants do not have to plead guilty or no contest to the crime. Rather, the judge will postpone the criminal case while the defendant participants in the diversion program. If for some reason your petition for military diversion is denied, or if you do not successfully complete the military diversion program, your case will proceed as usual through the criminal just system, which could leave you vulnerable to the harsh penalties associated with your criminal offense.
What are the Benefits of Military Diversion?
In some criminal cases, the symptoms and consequences of PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other mental health disorders are enough to form a strong defense. However, when that defense strategy is not a viable option, there are other avenues a criminal defense attorney can pursue to help keep a veteran’s criminal record clean, while simultaneously getting the veteran the treatment he or she needs. For instance, once a defendant successfully completes a California military diversion program, the criminal charges filed against him or her will be dismissed and, for most purposes, the arrest will be deemed never to have occurred. In other words, any time the defendant applies for a job (other than police officer) after completing military diversion, he or she will not be required to disclose the arrest or diversion on the job application or during the interview process.
Even if you are facing multiple misdemeanor charges in Los Angeles, you may be eligible for military diversion, so long as they are all misdemeanor offenses, as opposed to felonies. Furthermore, while DUI offenses are typically not eligible for diversion under California law, Penal Code § 1001.80 PC does not exclude DUI crimes, unlike other statutory diversion programs.
Hiring a Skilled Military Diversion Attorney in Los Angles
California law is still trying to catch up to the unique and ever-changing needs of our veterans and active duty servicemembers, and it is important that members of the military facing criminal charges in Los Angeles understand the diversion alternative options available to them. As a current or former member of the military, you may be eligible for enrollment in a California military diversion program if you are suffering from PTSD or another problem associated with your military service, and you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or wobbler offense in Los Angeles. Military diversion can significantly minimize the consequences of your arrest and may result in a full dismissal of criminal charges if you successfully complete the program, which gives you the benefit of a fresh start without the burden of a criminal conviction on your record. Contact our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today to find out if you are eligible for military diversion.