Getting Clients into Military Diversion
Have you ever heard of Veteran’s Court? Some people have, but even fewer people have heard of the Military Diversion Program. Diversion is a concept that was all but done away with back in the late 1990’s . Back then, if you were arrested for a drug crime, you could agree to waive time for 18 months to three years, remain crime free and complete an outpatient drug program in order to get your case dismissed. Since 1997, the deferred entry of judgment (DEJ) program replaced the drug diversion program. The big difference between the two programs is that in deferred entry of judgment, we have to enter a guilty plea. We get convicted based upon our plea. Sentencing is “deferred” for 18 months to 3 years and after successful completion of the program we can withdraw our plea and the case is dismissed.
Sounds great, right? It’s not great if you are an active or reserve member of the military. It’s not great if you lack United States citizenship either. Because DEJ requires a guilty plea and a guilty plea means a conviction, albeit a temporary conviction, this is unacceptable for members of the armed forces or non-citizens. The federal government treats deferred entry of judgment just as if we were convicted and sentenced and the federal government does not recognize DEJ as a dismissal like the State of California treats it. If you are a soldier, sailor or airman or you are not a U.S. citizen, any criminal conviction can be devastating for you.
This is where Military Diversion comes in. If you are active duty military in any branch of service and you have been charged with a misdemeanor, you may be eligible for a military diversion program. These programs are normally run through the court’s Veteran’s Court Program but have far greater benefits. Upon completion of the program, the charges are dismissed without any conviction, temporary or otherwise. Granted, the program may be more time consuming than simply pleading guilty and taking your punishment. But, the benefit of not being punished by the military for sustaining a conviction is a fantastic reward.
I recently had a case where my client had been charged with DUI. The prior attorney had never heard of military diversion and when the client hired me, I introduced him to the Veteran’s Court staff and he began attending weekly therapy sessions. It turned out my client, a navy corpsman, knew one of his Veteran’s Affairs counselors because he had previously treated this counselor at his base hospital. The Vet Court staff was anxious to help get my client into the diversion program but the district attorney’s office opposed it. The district attorney argued in court that my client’s DUI was an aggravated offense with a traffic accident and high blood alcohol level. I prepared a lengthy memorandum for the court and convinced the judge to let my client into the diversion program. My client says that I saved his career. I say, I just did my job for a client who deserved a break after serving his country honorably for many years.
If you or someone close to you is in the military or is a veteran and has been charged with crime, including DUI, vandalism, hit and run or any other criminal charges from driving on a suspended license to serious felonies, call a lawyer who understands the veteran’s court and who can help.
Call me, attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340 or
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