Judicial Diversions Return to CA with Many Challenges


With the passage of AB-3234 to Penal Code section 1001.95 last year, effective January 1, 2021, California is seeing the return of judicial diversions in the state—and new challenges that could come along with it.

Based on a pilot program in Los Angeles County, the new law allows for a defense motion for diversion in virtually all misdemeanor cases, even over prosecutor objections. Because the law includes automatic shielding of arrest records from employment and other applications, it is anticipated that many or most misdemeanor offenders will want to take advantage of judicial diversions if no prosecutor pre-file or pre-trial misdemeanor diversion options are made available.

Understandably, many within the state’s criminal justice system are concerned about the impacts the new law could have. Most notably, many in the judicial system have raised concerns about the burden this new law will place on already taxed courts—without commensurate new funding to pay for it.

Likewise, many procedural questions remained unsolved by the legislation itself and will require courts to work these things out. What is the proper protocol for bringing a motion to grant diversion under the law (oral or written)? How will courts monitor and notify defendants not complying with the terms and conditions of the grant of diversion?

Finally, under the law, a formal hearing will need to be held to determine whether individual cases warrant a grant of diversion once a motion for diversion is made. This will take additional court time and resources, and it will be particularly complicated while the COVID crisis continues.

Collaboration is Key

To save courts from an avalanche of new diversion requests under the law, many jurisdictions are now moving toward closer collaboration between stakeholders in the criminal justice process. Law enforcement and prosecutors are implementing new programs to handle as many pre-file and pre-trial diversions as possible to keep misdemeanor offenders from potentially clogging up courts.

Some California jurisdictions began with a leg-up on reacting to the new law because of their existing community or neighborhood courts or other types of restorative justice programs. These programs already handle the bulk of misdemeanors in these communities, and they often include proactive outreach to offenders toward earlier resolution. However, these programs are typically very resource intensive, relying on a good deal of both funding and volunteer participation to make them work.

Given the current conditions of the COVID crisis, most jurisdictions won’t have budgets for these types of programs, won’t have volunteers to participate, and will face real challenges in conducting face-to-face group participation for offender restoration and education.

So the ideal solution for preparing for judicial diversions would be one that (1) resolves most every misdemeanor case pre-trial, (2) integrates multiple stakeholders into the process, (3) doesn’t require new community funding and (4) ensures offenders receive quality education and treatment without a lot of overhead.

The Advent Advantage

Many California communities are now turning to Advent for that ideal misdemeanor diversion solution. The Advent eLearning platform is a SaaS (software as a service) solution that can largely automate most every step in the process:

  • Creates and sends diversion offers to offenders

  • Manages offender participation in education programs appropriate for their offenses

  • Notifies all stakeholders of activity at every step of the process

  • Creates and sends legal documents to appropriate parties for pre-trial dismissal.

The eLearning platform also hosts evidence-based, online offender education courses, developed by leading subject matter experts, for most every possible misdemeanor:

  • Alcohol and substance education for common alcohol, drug and tobacco violations

  • Shoplifting, theft and bad check education for common petty larceny offenses

  • Anger management for personal aggression and conflict offenses

  • Suite of defensive driver training for aggressive and reckless driving offenses

  • Corrective Thinking (general cognition) and Life Skills for nuisance violations

  • Juvenile courses for status offenses such as underage substance, bullying, school conflicts, and truancy

  • Courses for animal owner and wildlife code violations, personal harassment, prostitution, revenge porn and more

Most all Advent courses are based on principles of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and many are available in both Level I (4-hour) and Level II (8-hour) self-guided versions. The eLearning platform also includes robust tools for reporting and data extraction so that agency users can measure success metrics of the program including participation, completion and recidivism.

All Advent education is available to offenders using most any Internet-enabled device, so there is no overhead involved with complex classroom scheduling or cumbersome physical workbook distribution. The courses also allow for Internet browser language translation and closed-captioned video to accommodate education in most any language, as well as compatibility with assistive technology for hearing and sight-impaired users.

Finally, Advent courses can be delivered to offenders under either an offender-paid model where offenders pay online for their courses, or under an agency-paid model where course costs are invoiced if agencies have grant or other funding sources available. These models can also be utilized together, requiring most offenders to pay for their courses themselves, but invoicing agencies in juvenile or indigent cases.

So if you’re a California agency planning for the impact of the new law, please visit www.advent-elearning.com to learn more about the Advent eLearning solution. To learn more about what others in the state are doing, or for a full demonstration of the platform and review of education content, please contact us info@adventfs.com.