Military Misdemeanor Diversion pursuant to California Penal Code § 1001.80 was enacted to assist both former and current members of the United States military who have suffered from issues including post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health problems, substance abuse, or other approved disorders as a result of their service, and have subsequently been charged with criminal offense. This pretrial diversion statute that went into effect on January 1, 2015. It specifies that in misdemeanor cases, the court may postpone prosecution for up to two (2) years while the defendant seeks treatment for a mental health disorder. Note that the treatment itself can be much shorter than ultimate length of the diversion itself. (ie. treatment for a few months, then obey laws for the remainder of the diversion time frame). The course of treatment can vary from case to case. In the cases I have handled, I generally recommend to the court the treatment after consulting with my client and the V.A., and in the vast majority of my cases the Judge has agreed.
If this diversion is granted by the Court and the terms of the diversion (ie. treatment) are successfully completed, the misdemeanor charges will be dismissed by the court and arrest records sealed.
On the subject of eligibility, the program applies to defendants who may be suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health disorder as a result of service in the United States military. As to appropriate violations for diversion, it applies to any misdemeanor. If charged with a felony, this statute would not apply. It may be possible to convince the Prosecutor to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor to make it eligible for this statue. If not, there are other potential options that share some similar benefits such as PC 1170.9 which is a post-sentencing statute enacted to benefit those who served in the military, or PC 1001.36 mental health diversion which can apply to both misdemeanors and felonies.
If the defendant has performed satisfactorily during the period of diversion, at the end of the period of diversion, the criminal charges shall be dismissed. The arrest upon which the diversion was based shall be deemed to have never occurred. The defendant may indicate in response to a question concerning his or her prior criminal record that he or she was not arrested or diverted for the offense, with limited exceptions (ie. peace officer application). Additionally, other criminal consequences such as large fines and jail sentence are avoided with successful completion of the diversion.
4. Why Active Military and Veterans Get the Benefit of this Statute
Our active Military and Veterans selflessly are serving or served our Country. Often times they experienced traumatic events, fear for the safety of their life and the lives of those around them, and other stressful experiences causing mental health issues as a result of their service. Some of our Veterans have difficulty adjusting to civilian life after their military service is complete, leading to substance abuse or other poor decision making. Mental Health issues such as PTSD sometimes makes it difficult for people suffering from the issue to concentrate, keep jobs, maintain relationships, and in some cases can lead to homelessness and other extreme issues without proper attention and treatment.
Unfortunately, someone with many admirable qualities that drove them to join the military at times has the trait of not wanting to discuss or deal openly with the stresses caused by such experiences for fear of sounding or feeling like they are complaining.
Every case has its own nuances that need to be explored to help people defend themselves. I am grateful that Legislature enacted Misdemeanor Military Diversion a few years back to help those who served in the military and suffer from mental health issues as a result of their service. They serve or served our Country to the benefit of all those who live here, as well as many who live in other Countries. I have been a big proponent of this diversion since its inception, educating other attorneys about its’ benefits, and fighting to allow my military clients to receive the benefits of this statute (PC 1001.80).
Feel free to call me at 818-336-1384 if you or someone you love served or is serving in the military and needs some help. I will be happy to discuss your situation and the potential applicability of Military diversion per PC 1001.80 to your case, as well as other diversion statutes that may be helpful in avoiding a conviction.
Links to examples of cases with Military Diversion Granted: