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Written by Attorney Seth Morris


Criminal charges in California carry harsh consequences. If you are found guilty, the penalties could include jail or prison time, fines, probation requirements, and more.

If you hope to avoid these outcomes, you may be able to do so by getting the charges reduced or dismissed. As with any criminal matter, your case is best explained by a capable defense lawyer, but here are a few potential ways you could get your charges reduced or dismissed.

Pretrial Diversion Programs in California

First-time, non-violent offenders may be eligible for various pretrial diversion programs depending on the details and prior record.

Several pretrial diversion programs may be available in your case. And while not every person accused will be eligible, the charges against you could be reduced or dismissed by completing these programs.

Drug Diversion Programs

Under California Penal Code 1000 PC, certain criminal offenders may be eligible for a drug diversion program if they are facing non-violent, misdemeanor charges such as:

  • Unlawful possession of marijuana
  • Forged prescriptions for narcotics
  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Unlawful marijuana cultivation
  • Public intoxication
  • Possession of methamphetamines
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Possession of prescription sedatives

More serious drug offenses, including those with aggravating factors present, may not be eligible for drug diversion. To qualify for a drug diversion program, you must have no prior convictions of ineligible crimes within the last five years, no prior felony convictions over the last five years, and the charges against you must not have involved intimidation, threats, or violence.

Mental Health Diversion Programs

Under California Penal Code 100.36 PC, mental health diversion programs may be available for a wide array of misdemeanor and felony offenses. However, under the law, mental health diversion is not available for specific types of crimes, including:

  • Rape
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child
  • Assault with intent to commit a felony
  • Any crime that requires sex offender registration

For mental health diversion programs to be applicable, the defendant’s condition must have played a substantial role in the criminal offense they are accused of. Treatment must be a potential option for helping the defendant overcome their condition. Some examples of mental health conditions that may be eligible for diversion programs include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

Military and Veteran Diversion

Under California Penal Code 1001.80 PC, misdemeanors may be diverted to military and veteran diversion programs for current and former military service members. To qualify, the defendant has the responsibility of showing their military service played a part in causing one or more of the following:

  • Mental health problems
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance abuse
  • Sexual trauma
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)

If you qualify for military and veteran diversion, there are specific terms of the program you will need to meet. Some of the requirements include:

  • Obtaining treatment for your mental health issues
  • Getting treatment for your drug or alcohol abuse
  • Attending court-ordered mental health counseling
  • Abstaining from drugs or alcohol

Defenses That Can Reduce or Dismiss Your Charges

In some cases, pretrial diversion programs may not be an option. When this happens, that does not necessarily mean it is impossible to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed. Depending on the details of your case, one or more of the following defenses could help you obtain a favorable outcome:

Illegal Search and Seizure

Law enforcement only has the authority to stop you if they have probable cause to search your home or property, if they have a warrant, or if you give them permission to do so.

If the police do not have probable cause or a warrant, any evidence they obtained during this illegal search and seizure should be deemed inadmissible at trial against you. If the prosecuting attorney’s essential evidence gets tossed out due to an unlawful search, they may be forced to reduce or dismiss your charges.

Lack of Probable Cause for Arrest

Police cannot use their intuition to make an arrest. There must be concrete evidence that you match a suspect’s description or are otherwise tied to a crime. If there was no probable cause for your arrest, the prosecution might be forced to dismiss the charges.

Get Help From Morris Law Defense Attorneys

If you are interested in getting the charges against you reduced or dismissed, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to help. In Oakland, California, contact Morris Law for a free and confidential case review. Call 510-225-9955 or contact us online to discuss your defense strategy.