One of the more important criminal justice related bills that was signed into law during the 2020 legislative session was Assembly Bill 3234 (AB 3234). AB 3234 provides criminal defense attorneys in California with another tool to help our clients stay out of jail and protect their criminal records.

AB 3234 is a bill that authorizes judges to offer misdemeanor diversion to certain types of criminal defendants. A similar pilot program in Los Angeles County existed between 2014 and 2018 but had expired. The current bill is even more expansive than the prior pilot program. The new bill allows judges to consider diversion for many misdemeanor charges that were ineligible under the prior program.

The new law allows judges to offer misdemeanor diversion over the objection of a prosecution attorney, except as specified within the bill. The judge would be authorized to continue a diverted case for a period not to exceed 24 months and to order the defendant to comply with conditions as specified by the judge depending on the individual case. If the defendant successfully completed the terms of the diversion as specified, then the judge would be required to dismiss the case against the defendant. If the defendant did not successfully comply with the terms of diversion, then the judge could terminate the diversion and reinstate criminal proceedings against the defendant.

Certain misdemeanor offenses are ineligible for the California judicial diversion program. Those offenses include misdemeanor domestic violence charges, misdemeanor offenses where a conviction would require registration as a sex offender, and misdemeanor stalking.


The new bill is certainly promising, but it is important to remember that the new bill does not mandate diversion, it simply permits a judge to offer diversion at their discretion. Ultimately, judges are likely not to offer diversion in the majority of misdemeanor criminal cases. This bill makes it even more critical for a misdemeanor defendant in California to hire an experienced criminal attorney. It will be up to your attorney to prepare strong arguments as to why a judge should offer a specific defendant the opportunity to have their case dismissed. As I often tell my clients, a large part of my job is to provide a prosecutor, judge, or juror with a more complete picture of my clients than what is contained in a police report. Many of my clients are individuals who simply made a mistake but are productive members of society. These are the individuals who will benefit from AB 3234 as it could provide them with the ability to avoid a criminal charge on their record that may result in a loss of employment, the inability to secure better employment in the future, or disastrous consequences in immigration cases.


I am very excited about the prospects of this new bill. As a certified criminal specialist with the State Bar of California and as a former prosecutor in Los Angeles and Orange County, I am always studying new ways to achieve successful results for my clients. I look forward to speaking with you and learning how I can help. Please reach out as soon as possible so that we can preparing the best possible defense for your case.

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