SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office has been using a system for the past 2 months that gives low-level criminal offenders a chance to avoid court and keep their record clean. The system has taken a huge burden off the court's shoulders.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss says, "diversion in general is the concept of diverting people out of the criminal justice system and rehabilitating them through the justice system."
The Misdemeanor Diversion Program in place for Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office is an effort to ease the burden on county courts. The District Attorney's Office looks at minor misdemeanor offenders and determines if they qualify for the program. Non-serious crimes and first-time offenders typically qualify.
"Felons aren't eligible, individuals on probation are not eligible, individuals who have had prior history of serious offense or crime are excluded," says Auchincloss.
The program is not only aimed at keeping low level offenders out of the court system, but also making sure victims of a crime are taken care of.
"If there is a victim in the case, they are restored, made whole, and victim restitution is paid up front," says Auchincloss.
Statistics from the California District Attorney's Association show that Santa Barbara County District Attorney had the highest case load per attorney. The diversions program aimed to end that.
"Not only do we reduce the number of cases we have to take in the courtroom and prosecute, but the courts enjoy a reduction is caseloads as well," says Auchincloss.
Auchincloss says about 200 people have gone through the program in the 2 months it has been around. He says its a win-win , since implementing the program costs the county zero tax dollars.
"The goal is to preserve resources while at the same time achieving better outcomes for the individual," says Auchincloss.
If a misdemeanor offender is eligible for the program, it costs the offender $250 to go through the program.
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