San Diego Community Court
Everything you need to know about San Diego Community Court, explained by a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney.
Motions, Loopholes and Technicalities
Post Conviction Relief
Arrest, Bail, Arraignment
What you need to know about San Diego "Community Court"
The Prosecution Presumes You Are Guilty
If you have a low-level misdemeanor charge, it will likely be handled by the San Diego City Attorney's Office (a new one will be elected Fall of 2016). At your arraignment they will make an offer of "community court" and they'll say it's only good for right now - making you think it's a good offer, but it's not. The offer is you plead guilty and do X hours of community service, and a fine, your case will be dismissed. However, what they don't tell you is that your record will still reflect a misdemeanor conviction. The reason is they presume you guilty:
From the City Attorney's Office:
"[Community Court] provides offenders with an opportunity to "pay" their debt back to the community through targeted work service and other conditions." The city attorney, without even proving you guilty, has already decided that you have a debt to the city.
How Does Community Court Work?
A criminal complaint is filed by the City Attorney's Office. At the first hearing, an offer to divert an eligible case to Community Court will be made. This offer comes with specific conditions. If you reject the offer, the case proceeds as it normally would (slowly - if you are out on bail, time is on your side). If you accept the offer, you will enter a plea (thereby becoming an "offender"). You will be given 90 days to complete the terms and conditions of Community Court. If you successfully complete all conditions, you will have earned a "dismissal" of the case and the sentencing date will be taken off calendar. Note (even though your case is dismissed, your conviction will remain on your record. If you fail to complete the conditions, you will be sentenced to 2 days in jail and three years of probation or, alternatively, 5 days in jail and no probation. The Sheriff has discretion to release you early, however they have a mandate to make you serve the full sentence.
What Crimes Qualify for Community Court?
Quality-of-life crimes that affect communities will be eligible. Those include crimes such as disturbing the peace, public intoxication, illegal lodging, trespass, petty theft, vandalism under $950 and a wide range of other low-level misdemeanor offenses. Generally, if your crime is non-violent or does not have a person who is a victim, or you have little to no criminal history, your crime will qualify for community court.
Eligible crimes includes all Prop 47 drug crimes that are reduced to misdemeanors (simple possession), and the main purpose is to ease the burden the City Attorney's office is absorbing due to Prop 47.
What are the Condition of Community Court?
You will be required to work for either Urban Corps of San Diego County or Alpha Project for 2 days, and you must pay the administrative fee. Most of the work includes picking up trash, removing graffiti, planting trees, recycling collection and other community beautification projects. The Judge may exercise discretion in your work assaignment, and you may be required to attend and complete a specified program and other conditions specific to the crime committed.
Should I Take the Offer of Community Court?
NO. NO. NO. The City Attorney's office assumes you are guilty, so they try to entice you with this mid-level offer that results in a conviction for their office. You are innocent until proven guilty. Hiring an experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer is how you make sure to hold them to their obligation: prove you guilty, or dismiss your case. Don't let the City Attorney's office bully you into taking a plea for something that you did not do.