What is the LEAD Program?

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program started out as a pilot program in Seattle. The program was quite successful and is now being used by some counties in California. LEAD was developed as a solution to low-level drug and prostitution crimes. It is designed to rehabilitate a certain group of non-violent offenders instead of sending them straight to prison. The program started as a pilot experiment in which 203 participants were randomly selected over four years. It is offered to offenders that are arrested in possession of 3 grams of illegal drugs or less, have no history of violent criminal offenses, and are not involved in promotion of prostitution or exploiting minors for drug sales. So far the LEAD program has reduced the likelihood of repeat arrests for those that participated in the initial program.

What exactly is LEAD?

LEAD is a diversion program. Diversion programs are designed to minimize the negative effects that are connected with drug crimes, such as homelessness and the inability to obtain gainful employment. The program replaces incarceration with rehabilitation. LEAD “cuts out the criminal justice system and assigns voluntary participants to case workers who can provide immediate help – a hot meal, a warm coat, a safe place to sleep – as well as longer-term services for drug treatment, stable housing, and job training. Services are individually tailored and relapses are expected.” LEAD is a pre-booking program, which means that it occurs before you are formally charged for a drug crime. Unlike the existing diversion programs in California, LEAD operates by transferring offenders immediately to case management instead of going through the court or prison system.

Under California’s Proposition 36, if you are a one to two time offender, you may be able to serve one full year of rehabilitation in lieu of incarceration, but the offense will remain on your criminal record. Under the Deferred Entry of Judgment program, first time offenders of minor drug offenses have the option to plead guilty and enter rehabilitation. Your charges will be dismissed from your criminal record if you successfully complete the rehabilitation program. Both of these diversion programs still involve expensive and often long legal proceedings, whereas the LEAD program skips the criminal justice system entirely.

LEAD Program’s Effectiveness

An evaluation of the LEAD Program versus traditional systems showed that LEAD participants had a 60 percent lower likelihood of a subsequent arrest in the first six months after completion. LEAD participants also demonstrated 39% lower odds of being charged with a felony. “The analysis always showed that, compared to the control group, the LEAD program seemed to have a positive effect on arrests,” said Susan Collins, co-author of the LEAD evaluation. “It’s a lot harder to do an evaluation like this under real-world conditions, so they’re pretty impressive findings, given the constraints.” In the event of a backslide, LEAD program participants are held accountable for their actions. But the sort of action that will be taken will be designed so as not to interfere with the rehabilitation progress made. The goal of the program is “to reduce the harm people are doing to themselves and the community. Maybe they’re going to the ER once a month instead of four times a month – that is still progress.”

Contact An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

At The Law Offices of Sean F. Leslie, we understand the stress involved when facing criminal charges, and we can help you understand the benefits of a diversion program. Our skilled attorneys can help you reduce your charges, or even get them dismissed entirely. Let us put our criminal defense experience to work for you. Contact us today for a consultation.