The first time someone gets arrested it can be a frightening experience, even if it is for a low-level misdemeanor charge. This is often the case in arrests involving drugs and young people. There probably aren't too many California residents who would argue that young people have the best judgment, but should they pay the price for a small mistake for the rest of their lives?
The answer, even among lawmakers and prosecutors, is "no." To that end, California has a program known as "Deferred Entry of Judgment." States throughout America have a similar program, commonly called "diversion." What the program is, in essence, is a chance for a first time arrestee facing low-level charges to end up without a conviction on their record.
When a California resident is allowed to participate in this program, they will usually be required to complete community service work and stay trouble-free for a set amount of time - usually one year. If the arrest was for low-level drug charges, like, for instance, possession of drug paraphernalia or marijuana, the program participant will also likely be required to attend an entry-level substance abuse treatment class to educate the participant about the dangers of drug use.
The public policy behind this program is the recognition that when a young person has a conviction on their record, even if it is for a low-level offense, future employment, and education prospects can be bleak. However, this program isn't available to everyone who is ever arrested. The charge must be a low-level misdemeanor and in most cases, the arrestee should not have any other convictions on their record. If a California resident successfully completes the Deferred Entry of Judgment program, the charge is ultimately dismissed.