“Judicial diversion” a no-jail option for accused street racers

File photo: Tire marks cover the road on Constellation Road in Valencia, near where actor Paul Walker was killed in a car crash on Nov. 30, 2013. A recent street racing operation in the area recently netted more than 100 arrests, many of which were addressed in court Thursday. Katharine Lotze/Signal
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On a hot night in the middle of summer scores of sheriff’s deputies and CHP officers came together in a joint forces effort to put the brakes on street racing in the Santa Clarita Valley, arresting or citing at least 109 people at an illegal street racing event in Castaic,

A total of 102 arrests were made for participating or simply watching the illegal speed event, California Highway Patrol Captain Edward Krusey told The Signal on June 30.

Seven people were arrested for organizing the illegal event or driving in it.

If the recent court appearance of one of the seven suspects is any indication, however, none of the 102 people accused of taking part in illegal street racing is likely to serve a single day in custody.

On Sept. 25, Redwin Padua, 21, of Castaic, identified as one of the seven key players in the June 30 street racing event was charged with one misdemeanor count each of engaging in motor vehicle exhibition of speed on a highway and reckless driving on a highway.

The next day, on Sept. 26 at the Santa Clarita Courthouse, Padua pleaded no contest to both charges and entered into a diversion program, as opposed to serving any jail time.

“He entered into a Judicial Diversion program over our objections,” Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office told The Signal this week

The option for people charged with a misdemeanor of avoiding jail and “entering a diversion program” gained traction in 2014 when Assembly Bill 2124 put Los Angeles County on a 6-year pilot program.

 

AB 2124

On Jan. 1, 2015, Los Angeles County adopted the pilot program, effective until Jan. 1, 2020, wherein judges would have the discretion to offer diversion to misdemeanor offenders, over the objection of prosecutors.

The bill is intended to be a diversion program for first-time offenders in Los Angeles County.

It gives the judge the option to defer sentencing for up to 12 months for those who plead guilty or no contest to certain misdemeanors.

Taking part in the program could mean completing a term of community service, paying restitution if there were damages or writing a letter of apology.

The judge could then allow the defendant to withdraw his plea all together and have the case dismissed which means conviction.

The diversion program – which falls under a section of the California penal code 1000.94 -is not available for anyone charged with DUI, or a sex offense, or a violent offence.

“The diversion program is a pilot program only applicable in Los Angeles County,” DA spokesman Santiago said Friday.

“It allows the court to divert a variety of charges,” he said.

“In this case,” Santiago said referring to Padua. “We argued that while the defendant may be eligible for diversion, he was not suitable.

“The court allowed the defendant into the diversion program and ordered him to complete 10 days of community labor and an 8 hour traffic safety class in person plus he was ordered to pay fines and fees.” he said.

In the next couple of weeks the other key suspects in the June 30 street racing are scheduled to also appear in Santa Clarita Courthouse on similar if not the same misdemeanor.

Placing defendants in the pilot program is solely the judge’s discretion.

 

STREET RACING

In June, when the arrests were made, the heads of both the California Highway Patrol’s Newhall Station and the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station expressed hope the massive round up of defendants would significantly impact illegal street racing.

Captain Robert Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station told The Signal the “operation” was a collaborative one.

“We were working together to address this problem,” he said at the time of the arrests, noting the operation was the latest in a series of targeted moves he’s come to characterize as “suppression patrols.”

The arrests were the result of a joint forces effort – dubbed the Illegal Street Racing Operation – and was carried out by local sheriff’s deputies and CHP officers as part of a countywide crackdown on illegal street racing, CHP Captain Edward Krusey said at the time of the arrests.

Local law enforcement, together with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, set out to shut down what has become known on the streets as a “Sideshow.”

Joint forces participants, acting on intelligence gathered, carried out their operation at the industrial park in Castaic, a location bustling with people during the day but left to become a “ghost town” at night.

The long wide asphalt streets attract street racers to perform “burnouts,” “donuts” and “drifting,” CHP officers said, all of which are illegal.

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on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

 

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