Growing up, my goal was always to play professional sports, but playing high-school sports was a start. That was my dream. Well, I never got to do that because I kept getting into trouble. My grades were bad. I could do the work with my eyes closed, and my teachers knew that, but I just couldn’t focus. 

I dropped out of high school in 11th grade and pretty quickly got into selling drugs. I was hanging around with the older guys around the neighborhood, which eventually led me to getting a drug possession charge when I was 18. That charge ended with felony probation.

I caught another drug possession case shortly after, and from that point on, it was a revolving door in and out of jail for probation violations and a variety of crimes that eventually landed me in prison. Then finally, at 24, I was cleared of everything. That was supposed to be a new start for me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

I was living in Yuba City and had enrolled in college with a major in sociology, all while working full time at Walmart. I bought a new car and finally I felt free. Like I could just do whatever I wanted.

Pretty soon, though, I started racking up DUIs. And quickly got my license suspended. But how was I going to get to work and school ? In order for me to thrive I had to drive, so I started using my younger brother’s license. We looked the same, had similar names, and were only a year apart. I thought it would work out. 

By then, I’d had a daughter, and one day, when she was six months old, I made an illegal turn and got pulled over with her in the backseat. Long story short, my brother’s license was also suspended and there were seven warrants in seven different counties for his arrest.

I was shocked, but this officer–he let me go with just a ticket because my daughter was in the backseat. I thought I got lucky. 

One day, I got a letter from Yolo County with a warrant for my arrest for several charges including impersonating another person with the intent to benefit, which is a felony. 

I was so angry because that charge was so much worse than just driving on a suspended license. I had a young daughter, a wife, a job. A felony was going to change everything. Still, I had to turn myself in. 

Then in court, an amazing thing happened. I got offered a chance to get the whole thing off my record. I took up that offer right away.

Before the diversion program, I wasn’t really taking care of anything. I was just trying to skate by, thinking time would change everything, that stuff would disappear. But doing the program got me to complete my DUI program. And to make some changes in my life. 

Today I have a four-year-old daughter and a wife of eight years. I work for Amazon and in my free time, I ref basketball games. And I get to do all this because I don’t have a felony on my record. I didn’t go to prison for months–maybe years. Instead, I get to help my wife and raise my child.

In 2021, the Yolo DA’s office changed policy to ensure diversion programs (which are an alternative to traditional prosecution) can be offered to defendants with prior records.

From 2020-2022, diversions for all cases involving Black defendants rose from 8.9% to 17.9%.

(Yolo County Commons)