Written by attorney Jonathan Burton Blecher

DUI Diversion Programs

DUI Diversion Programs

Prosecutor’s offices around the country are beginning to come around concept that first-time DUI offenders shouldn’t be saddled with a lifetime criminal conviction. That notion, in addition to the fiscal reality of bloated overtime budgets of police departments, has spawned DUI Diversion Programs. DUI diversion programs are offered because prosecutors and courts realize that sometimes a DUI is a mistake. Diversion allows the defendant to rehabilitate himself and demonstrate that he is capable of behaving responsibly.

How do these programs work?

In a typical DUI diversion program, such as the Back on Track Programs in Miami and the Florida Keys, the defendant is required to meet certain specified conditions, such as completing substance abuse classes, performing community service, payment of fines and a hefty donation to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Once the conditions are met, the prosecutor’s office will either reduce the DUI charge to reckless driving or dismiss the case altogether.

Admission Criteria

Only first-time DUI offenders are eligible. Even a prior DUI arrest will make someone ineligible. Some of the other exclusions specific to the DUI case are high breath test results (over .20), vehicle crashes, passengers in the vehicle under 18, a prior felony conviction and multiple traffic offenses in the 5-year period preceding the DUI arrest.

Acceptance of Responsibility

Many prosecutors’ offices either require that the defendant first plead guilty to the DUI, suspending the sentence until conditions are satisfied. Other states may allow deferred (or withheld) adjudication to a lesser charge such as reckless driving. Other programs require a plea of guilty to a reckless driving charge at the outset, making each of the conditions of the program probation conditions. The defendant might have to agree to a specified jail term in the event of a willful violation.

Another problem arises with the requirement that the defendant must accept responsibility or admit guilt as a prerequisite to acceptance into the program if the Defendant does not successfully complete the program and the case returns to court. The state will attempt to admit the confession or admission and many judges are participating in this charade by securing a statement from the defendant that he agrees that the statement of responsibility may be used against him if the case returns to court.

Additionally, it has been known to cause problems with employers whose employee conduct manuals include language about accepting responsibility or guilt to a crime as a cause for termination. A lawyer can appeal to the state and ask them to waive this requirement by showing the manual section to the state and indicting that the provision would adversely affect the defendant.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with DUI Diversion?

Facing DUI charges can sometimes be intimidating. If you need assistance with a DUI charge, you may wish to speak with a DUI lawyer in your area. Your lawyer can represent you in court and help determine if you are eligible for a DUI diversion program. A qualified attorney will also be able to assist you during the program to ensure that you complete all the program requirements.

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