State laws take driving under the influence (DUI) seriously and often impose strict penalties for those convicted of the crime, including possible jail time in many instances. However, everyone makes mistakes and sometimes it makes more sense to give first offenders a second chance. This is the rationale behind DUI diversion programs, which require the defendant to complete DUI classes; undergo alcohol treatment; submit to random urine tests; and/or do a specified amount of community service in exchange for having the DUI charges dropped. DUI diversion is a great opportunity for first offenders and has been shown to reduce recidivism.
The following information provides a summary of what DUI diversion programs are and how they work, with state-specific examples.
Are You Eligible for DUI Diversion?
The exact eligibility requirements vary by state, and sometimes by counties within a state, but generally are limited to first-time offenders. Most states also limit DUI diversion to cases where the defendant's blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is below a certain level, often 0.15 percent, and where no one was seriously injured or killed. Other aggravating factors also determine eligibility, such as whether the defendant has a prior felony or if there was a child in the car at the time of arrest.
Also, depending on the state, the court may require the offender to first plead guilty and admit responsibility, even if the charges ultimately will be dropped (also referred to as deferred adjudication). This could present a problem if the defendant fails to complete his or her responsibilities under the DUI diversion program, since the admission of guilt could be used against them.
DUI Diversion Programs: How They Work
The most common type of diversion program involves a suspended sentence, in which the court orders the suspension of a DUI sentence while the defendant completes his or her DUI diversion obligations. By suspending the sentence (instead of dropping charges outright), the court retains the option to adjudicate the case in the event the defendant fails to meet the requirements of the diversion. In such instances, the defendant will be subject to the original sentence.
As stated earlier, the diversion program usually includes DUI or substance abuse classes; community service (such as highway cleanup or speaking publicly about the dangers of drunk driving); payment of fines; and random urine tests. Once all the conditions of diversion are met, the court will usually dismiss the charges. Some jurisdictions also allow the defendant to expunge the DUI arrest entirely, while in other states there will be a record of the charge and successful completion of the program.
The state's attorney usually determines the conditions of the diversion program and whether a defendant is accepted, but some states leave that decision up to the court.
State Examples of DUI Diversion Programs
Since the availability and terms of diversion programs differ by jurisdiction, the best way to describe how these programs work is to provide state-specific examples. Make sure you double-check your state's laws or speak with a DUI attorney, since laws are subject to change and not all cases are alike.
Learn More About DUI Diversion Programs from an Attorney
Those who commit crimes don't always get a second chance to make things right. So it's in your best interests to take advantage of any DUI diversion program that will keep you out of jail and possibly keep your record clean. Find out if you qualify for diversion and get help determining your next steps by consulting with an experienced DUI attorney near you.