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DUI Diversion Programs: Do You Qualify?

Underwood Law Firm March 2, 2022

Law gavel, alcohol and car keys on a wooden deskMore than 120,000 people are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in California each year. Of those, only approximately 5,000 face felony charges. The rest are charged with misdemeanor DUI. Even then, a conviction can cause serious repercussions for years to come.

What if you had an opportunity to keep a misdemeanor DUI conviction off your record? A California misdemeanor diversion law that went into effect in January 2021 may make it possible, at least for now. Allowing misdemeanor DUIs to qualify under the new law is a matter of interpretation by the courts. The fate of using diversion programs to avoid an initial misdemeanor DUI conviction is yet to be determined.

If you could keep a conviction off your record by completing a diversion program, you probably would choose to pursue that route, despite current confusion about the law. If you have been arrested for misdemeanor DUI in Bakersfield or Lamont, California, or anywhere in Kern County, contact the DUI defense attorneys at Underwood Law Firm for help. Your rights and your future deserve to be protected.

What Are California’s DUI Diversion Programs?

Essentially, a DUI diversion program provides certain offenders with the opportunity to complete drug and alcohol education, treatment, and support programs designed to keep them from reoffending. Whether you are granted the opportunity or not is solely at the discretion of the judge assigned to your criminal case. The judge will weigh the circumstances of your DUI before rendering that decision. Your criminal defense attorney should prepare and present compelling evidence to the court that proves you will benefit from a DUI diversion program.

If the judge grants the opportunity to place you in a diversion program, you will need to sign away your right to a speedy trial. That is because your case will be continued for a period of up to 24 months, to allow you time to successfully complete the diversion program.

You will need to complete all requirements ordered by the court, such as drug or alcohol treatment, AAA meeting participation, victim impact panels, counseling, or other diversion efforts. You may be required to comply with an order of protection or be prohibited from possessing firearms. You may also be ordered to pay restitution to a victim if you damaged property while driving under the influence.

What About My Driver’s License?

There are two processes involved with DUI arrests. One is the criminal prosecution—DUI diversion programs are relevant to that process.

The other process is the administrative process, administered by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Dismissals by the DMV are extremely challenging; however, they are not unobtainable. If you are not successful with the DMV hearing, your driver’s license will be suspended, and you will need to apply for restricted driving privileges. Moreover, you will be required to purchase special insurance coverage for the suspension period and may be required to install an alcohol ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

What Are the Benefits of DUI Diversion Programs in California?

The obvious benefit of completing a DUI diversion program is to avoid criminal prosecution and a conviction on your criminal record. If you successfully complete all requirements to the satisfaction of the court, the misdemeanor DUI charges will be dismissed and the file of your arrest and diversion program participation will be sealed.

If you are ever arrested for DUI again, it will be treated as another first DUI rather than a second. That greatly reduces the penalties you face for reoffending. The positive impact a California DUI diversion program can have on your life is tremendous.

Keep in mind that a DUI conviction can not only result in jail time, fines, restitution, and treatment orders. You can also lose your job, licensure, or certification and be barred from certain employment. You may not qualify for admission to certain schools or for student loans so long as the conviction is on your criminal record. It can affect your personal relationships, including custody and visitation rights with your children.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer is always the best decision when arrested for DUI. When so much is riding on being granted the opportunity to participate in a DUI diversion program, the skill, reputation, tenacity, and integrity of your attorney are crucial.

At Underwood Law Firm, we consider it a privilege to represent our clients from Bakersfield, California, and neighboring areas. We are passionate about what we do and committed to striving for the best results possible for each and every client we serve. No matter your situation, we are here to help.

If you have been arrested for DUI, reach out to the Underwood Law Firm about DUI diversion programs in California. DUI cases are extremely time sensitive, so do not delay. Call us now for a one-on-one consultation.