According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every year more than 10,000 people die in accidents where alcohol plays a primary factor. This accounts for roughly 30% of all driving deaths. At the same time, more than 15 million Americans also battle with alcohol use disorders. As a result, state laws try to balance punishing this dangerous act with giving people the opportunity to get help for their addiction issues.
This is why many states now offer DUI diversion programs to allow some offenders the opportunity to keep a clean criminal record.
What Are DUI Diversion Programs?
DUI diversion programs provide some offenders the opportunity to have their charges dropped or expunged under certain circumstances. In exchange, the court requires that the person meet the requirements they set out. These can include substance testing, alcohol treatment classes and programs, DUI education courses, and community service.
Some states may require you to plead guilty or no-contest to the DUI charge before you enter the program, and only have your record cleared after the court records your successful completion of all the tasks the program requires. This process is called deferred adjudication.
Who Is Eligible?
DUI Diversion programs are usually only offered to first-time offenders or offenders with less serious DUI charges. Once again, every state has their own specific guidelines regarding program eligibility, and sometimes even individual counties have their own criteria. However, these programs are only offered to first-time offenders and only if their BAC percentage is under a certain level–between 0.15% and 0.20%.
In addition, many states also deny admission to those who have been convicted of or are currently being charged with a serious crime like murder or manslaughter. They may also deny admission if the DUI in question causes serious bodily injury or death to another person.
How Do They Work?
The most common type of DUI diversion programs usually involves a suspended sentence. In other words, if the prosecutor and the judge believe that you are a good candidate for the program, you must first plead guilty or no contest to the charges before you can officially become a part of it. This is to ensure that failure to successfully complete the program leads to consequences. It also leaves the avenue open for the conviction to be cleared if you complete the court’s orders.
After the pleading, the prosecutor and the judge will give instructions on how to begin the diversion program. Once the prosecutor acknowledges that the participant has met every necessary milestone, the program is complete. Depending on the state, the prosecutor will either formally drop the charges, or expunge a DUI from your record. If failed for any reason, the court can impose the original sentence.