How Is San Francisco County Handling The DUI Diversion Program Compared To Neighboring Counties In The Bay Area?
As of early April 2021, San Francisco and Alameda County (and we can add in Marin and Sonoma Counties as of Mid-April 2021) are the Bay Area counties receptive to diversions on first offense DUIs. Alameda County is less receptive than San Francisco so far, to my understanding, and if you’re at or above about a 0.15 alcohol level, the DA will object to diversion on a DUI Case. San Francisco has clearly been the most open county in determining that someone is suitable for a diversion. We’re getting Diversion for most of our clients on first offense DUIs unless there’s something extreme with someone’s prior record. There are specific facts and circumstances where the court will say no, or maybe it’s just not appropriately presented by an experienced lawyer. If it’s done correctly with a good DUI lawyer, you should be able to get a diversion granted in most first offense cases in San Francisco. It is important to understand that a DUI Diversion is not automatic, and there are a number of things you and your attorney will need to do to qualify. We’ve seen many requests for DUI Diversion in San Francisco rejected due to attorney’s not following proper procedures and those procedures have changed almost weekly for the last few months.
In most counties in California, Courts have been resistant to grant diversions and they continue to cite old law to hide behind their unwillingness to do what the Legislature has instructed them to do with the passing of Penal Code 1001.95. Even though I believe they are wrong, judges in many counties are digging their heels in and stating that DUI’s are not eligible for diversions. When you interpret the law the way it’s supposed to be analyzed and look at the legislative history, I firmly believe that these courts should all be saying that DUIs are eligible for Diversion.
We have a very liberal legislature in Sacramento. They overwhelmingly voted in favor of this, and we will see if any changes are made in the future. There is a new Bill in the Legislature trying to reverse the current law that Penal Code Section 1001.95 brought us for 2021. Currently you will likely get a diversion granted in San Francisco if it is your first offense and you have the right local and experienced DUI Lawyer representing you.
Once a court determines that DUI’s are eligible for Diversion, they next need to address the question of suitability. Is the defendant suitable for diversion? This means analyzing whether a person will genuinely better themselves and complete and self-help programs, including DUI School, which I believe the courts should allow people the chance to do. They don’t want people on first offenses to have this conviction, making it much more challenging to get ahead in life. The legislature has decided it wants to give people a second chance. There are other consequences for drunk driving, like suspended licenses and ignition interlocks, but they wanted to leave it up to the court system to decide what is appropriate for each individual.
There are certain types of DUI cases where someone’s not going to qualify for Diversion. In injury accidents, especially with severe injuries, I don’t expect to see judges granting a diversion. But thankfully, since most instances do not fall into that category, many people will receive a second chance. I know in Southern California that some parts of LA and other places have been a lot more receptive to Diversion for Drunk Driving Cases, but most of the state is still very resistant. April has seen the first major turning point where in Counties with previously resistant Judges, those courts are starting to understand this new law and implement it as the legislature intended.
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