What Is The Current Status Of Diversion For DUI In San Francisco County As Of April 2021?
Diversion, under Penal Code Section 1001.95 in California, is brand new this year. It passed the legislature last year, and we’re hoping that it lasts because there are attempts to get rid of it for DUIs. There are some multiple offense DUIs that will qualify, but there are many things that need to be considered in determining whether you’ll be eligible for a diversion.
Many people will question if they need a lawyer if they qualify for a diversion, to which the answer is yes. Since timing in these situations is so crucial, an attorney who can work both the Court and the DMV separate cases will significantly help your situation. A DUI lawyer who knows what they’re doing can advise you through the two different processes, Explain the nuances, and help you make the right decisions at the right time, ensuring you stay in the loop throughout it all.
If a judge grants a diversion, the defendant will have a period of time to complete specific requirements and programs. If one is successful in completing the terms of diversion, their case will be diverted out of the criminal court system, avoiding any charges on their criminal record. In almost 30 years of experience practicing DUI defense, DUI Diversion is something that has never been available in California and it is an amazing benefit to our clients.
While some other states have adopted programs like diversion, it is entirely new for California. Due to this and the area where we practice, I will be discussing Diversion in San Francisco, which seems to be the leader in the Bay Area when it comes to opening its arms to the new diversion laws. There have been recent positive steps seen in Alameda, Sonoma, and Marin Counties where judges have begun to grant diversion motions on first offense DUIs on a more limited basis than we’ve seen in San Francisco. I’ve had a number of these diversion motions granted over the last couple of months in San Francisco, and I have some extremely happy clients because of it.
If you are offered a diversion, a judge will give you the terms and ask if you accept them. Typically, it will be a period between six months to two years, in which you and your attorney will have to return to court to report on your progress during this time. It may be challenging to show up in court on the day the Judge is determining whether to grant your diversion, especially during these times, but I believe a Judge should see a defendant’s interest in their case when we are asking for a diversion to be granted.
Depending upon the level of alcohol in your system, the judge will likely require a DUI school, as well as AA meetings, community service requirements, or things of that nature. Luckily, there is no fine, meaning that you will save roughly 2,000 by receiving a diversion. The other significant benefit of a diversion is that there will be no criminal charge on your record when applying for many professional licenses or workplaces. While it may be unbelievable, there was overwhelming support for this new system in the legislature. They don’t want people on the first time DUI to have a stigma of having this criminal conviction and want to give people a chance to address their problems, pay their dues to society, and be able to move on.
One of the most beneficial differences is the lack of a three-year probation after your first offense when a diversion was not available. Even if you wouldn’t have to see your probation officer, there would still be a six-month jail sentence looming if you were to slip up. So, with the diversion, you’re diverted out of the criminal system, which you will not be placed back into unless you fail to meet any of the requirements.
While Diversion motions have been granted in San Francisco, Alameda, Sonoma, and Marin Counties, most of the other five Bay Area counties have been very resistant to this change and have granted next to no diversions. However, in San Francisco, we have seen a relatively liberal distribution of diversions, even when charges may have been much more serious than a first DUI with an alcohol level under .15 percent. In Alameda County, there is a more strictly enforced limit on which the DA will not object to a diversion, from what I understand. But in my experience, even when some of my clients had more severe allegations or stale priors, they were still granted diversions in San Francisco.
An attorney discussing the option of Diversion should make it clear that the client must take necessary steps from day one to help us get a Diversion granted. Typically, those steps are starting AA, making sure that you have the meetings documented, and in some instances, doing either residential treatment or outpatient programs. Sometimes we recommend doing an alcohol assessment with your healthcare provider. Enrolling in DUI school as soon as possible is essential, and it takes a while to get registered because several schools are closed, and the open ones are backed up sometimes a month or more to get one enrolled. Every case is different, and the advice I give varies from case to case.
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