​What Is the DUI Diversion Program?​

Published On: October 30, 2022By

In California, police officers arrest thousands of drivers each year for driving under the influence—or DUI. A small percentage of these charges are felonies, while the vast majority are misdemeanors. ​

Misdemeanor charges may still carry significant penalties upon conviction. Moreover, when drivers have any criminal conviction on their record—whether felony or misdemeanor—they may experience various collateral consequences. For example, they may have difficulty finding or keeping a job, finding a place to live, or gaining admission to the educational institution of their choice. Many employers, landlords, and schools perform online background checks on applicants. If they find a DUI conviction on your record, they may think twice before accepting you. ​

In some instances, however, drivers facing misdemeanor DUI charges have the opportunity to keep the conviction off their record. They can do this by participating in a DUI diversion program. ​

If you currently face DUI charges, you must retain an experienced DUI defense lawyer to represent you throughout your entire criminal case. Failing to have knowledgeable legal counsel on board can be a serious mistake. Moreover, the presiding judge may assume you are waiving your right to legal representation if you show up to your court hearing without an attorney present. Consequently, they can make you go forward with your case without a lawyer. ​

An experienced DUI defense attorney can be extremely helpful to you at every stage of your criminal case. First, your DUI defense lawyer can explain all of your legal options to you in clear and easy-to-understand terms. Your attorney can also help you enroll in a DUI diversion program if you are eligible to participate. Finally, your DUI lawyer can represent you in court at all legal proceedings and advocate for your legal interests there. ​

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DUI Legal Standards ​

Every state in the country has DUI standards to determine whether a driver is legally intoxicated. A police officer usually determines a driver’s intoxication level by subjecting them to a Breathalyzer test or other chemical testing, such as a urine test.​

When a driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher, they are legally intoxicated. A 0.04 percent BAC cut-off applies to commercial drivers, including individuals who operate tractor-trailers, big rigs, and 18-wheelers. Finally, a 0.01 percent cut-off applies to minor drivers who are under 21 years old.​

When chemical testing or Breathalyzer evidence reveals that a driver’s BAC exceeds the legal standard, a police officer can arrest them for DUI. If they ultimately sustain a conviction on their DUI charge, they may be subject to various legal and administrative penalties.​

Legal Burden of Proof in a DUI Criminal Case​

In a criminal DUI case, the state prosecutor handling the claim has the sole legal burden of proof. The criminal defendant—or the person the police officer placed under arrest—does not need to prove anything in the case. ​

To obtain a guilty finding or conviction against a defendant, the state prosecutor must establish that at the time of arrest, the driver was operating a vehicle—and that their BAC exceeded the legal limit. If the state prosecutor obtains a conviction against the driver, a judge will determine the penalties to impose against the offending driver. ​

In some instances, an experienced DUI defense lawyer can raise a strong legal defense on your behalf in court. Legal defense can work to negate one or more legal elements of the criminal charge, preventing the prosecutor from establishing their burden of proof.

Common legal defenses that may apply in a DUI case include:​

  • Faulty Breathalyzer equipment
  • Length of time which elapsed between the time of your arrest and the time when the police officer obtained the Breathalyzer evidence
  • Presence of a health condition that prevented you from passing a field sobriety test
  • Improper traffic stop, including one that violated your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • Improper police questioning that violated your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination—such as when a police officer continued to ask you questions even after you requested an attorney​

If a judge or jury believes your defense, the state prosecutor may be unable to obtain a conviction against you. As a result, your entire criminal case may be subject to dismissal. ​

An experienced DUI defense attorney in your area can review the circumstances of your arrest with you and determine if you are eligible to raise one or more legal defenses to your criminal charge in court. If so, your lawyer can argue those defenses while representing you at your DUI hearing. ​

Burdens of Proof Chart

Potential Penalties Upon a DUI Conviction

The DUI penalties that a driver incurs following a DUI conviction may depend upon several factors, including the amount of alcohol that was in their system at the time of their arrest, whether they caused an accident in which other drivers or passengers suffered injuries, and whether they have any prior DUI convictions on their record.

Common penalties that offending drivers incur upon conviction for DUI include:​

  • High monetary fines
  • Jail time, depending upon the Breathalyzer reading and the number of prior DUI convictions a driver has on their record, if any.
  • Probation
  • Payment of restitution if the offender damaged property.
  • Participation in counseling or a court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation and treatment program
  • Loss of driving privileges and, in some instances, permanent revocation of a driver’s license
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on the offending driver’s vehicle​

Sometimes, a judge may order you to install an IID on your vehicle after sustaining a DUI conviction. These machines are personal Breathalyzer devices that a driver must blow into as soon as they get behind the wheel. If the device detects any alcohol on their breath, the vehicle will not start. ​

Drivers must first pay to have the IID installed on their vehicle. They must also pay for regular maintenance costs. ​

If you are currently facing a criminal DUI charge, it is important to retain an experienced DUI defense lawyer to represent you as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you avoid many of these legal penalties—along with the collateral consequences typically associated with a conviction—by raising a strong defense to your charge in court. Alternatively, your lawyer can work with the state prosecutor handling your claim to negotiate a favorable plea deal on your behalf. ​

Plea Deals in DUI Cases​

In some instances, the state prosecutor handling your case may offer you a favorable plea deal. In a plea deal arrangement, the defendant usually agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a charge reduction, a reduced penalty, or a term of probation. For example, in exchange for a guilty plea, a state prosecutor might be willing to reduce a criminal DUI charge down to reckless driving—which will obviously result in lighter penalties. The prosecutor might also agree to a term of probation in exchange for an admission of guilt from the defendant.​

By pleading guilty to DUI or a lower charge, criminal defendants give up certain rights, including their constitutional right to a trial by jury—and their right to appeal. Moreover, when they agree to a plea deal, they must state in court—on the record—that they are entering into the agreement freely and voluntarily. Finally, plea deals are subject to final approval by the presiding judge.​

An experienced DUI defense lawyer in your area can help you determine whether a particular plea deal is “good” under the circumstances. Your lawyer can also help you decide whether you should accept a particular plea deal, present the state prosecutor with a “counter-offer,” or take your case to a jury trial. If you choose the latter option, the jury will listen to the evidence your lawyer presents and determine your guilt or innocence. ​

What Is a DUI Diversion Program?​

Participating in a DUI diversion program is another way for some criminal defendants to escape a conviction for their charge. As part of a diversion program, the offender can complete drug and alcohol treatment, education, and support programs. The purpose of these programs is to allow DUI offenders the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves so that they will not become re-offenders. The judge who handles your criminal case has sole discretion when determining your eligibility to participate in one of these diversion programs. ​

To increase your chances of eligibility for participation, your DUI defense attorney can prepare a compelling argument—and submit compelling evidence in court—to show that you will likely benefit from a diversion program if given the opportunity.​

If the sentencing judge allows you to participate in a diversion program, you must waive your constitutional right to a speedy jury trial. This is because the court must postpone your case for a maximum of two years, allowing you the necessary time to participate in and complete your diversion program.

As part of the program, you may need to complete:​

  • Drug and alcohol treatment sessions
  • Participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Counseling sessions
  • Victim impact panels​

Moreover, as part of your program participation, the court may bar you from possessing firearms and require you to comply with a protection order. Finally, if you damaged property while operating your vehicle under the influence of alcohol, you may need to pay restitution to the victim. ​

Driver’s License Issues Following a DUI Arrest​

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) handles the administrative process of a DUI arrest, and arrestees usually have to attend a DMV hearing. If you are unsuccessful at your hearing, the DMV will suspend your driver’s license. When that happens, you must apply for a license with restricted driving privileges. ​

In addition to applying for a license, you may need to:​

  • Purchase a special type of insurance coverage during the period when your driver’s license is suspended
  • Install an IID on your vehicle for use during the driver’s license suspension period​

Although DMV dismissals sometimes happen, they are rare. Therefore, it is important that you have an experienced DUI defense lawyer representing you during your DMV hearing and advocating on your behalf. ​

Potential Benefits of a DUI Diversion Program​

Participating in a DUI diversion program has several obvious benefits. First, by taking part in the program, you avoid a lengthy criminal prosecution—not to mention the possibility of a criminal conviction on your record. Moreover, if you complete all of the program requirements successfully, your misdemeanor DUI charges will be subject to a complete dismissal.

Moreover, the court will seal the file, which contains information about your participation in the program and your arrest. Therefore, if a prospective employer, landlord, or educational institution ever asks whether you have a criminal conviction on your record, you can truthfully answer, “no.”​

In addition, if a police officer arrests you for DUI at some point in the future, the court will treat your arrest as a first-time DUI rather than as a second DUI. This may significantly reduce the penalties you face if you ultimately sustain a conviction. ​Learn more about reduced and harsher penalties regarding DUI cases with our criminal defense blog.

Call a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible​

If a police officer arrests you for DUI and starts asking you questions, you should immediately insist upon the presence of a criminal defense lawyer. You should not answer any questions until a lawyer is present with you—either in person or on the phone. If you request legal counsel’s presence and a police officer continues questioning you, then your responses may be subject to suppression by the court later on. ​

If you are currently pending a criminal DUI charge, it is vital that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side advocating for you throughout your case. First and foremost, a skilled lawyer will ensure that your legal and constitutional rights remain protected while your case is pending. Moreover, a DUI lawyer can represent you throughout your entire DUI case. ​

In addition to representing you during police questioning, an experienced DUI defense lawyer can represent you at all stages of your case, including during plea deal negotiations, at criminal trials, and at sentencing hearings. If appropriate, your lawyer can recommend that you participate in a DUI diversion program—and work to lessen or eliminate the potential consequences of a guilty finding or conviction. Your attorney will zealously advocate for your legal interests at all times and help you pursue the best possible result that’s available to you.

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