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Current DUI diversion law has led to inconsistent consequences


A state law that took effect at the beginning of 2021 sought to mitigate the consequences for many Californians facing their first DUI. The law allows judges to order those charged with a first-time DUI to participate in a new misdemeanor diversion program instead of going to jail.

That program mandates that defendants participate in some kind of recovery program or community service while their case is placed on hold. At the end of that program (typically after a year or two), their charges could potentially be erased from their record

However, the law has been the subject of multiple appeals cases and calls for changes. Among other problems, according to those opposed to the law in its current form is that it’s contradictory to a section of the California Vehicle Code that prohibits suspension of charges for participation in such programs “prior to acquittal or conviction.”

Contradictory appellate rulings and a new piece of legislation

Los Angeles and Orange County appellate courts ruled that DUI defendants don’t qualify for the misdemeanor diversion program. A Riverside appellate court ruled that they do. These rulings have led to very different outcomes for people charged with the same crime. The California Supreme Court has not yet taken up the matter.

In an effort to clarify and strengthen the law, the California Senate has been considering a bill (SB 421) that would make a number of changes, including requiring people to have an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle while they’re in the program. The Senate is currently in recess.

If you’re facing a DUI charge, it’s crucial to know what the current laws are around these offenses. That’s just one reason why it’s wise to seek experienced legal guidance to help protect your rights and your future.

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