Dead And Buried: The End Of The DUI Diversion Program In Marin County, California
This article covers the following:
- What the DUI Diversion Program was in Marin County, California
- How the DUI Diversion Program has been updated and shut down in Marin County
- What the future of DUI diversion and legislation will be in Sacramento and San Francisco
What Is The Current State Of The DUI Diversion Program In Marin County, California?
Over the past few years, many Driving Under The Influence (DUI) misdemeanors in Marin County and other parts of California were diverted out of the criminal system. Many DUI drivers avoided having the offense added to their criminal record by attending classes, courses, and therapy and staying out of trouble for two years.
This was due to the implementation of a 2020 law that has now, unfortunately, been all but completely rolled back.
What Was The California DUI Diversion Program?
In 2020, California’s legislation in Sacramento put forward a new law that allowed for the diversion of DUI cases. Not all DUI cases, but most misdemeanor DUI cases, typically first offenses, were eligible for the diversion.
This meant the drivers would, instead of having the offense added to their criminal record, complete other penalties such as DUI school or community service, as well as any number of additional conditions such as self-help, therapy, AA meetings, and so forth.
Not all counties in California adopted the process or allowed for such diversions, but Marin County was among those that did choose to follow the new law. Unfortunately, that started to change by the end of 2021.
A Dearth Of DUI Diversions
By the end of 2021, the judicial system in Marin County shifted away from implementing the diversion program. Indeed, appeals to get cases diverted were no longer being accepted or won, and by the beginning of 2022, DUI cases, even first-time misdemeanors, were no longer eligible for diversion.
While some had hoped for diversions to return in 2022 through a new law or an appellate ruling, this proved not to be the case. This means that if you are faced with a DUI offense, your only option is to try and get it dismissed, accept a negotiated disposition, or go to trial.
A good DUI lawyer in Marin County will still be able to file motions to try to undermine a prosecution’s case, for example by rendering evidence ineligible. Unfortunately, they will no longer be able to get a DUI misdemeanor diverted, though other misdemeanors are still eligible for diversion.
What Is The Future Of DUI Diversions In Marin County?
DUI diversions, unfortunately, do not seem to be likely to return anytime soon to Marin County. No new legislation has been proposed to remedy the situation, and politicians seem unlikely to take it on.
Politicians are too afraid of changing a law that might make them look “soft” on DUIs and cost them during elections. They are more concerned with their ability to remain in office than helping those who need it.
There may be plenty of good politicians, but they do not seem willing to step up on this issue. While you can always hope, the future of DUI diversion in Marin County, just as in other counties in the San Francisco Bay area or all of California, seems bleak.
How Did The DUI Diversion Program Come About In Marin County, California?
In California, and specifically in the San Francisco Bay area, DUI diversion arose as an option for clients in 2021 based on the application of a 2020 California legislature law. It allowed a large number of misdemeanor crimes to be diverted, i.e., not go onto your permanent criminal record, if a certain number of conditions were fulfilled.
There were very few counties in Northern California that actually chose to adopt the law, however. In the San Francisco area, these were Marin County, Alameda County, and Sonoma County. The other five counties chose not to allow it as a legal strategy.
These counties were far more limited in the types of DUIs for which it could apply, basically only for first-time DUIs. However, in Marin County, a number of second-offense DUIs were granted DUI diversion. Which only benefited everyone involved.
Why Is DUI Diversion No Longer An Option In Marin County?
A return to such DUI diversion is now, unfortunately, not on the legislative horizon. There’s no new law coming up and the past implementation of the law has been completely undermined.
Appeals occurred in 2021, where prosecutors tried to get rid of the new law and succeeded. The appellate court ruled that it conflicts with a standing law that does not allow for diversion for DUI cases. Unless the old law is removed, you’re not getting a DUI diversion in California.
Why Is A DUI Diversion Program Unlikely In The Near Future?
While some proponents hope that the legislature will bring forward a new bill and then have it turn into a new law that could override the ruling, there have been no signs of success on that front.
Some attempts have been made, but they have not been met with much success. Unfortunately, these new attempts were undermined by, among others, interlock companies and other interested parties.
Interlocks, for those not familiar with California’s latest technological solution for reducing DUIs, are small breath test devices attached to ignition devices in vehicles to make sure a DUI offender cannot take the wheel with any alcohol in them.
Their attempts to try to get longer interlock times are clearly a matter of self-interest for the companies, but their tactics fail to address the underlying judicial problems.
Should We Bring Back DUI Diversion Programs?
There are many in the judicial field who work with DUI cases and would like to see diversion programs return.
From a sampling of over 50 DUI cases in San Francisco, Marin, or Alameda County, in which DUI diversions were implemented, zero reoffended. While certainly, this was not true in every case, the proportion of re-offenders, especially in San Francisco, was very, very small.
DUI diversion worked because those who got arrested for DUIs immediately got the help they needed. They had to go to self-help, AA meetings, therapy, and/or get enrolled in DUI school. Taking these steps immediately helped them stop drinking, change their ways, and reevaluate their lives. This helped avoid future incidents right away instead of waiting four to six months, or even a year, before eventually getting convicted and then dealing with the penalties.
DUI diversion required people to immediately show the court that they were amenable to treatment, a great way to reduce the number of DUI cases and drunk driving incidents, not only in the San Francisco Bay area but also in the country as a whole.
Why Are DUI Diversions More Effective Than Hard Sentences?
Everyone is in favor of having fewer drivers under the influence because that means fewer people are hurt or killed. Unfortunately, MAD and other organizations’ calls to “stick them all in jail” fails to take a nuanced approach or understand some of the issues at the heart of the problem. It is clearly not working.
When the state did have something that was working, the pro-prosecution attitude of many counties ended up undermining it. They could not fathom the fact that there are better ways to help people, such as DUI diversion. They did not want to open their eyes, or give people a chance when it is more politically expedient to be “tough”.
We need to look at our society as a whole and see what works and what is good for everyone, and what keeps people safe. Unfortunately, this perspective is one that the people who argued against DUI diversions, and the judges that ruled against it, completely missed out on. Right now, the California legislature is, unfortunately, dropping the ball.
DUI Diversion Offered California, And Marin County, A Unique Opportunity
A good DUI lawyer, while they fight to defend the constitutional rights of their clients, wants fewer DUIs just like everyone else. But they are in an excellent position to understand what works, and what does not.
DUI diversions worked to reduce the number of DUI cases, as well as to alleviate burdensome penalties and negative impact on the lives of the accused. We can still hope that someday soon, a safety committee in Sacramento or the legislature will evaluate the program again and look at the numbers.
In a couple of years, they will look at the numbers from 2021, from those that got DUI diversions and how their cases differed from those who did not. Hopefully, that will finally convince them to bring back the program. It was a great thing and it’s a shame that it was shut down so quickly.
In the meantime, though, the consequence is that being charged with a DUI is a more pressing matter than ever in Marin County, and if you should find yourself in that unfortunate circumstance, it is vital to get a qualified and experienced attorney to defend your case.
For more information on DUI Diversion Program For Marin County, CA, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 886-6333 today.