In some jurisdictions, first-time or less-serious DUI offenses may be eligible for DUI diversion programs. How do these programs work?
In a typical DUI diversion program, the defendant is required to meet certain specified conditions, like completing classes or performing community service. Once the conditions are met, the prosecutor or judge typically dismisses the DUI charge.
DUI diversion programs are offered because prosecutors and courts realize that sometimes a DUI is a mistake. Diversion allows the defendant to rehabilitate himself and demonstrate that he is capable of behaving responsibly.
A Guilty Plea May Be Required
Most often, only first-time DUI offenders and drunken drivers who don't cause injury or property damage may be eligible for DUI diversion programs. Each state has different rules (and possibly different names) for their programs.
For example, states commonly require that the defendant first plead guilty to the DUI; other states may allow deferred adjudication, meaning that they will only go after the defendant if he cannot successfully complete the program.
How a Suspended Sentence Works
A suspended sentence is probably the most common form of DUI diversion program. Here's what a suspended sentence generally involves:
- The defendant pleads guilty. Unlike deferred adjudication, a defendant pleads guilty and is sentenced for the DUI. However, the sentence given is suspended for a time to allow the defendant to meet the terms of the diversion program.
- The defendant agrees to perform (or not perform) some specific act. Prosecutors and the defendant will then enter into an agreement for the defendant to behave in a certain way. This can include community service, or an agreement that the defendant not commit any crimes, use drugs, or drive drunk. If the defendant is able to abide by these terms for the specified period of time, the charges may be dismissed.
- Conviction. If the defendant fails to live up to the terms of the agreement, the suspended sentence will become active. So if the defendant was originally sentenced to one year in jail, the sentence will become effective upon violation of the terms of the suspended sentence.