Diversion Programs in DUI Cases

A "diversion" program is a program that intervenes to take an accused person out of the criminal courts, and to handle a first offense in a way that offers a second chance. That is, it diverts a first offender out of the criminal justice system, and resolves his or her case without a criminal conviction. Diversion programs are often created to handle situations where the offender is unlikely to re-offend. Diversion has become popular in cases with youthful offenders and with offenses where the offender is more likely to be wealthy, and white. 

As the State Attorney's Office in the 12th Judicial Circuit puts it, diversion programs seek "to aggressively target first time, non-aggravated DUI offenders to reduce impaired driving by imposing enhanced educational and rehabilitative sanctions including ignition interlock devices, alcohol monitoring devices, work offender sanctions, and enhanced victim impact education."

In many jurisdictions in Florida, these diversion programs are being instituted in DUI cases. In Key West, Florida, first-time DUI offenders may take advantage of the "Back on Track" program. And in Sarasota and Manatee Counties, the State Attorney's Office has recently instituted a program called "DETER," an acronym for Driver Enhanced Treatment Education Rehabilitation.  

Sarasota and Manatee Counties

In the 12th Judicial Circuit, the DUI diversion program is available to first-offender DUI defendants who have not caused an accident and whose breath alcohol was not in excess of 0.20. DETER-eligible defendants are divided into three levels:

  1. Level 1-BAC at or below .15
  2. Level 2-BAC between .15 and .20, or a refusal to provide a sample
  3. Level 3-Drug related DUI's. 

The defendant will sign a form agreeing to participate in the DETER program, waive speedy trial, agree to complete the pre-plea sanctions, and agree to set the case for court disposition in approximately sixty (60) days.

Before disposition, the offender must provide proof of completion of the pre-plea sanctions to the State Attorney's Office.

When a person has been determined to qualify for DETER, the case is taken off of the court's docket for 60 days. During that 60 day period, the defendant must 

  1. Remain crime-free and stay compliant with any conditions of bond or supervised release;
  2. Complete DUI school and begin recommended treatment;
  3. Complete MADD Online Victim Impact Program (www.maddvip.org);

In addition:

Level 1 and Level 2 offenders must:

  • Provide proof of installation of ignition interlock alcohol monitoring device or, if they do not own a vehicle, proof of a continuous alcohol monitoring device (PAM OR SCRAM);
  • Complete two (2) work offender days for Level 1 offenses, and
  • four (4) work offender days for Level 2 offenses.

Level 3 offenders must:

  • Provide proof of installation of ignition interlock alcohol monitoring device or, if they do not own a vehicle, proof of a continuous alcohol monitoring device (PAM OR SCRAM);
  • Not possess or consume alcohol, illegal drugs, or non- prescribed drugs;
  • Submit to weekly urinalysis;
  • Complete four (4) work offender days.

At disposition, if the offender has completed the pre-plea sanctions, he or she may accept the plea offer, enter a plea, and be sentenced on a Reckless Driving, and have the adjudication withheld. There are three primary advantages to this result:

  1. The defendant finishes the case without a criminal record. They can honestly answer "no" when asked if they have ever been convicted of a crime.
  2. The defendant avoids the onerous penalty of carrying FR-44 insurance for three years after a DUI conviction. This alone can save a person between $10,000 and $12,000 over three years. 
  3. There is no additional suspension of drivers license. Most DUI defendants have had their licenses suspended from the day of their arrest, but get an ADDITIONAL suspension upon conviction. A DETER participant receives no license suspension other than the initial administrative suspension from the DHSMV.

This is complicated stuff. And not every defendant should go into diversion. We have had several clients who declined diversion and had their cases either dismissed or reduced to Reckless Driving without having to jump through the hoops above. 

 Key West (Monroe County)

The diversion program in Monroe County is known as "Back on Track." It is quite different from the DETER program. In BOT, the defendant has to complete all of the terms of his sentence before the plea is entered. This means that many cases take over a year to be resolved, while the defendant completes the terms.

Monroe County Back on Track Program

The result of Back on Track is the same as with DETER. The DUI charge is reduced to a Reckless Driving, and adjudication is withheld. That means, as above:

  1. The defendant finishes the case without a criminal record. They can honestly answer "no" when asked if they have ever been convicted of a crime.
  2. The defendant avoids the onerous penalty of carrying FR-44 insurance for three years after a DUI conviction. This alone can save a person between $10,000 and $12,000 over three years. 
  3. There is no additional suspension of drivers license. Most DUI defendants have had their licenses suspended from the day of their arrest, but get an ADDITIONAL suspension upon conviction. A DETER participant receives no license suspension other

Once the defendant enters a plea to a Reckless Driving, they are immediately released from the case, because they have already finished all of the penalties before entering the plea. 

Again, not every DUI defendant should accept diversion. Sometimes, there is a genuine issue which weighs in favor of going to trial, or demanding a lesser offense without the hurdles above.  We have had several clients who declined diversion and had their cases either dismissed or reduced to Reckless Driving without having to jump through hoops. 

Board Certification in DUI Defense

Board_20Certification_20Certificate-small.jpg

Tom Hudson passed the National Board Certification Examination (written and oral) in Honolulu in 2008, and was recertified in 2013. He was one of the first 50 lawyers granted national board certification in DUI Defense, and is nationally recognized as an authority in DUI law.

Why We're Different

Board Certification as a DUI Specialist by the National College for DUI Defense. Formal NHTSA Certification as an Instructor of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests given by police in DUI cases. Formal training as a NHTSA Drug Recognition Evaluator. ("Drug Evaluation & Classification") Formal training to operate the Intoxilyzer 8000, Florida's official breath test instrument. Extensive experience in teaching other attorneys how to handle DUI cases. Hundreds of jury trials both as defense lawyer and as prosecutor. Florida's State Delegate to the National College for DUI Defense.