A DUI violation could affect your career, freedom, and life. However, if you are a military member, you are eligible for the Military Diversion Program that allows you to undergo treatment and counseling instead of a criminal sentence. The Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm can help you to get this diversion program if you are in Vista or the greater North County. We have helped many veterans, and we will fight to ensure your reduced penalties plea is a success.
An Overview of Military DUI Diversion Program
Military officers are more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that can make active military members and veterans make wrong decisions in life. Military members who have PTSD should be appreciated and they definitely deserve a second chance. As a result, California introduced a law that allows men and women in uniform convicted with driving under the influence offenses to undergo treatment in the place of incarceration.
The history of California DUI military diversion law originates from the veteran treatment courts. These courts allowed defendants to plead guilty to a crime, undergo counseling for a period of two to three years and then those charges would be dismissed.
Although the program was successful, the fact that it required military members to plead guilty would put defendants at the risk of losing essential employment opportunities as well as military benefits. That is why California later expanded the program in 2014 and allowed eligible candidates to enroll in the treatment program without entering a guilty plea.
However, the expansion of the diversion program didn't specify whether driving under the influence qualifies for diversion. That meant every court was to determine whether a military man or woman accused with DUI was eligible for diversion or not.
This changed with the signing of Senate Bill 725 in August 2017 by Governor Edmund G. Brown. According to the new bill, DUI qualifies for diversions. Candidates must also have PTSD, military sexual trauma or traumatic brain injury. The arrest is also removed from their record if they successfully complete the treatment program. The treatment varies from one court to another and needs to be negotiated between your lawyer, the judge and the prosecutor.
How Military DUI Diversion Program Works
According to California Penal Code 1001.80, a military diversion is a substitute of jail time in a misdemeanor charge against active military members or veterans. To get diversion, the accused does not plead guilty. Instead, the judge postpones the court proceeding while the accused engages in education and treatment programs. Upon completion of the programs, the charges against the accused are dismissed.
Military DUI Diversion Program Eligibility
Eligibility is only available to those facing misdemeanor charges. Basically, that means, you qualify even if you are charged with many offenses as long as they are all misdemeanors.
- You must be an active member of the US armed service or have serviced in the military
- Currently suffering from sexual trauma, PTSD, brain injury, a mental problem that is due to your service in armed forces or suffers alcohol or drugs addiction
- Must not have enrolled in a military diversion program previously
- One should waive their right to a speedy trial and consent to enroll in a military diversion program
Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a mental disorder that is developed after going through or witnessing a terrifying or life-threatening event. Most victims experience challenges adjusting and coping but get better with time and proper support system in place. If the symptoms last for months and affect your daily functioning, chances are you are suffering from PTSD.
- A person with PTSD will repeatedly recall the terrifying experience through memories and thoughts. It may also include nightmares, flashbacks, and hallucinations.
- Patients may avoid situations, thoughts, people, and places that remind them of the trauma. It can also lead to detachment from loved ones and loss of interest in things the victims loved participating in.
- Increased arousal
- Rapid breathing
Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), military sexual trauma is sexual harassment or assault experienced during military service. It also consists of any sexual activity a victim gets involved with against their will. Perfect examples are and not limited to rape, penetration using an object, forced oral copulation, coerced sex, groping, threatening sexual advances, and invasive remarks about sexual activities or one's body.
Anyone can experience military sexual trauma regardless of the gender although women are at a higher risk. Like any trauma, MST has adverse effects on the victim's both physical and mental health.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the disruption of normal brain functioning. It is caused by a jolt, bump or blow to a victim's head or a penetrating head injury. These injuries can cause long-term complications or even death.
Some of the symptoms may manifest straightaway after the ordeal while others may take days or weeks to appear. Victims experience difficulty with:
- Judgment and reasoning
- Planning and organization
- Decision making
- Commencing or completing a task
- Mood swings and irritability
Are There Events that Can Disqualify You from Participating in Military Diversion Program?
If you had been convicted with an offense similar to the misdemeanor you are currently facing, it is advisable to look for a post-conviction appearance in the veterans treatment court. This is because you should enroll in the military diversion program once. The veteran treatment court will offer better structure and supervision as well as have your conviction dismissed.
How to Get to Military DUI Diversion Program
If you are eligible for a military DUI diversion program, inform your lawyer immediately so that they can submit the Waiver of Rights Form (also referred to as Military Diversion Request) and other essential paperwork for enrolment. This needs to be filed before the final determination of the case.
Once the judge receives your Military Diversion Request, they will cancel your court hearing date. And set another hearing date to determine your eligibility. The District Attorney's Office will also receive Military Diversion Request together with your court hearing date.
Your lawyers should serve the District Attorney with a Motion for admission to the military diversion program and a statement with eligibility proof to enroll in the program. Additionally, your attorney should offer all backup documents as required by the law. They include evidence of service in the military, a professional evaluation that you are suffering from one of the maladies mentioned above, treatment plan and treatment recommendation from a certified medical practitioner.
All this should be done at least 15 days before your hearing date. If the court objects your admission to the program, the District Attorney should file their opposition five days before the hearing date.
If the court finds you fit for the military diversion program, your request for admission is granted and the charges against postponed until you complete the program. The court will also attach terms and conditions to your admission as well as set a court hearing date to confirm you enrolled and are in compliance with the terms given.
The Common Terms and Conditions Given
You must act in accordance with all terms and conditions enacted by the judge. They include:
- Attending treatment sessions
- Submission to random testing for alcohol or drugs
- Counseling for substance abuse
- You are also required to enroll in and complete an alcohol/drug treatment program at an approved treatment agency. Moreover, you should have a treatment evaluator.
- The prosecutor and the court will also require evaluation reports on your progress from your treatment agency every six months.
The Available Diversion Programs
The military diversion program will use resources available to current and former military men and women to treat mental health-related issues. You will also participate in the United States Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA), community, county, and federal treatment programs. These services include anger management therapy, substance abuse treatment, PTSD counseling, and domestic violence counseling.
What Happens if Your Petition for Military DUI Diversion Program is Denied?
In any event, your petition for military DUI diversion program is denied, your case proceeds in the conventional criminal justice system. That means you are vulnerable to penalties linked to your offense. Some of the punishments you will face include:
- Suspension of your driver's license
- Probation of five or more years
- Compulsory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
- Mandatory completion of drugs and alcohol classes
- Jail time
The above punishments for DUI offenses are severe and have a lasting impact on one's both personal and professional life. It is the therefore important to consult an experienced attorney immediately you are denied military DUI diversion. Your lawyer should be able to convince the civilian judge to impose other sentencing options that can help reduce the harshness of a sentence.
What Happens if You Successfully Complete Your Military DUI Diversion Program?
If you comply with all terms and conditions placed by the court on your admission to the program and complete the program, the court will discharge the charges against you upon a court hearing that determines your compliance with the terms.
Moreover no diversion or arrest record that would lead to denial of employment opportunities, certificates, benefits or license, will be used unless you consent. That means you can truthfully reply to a question concerning your previous criminal record that you were not diverted or arrested for the charges.
However, the only time you must reveal the arrest is when you apply to become a law enforcement officer. The Department of Justice will also disclose this information.
Unsuccessful Completion of the Military Diversion Program
Can the court terminate the military diversion program before completing it? Yes. Remember, the responsible treatment center files the reports on your progress with the prosecutor and the court every six months. The court may schedule a hearing anytime if:
- You fail to comply with your admission terms to the program
- You are not benefiting from the program
- Any reason that shows your participation in the program will not help you as intended by the court when it granted you the right to enroll in the program
If the judge determines the treatment is not working, they may terminate the diversion and resume the criminal proceedings against you.
Will Your Driver's License be Returned after Successful Completion of the Program?
Not a must. Completion of DUI diversion doesn't limit the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to take any administrative action like suspending your driver's license.
If your driver's license is suspended, you will be issued with a temporary license within 30 days from the issuance date. Alongside the temporary license, you will be given an Order of Suspension which acts as a formal notice showing your driver's license is suspended.
In the event you disagree with the suspension, you need to request an administrative hearing within ten days of the issuance of the Order of Suspension through DMV.
How Veteran's Court is Different from Military Diversion Program
Typically, California military diversion is only available to first-time defendants. While defendants with a conviction history for the same offense are referred to Veterans Court. Unlike military diversion, a Veteran's Court offers more supervision and structure.
So how does a veterans court work? Once you have been admitted into the program, you will have a team of participants that comprises of the veterans administration caseworker, your lawyer, a mental health counselor, the judge, and prosecutor. This team is very constructive and compassionate rather than adversarial. It will design and help you through the holistic treatment plan hoping you will improve in every aspect of your life.
These programs are designed to meet the needs of every defendant. Many defendants live in their homes as they continue with the program. Some are admitted to residential treatment programs and earn sentence credits. Usually, the program takes 18 months.
After completing the program successfully, your charges are dismissed under Penal Code 1170.9. Like military DUI diversion, you are not obligated to disclose the case under oath or on job applications unless when applying to be a peace officer.
How to Use Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as Defense at Trial
In case you fail to accept a plea agreement or the prosecutor, and your attorney cannot reach the plea agreement, then the case goes to trial. In such a situation, you can use the PTSD as a defense at the hearing.
That means if you have PTSD, then the mental condition can be used to defend you in the court. Usually, there are many different defenses your lawyer can use.
However, the lawyer must present proof that you have a diagnosis of PTSD. Also, DUI crime must be related to your mental condition. Otherwise, the attorney cannot use PTSD defense.
- Insanity Defense
In California, you can be found not guilty because of insanity. That means, your attorney must present evidence that you were not insane but did not understand that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs was wrong.
If the insanity defense is used well in the case and you are found not guilty due to insanity, you will not go home. Instead, you will get admitted to a mental health facility for a duration equivalent to your sentence.
If PTSD symptoms indeed triggered you to think you are in danger and required to respond to protect yourself, then you might be released under self-defense. Nevertheless, this will only be successful if your attorney can provide proof that you legitimately thought your life was in danger when you committed the crime.
Why Should You Hire a Skilled Military DUI Diversion Program Attorney?
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a severe crime in California. Any individual who has been arrested and convicted with a DUI offense face consequences like imprisonment, suspension of driver's license, and huge fines and should contact a lawyer immediately. The attorney will provide great representation and legal services as well as help you explore different case options.
A DUI lawyer knows how to navigate through the complicated legal requirements and make sure you don't receive harsh punishment for the crime. Also, the lawyer can explore technical evidence to get the facts.
Additionally, the lawyer will present your case before the motor vehicles department for hearings associated with your license suspension. They know what evidence can positively influence the case outcome.
Get a DUI Lawyer Near Me
The state prosecution is trying to secure a conviction against you. Therefore, you need a professional defense attorney to protect you from any legal injustices. Attorneys at Vista DUI Attorney Law Firm know how the District Attorney and law enforcement officers handle military DUI cases and can use this insight to help you. More so when you are a veteran or an active service person, going through a criminal sentence is something you won’t bear in mind. Our attorneys understand such issues, and securing a military DUI diversion program would be the best option if the DUI charges cannot be dropped.