A bill is currently making its way through the California Legislature, which would essentially offer a break to military veterans charged with driving under the influence. If enacted, the bill would help vets avoid convictions for misdemeanor DUI, by use of a diversion program meant to aid "emotionally damaged" troops, according to the San Diego Tribune. The bill has both supporters and adversaries. Advocates argue that the program would help DUI offenders swiftly receive treatment, while detractors fear it could cause a “revolving door” for DUI offenders and prevent sanctions from being leveled against them. The San Diego DA's office does not support the bill. SB725 was unanimously passed in the Senate, was debated in an assembly on the morning of June 13th and could soon advance to the governor's desk. To qualify for the new diversion program, the veteran must have been diagnosed with either PTSD, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma or another shortlisted condition. This program would be distinct from Veteran's Treatment Court.
In 2011, there were 7 Veteran's Treatment Courts in the state of California, a type of program which has been gaining traction nationally. If found guilty in this court, the conviction would be dismissed if the veteran completed a counseling program wherein they received 2 to 3 years of supervised care.
The point of the new program is to divert veterans prior to being found guilty or innocent and shepherding them into treatment without determining a verdict. This streamlined process would cut down court costs. Initially, DUI was not explicitly discussed in the legislation. Courts around the state had made different determinations as to whether or not those charged with DUI could be eligible for military diversion, and the issue is now going before the Supreme Court. Many veteran's organizations are in support of the measure, while the DA's office firmly opposes. The Tribune writes, "Critics of SB 725 said the safer remedy is the post-conviction veterans treatment court. They cite anecdotal evidence of DUI offenders getting repeat passes in counties where judges have ruled that DUI diversion is legal.” The DA told the publication, “With diversion, there is no guilty plea. There is no conviction. There's no limit to the amount of DUI offenses that one person can be diverted for,” adding, "There's no statutory structure for treatment that guarantees we'll get some type of effective treatment.” The bill's author argues that there are measures in place, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles' ability to revoke a license for DUI, which would not be affected by the bill and would prevent “endless diversions.”
If you are a veteran who has been charged with driving under the influence in the state of Georgia, experienced Georgia DUI attorney Richard Lawson is ready to help. With more than 20 years experience defending DUI cases, he will protect your rights in court. Do not hesitate to contact Richard Lawson today for a free consultation.