At the beginning of 2022, the law regarding DUI diversion changed. DUIs are no longer eligible for diversion in California. Please contact our office with any questions. Email us at OR Call us at: (415) 886-6333

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Law Offices of Aaron Bortel

When a person suffers from a specific medical problem, should they go to a general practitioner, or someone who specializes in their particular issue? Hopefully, they would go to a specialist. The same idea applies when looking for a lawyer to handle a DUI case; a person shouldn’t hire a lawyer who spends most of their time handling domestic violence, drug possession, fraud, or traffic violation cases, but one who focuses exclusively or primarily on DUI cases.

The main reason for this is that DUI law is very complex, and requires a deep understanding of how the laws are treated in the courts, in the criminal system, and under the applicable vehicle codes. It also requires an understanding of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the potential suspensions related to the admin per se law.

In Marin County, the legislature has opened diversion for DUI under Penal Code Section 1001.95 for this year. This has never happened before, and a number of organizations, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, are pushing to get rid of diversion as an option for DUI offenders. An attorney who focuses on DUI law will not only have expertise in dealing with the various defenses to DUI, but will be aware of the latest changes in the law and how they will affect their clients. For instance, a knowledgeable DUI attorney in Marin County will know that they have the option of filing a motion to obtain diversion for their DUI clients.

A diversion for DUI greatly benefits people by removing their case from the criminal system and allowing them an opportunity to avoid a permanent criminal DUI conviction on their record. The option of DUI diversion has been available for several months now, and we have been trying to file as many as possible while the courts are actually granting them.

In Marin County, the judges who deal with misdemeanor DUIs were initially very hesitant to grant these motions, and many were denied. Upon closer inspection of the law, however, they realized that most people who have been charged with misdemeanor DUI are indeed eligible for diversion; the only question that remains is whether the defendant is suitable for diversion.

To be suitable for diversion, there must not have been an accident associated with the DUI, the blood alcohol concentration must have been below a certain level, and the individual must not have had any prior DUIs. However, over the past few weeks, the judges have begun to expand suitability for DUI diversion, such as by granting it to individuals who had a high blood alcohol concentration and caused a minor accident which did not result in any injuries.

If an individual is suitable for diversion, they will have to jump through various hoops (e.g., attend AA meetings and/or therapy, obtain character letters, show remorse, attend DUI school) in order to successfully complete the diversion program.

In San Mateo, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, and Napa County, individuals who have been charged with DUI are not eligible for diversion. In these counties, about half of the judges are hiding behind California Vehicle Code Section 23640, which says that DUI defendants are not eligible for diversion. These judges argue that since the legislature did not repeal this section of the code, DUI offenders should not be deemed eligible for diversion. Meanwhile, others are arguing that there are several other reasons the legislature did not repeal this section, one of which is because it is the section that addresses felony DUIs, which are not eligible for diversion.

Bill 282 is currently in front of the senate, and hearings will be heard beginning in mid-July. It is unclear how long this law will last, and whether it will change, expand, or contract. However, we do know how to find out and stay on top of the latest updates for the benefit of our clients.

It’s critical to have an attorney who knows what’s going on and who stays in constant communication with other DUI attorneys, prosecutors, and judges in Marin County. This is true even if an individual lives in one of the areas where DUI diversions are currently being granted, which include Marin, Sonoma, and Alameda County, as well as San Francisco.

The attorney should be familiar with DMV operations and the hearing officers at the DMV so that they know which hearing officer is most likely to rule in the defendant’s favor at the admin per se hearing. For the defendant, winning this hearing could mean being able to keep driving.

An experienced DUI attorney will also know how to walk their client through the process of obtaining a restricted license, having an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle, and saving money on high-risk SR-22 insurance that will be required if the license is suspended or the client ends up with a DUI conviction.

There are all sorts of different combinations that can happen between the court and DMV. If someone is granted a diversion and they win the DMV hearing, then they may avoid all of the consequences associated with the driver’s license, including suspension, points, and increased insurance rates. As a result, the individual could save tens of thousands of dollars and a permanent criminal conviction, which is huge.

More than ever before, DUI offenders need to find the best attorney that they can get, which means one who is very familiar with the county where the arrest occurred. The attorney should understand the best defenses and know how to obtain the best result. In some cases, the ‘best result’ might mean avoiding a conviction, even if the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration was twice the legal limit.

While the defendant would still have to participate in DUI school, community service, and pay some fines, they wouldn’t be facing nearly as many detrimental consequences as they would with a conviction.

Once the defendant has complied with all of the diversion requirements for two years, the charge will go away and they will be left with a clean record. This is beneficial in so many ways related to employment, travel, credit, and life in general.

For more information on DUI Defense In Marin County, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 886-6333 today.

Aaron Bortel

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