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Can California veterans go to "military diversion" for a DUI?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 11, 2018 | 0 Comments

Yes. American military veterans suffering from psychological or emotional trauma as a result of his or her military service now qualify for pretrial military diversion programs for misdemeanor DUI

The California legislature amended Section 1001.80 of the penal code to allow veterans charged with misdemeanor DUI to take a pretrial diversion program in lieu of prosecution. Prior to the passage of the amendment, DUI offenders were precluded from pretrial diversion programs.

What is a pretrial diversion program?

Section 1001.90 of the California penal code defines a “pretrial diversion” program as the means of temporarily or permanently suspending the prosecution of the accused.  A pretrial diversion program is a form a probation or deferred adjudication.  It is similar to California's veterans court program. The court postpones the court proceedings pending the defendant's successful completion of the program.  If the defendant successfully completes the program, he or she might no longer be subject to criminal penalties.

The purpose of the pretrial diversion program is to treat military veterans suffering from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems as a result of military service.

 The court will determine whether the defendant will participate in a federal or community-based treatment service program.  The treatment service program will have a history of specializing in the treatment of mental health problems, including:

  • substance abuse,
  • post-traumatic stress disorder,
  • traumatic brain injury,
  • military sexual trauma, and
  • other related mental health problems.

Can all veterans benefit under the pretrial diversion program?

No.  Only veterans that may be suffering from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or any other mental health problems as a result of his or her military service benefit under this section of the penal code. 

What happens if a veteran performs poorly in the pretrial diversion program?   

If it appears to the court that the veteran is performing unsatisfactorily in the assigned program, or that the defendant is not benefiting from the treatment or services provided under the diversion program, the criminal proceedings will continue.  

This means that the district attorney will prosecute the defendant for a DUI, subjecting him or her to criminal penalties mandated under the California penal code.  

The court will provide notice to the veteran and hold a hearing to determine whether the criminal proceedings should be reinstated.  

What happens if a veteran performs well in the pretrial diversion program?   

If the veteran performs satisfactorily during the period of diversion, the criminal charges will likely be dismissed. However, this decision is left to the discretion of the court.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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