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San Francisco, CA Military Diversion Program DUI Lawyer

San Anselmo Military Diversion Program DUI Lawyer

Marin County DUI Attorney Helps Military Veterans Fight Drunk Driving Charges

California Penal Code section 1001.80 became law on January 1, 2015, and it offers a diversion program for both current and former members of the United States military who are charged with a misdemeanor offense. The statute was recently amended to specifically state that persons charged with driving under the influence are eligible for this program, notwithstanding California Vehicle Code section 23640 (a separate statute which arguably excluded DUI offenders from diversion programs). If you are a military veteran or current member of the U.S. military and you were pulled over for DUI in California, it is important to speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney to discuss your potential eligibility for the military diversion program.

For over three decades, Burglin Law Offices, P.C. has successfully defended motorists charged with DUI in Marin County and throughout northern California. Attorney Paul Burglin co-authors California Drunk Driving Law, a legal guide that is commonly referred to as "the Bible of DUI defense." Paul knows how the California Superior Court system works. He has in-depth knowledge of the military diversion program, and what is necessary to ensure that current and former military members charged with misdemeanor DUI qualify. His extensive experience and proven track record are major reasons he is frequently sought out by DMV hearing officers, judges, and prosecutors when someone close to them is in legal trouble over a DUI.

Who Qualifies for the Military Diversion Program?

Eligibility for military diversion on a misdemeanor DUI offense generally depends on whether the individual may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse (alcohol or drug dependency), or some other mental disorder which relates to and results from military service. The word "may" is emphasized here because this means the statutory eligibility is not dependent upon a showing that the person definitively is suffering from one of these conditions as result of military service, just that he or she may be. A prior criminal record, even multiple DUI convictions, does not affect eligibility; in fact, it may be more evidence of substance abuse. The program can last up to two years, during which time the defendant must adhere to the conditions imposed by the trial court.

Suitability for military diversion is different from eligibility. Thus, even if one is, in fact, suffering from one or more of these conditions, it is still left to the discretion of the judge as to whether military diversion will be offered. Some judges and prosecutors are very resistant to finding one eligible for this program, even after the recent amendment to the statute. Prior to the amendment, the issue of eligibility for DUI offenders had split the California Court of Appeals.

Hopkins v. Superior Court (2016) held that DUI offenders were eligible despite Vehicle Code § 23640, while People v. VanVleck (2016) held otherwise. The California Supreme Court was set to decide the matter when the California State Legislature stepped in to clarify its intent that DUI offenders are eligible. The Hopkins decision had urged the Legislature to do precisely that, and thus the VanVleck decision is no longer a controlling authority on the issue.

Penal Code § 1001.80 (the military diversion program) was enacted for the benefit of a special category of persons – men and women who have served in the military and returned home suffering from mental problems, various trauma, stress disorders, and/or substance abuse. The ostensible objects of the statute are to get these individuals the help they need while not stigmatizing them with a criminal record. Still, there are some judges imposing judicially-created rules for determining eligibility. Blanket rules or policies that exclude defendants based on prior convictions or aggravating factors constitutes an abuse or usurpation of discretion. The reality is that prior convictions and aggravating factors may be even stronger evidence of a need for treatment.

Although the military diversion statute became effective January 1, 2015, it is nevertheless applicable to offenses committed prior to that date so long as the case is still pending before a court.

Contact a San Francisco Military Diversion Program DUI Lawyer

The military diversion program was put in place to benefit those who served our country by getting them the help they need without the stigma of a criminal record. Even if you meet the statutory qualifications, however, it is no guarantee that a court will approve you. Attorney Paul Burglin understands the law and what it takes to ensure that those who are eligible for military diversion receive the benefits of the program.

If you are a military member charged with misdemeanor DUI, contact our office today at 415-729-7300 for a free, personalized consultation with attorney Burglin. We serve clients throughout the Bay Area, including Marin County, Tiburon, Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, San Rafael, Novato, San Anselmo and Fairfax. We also assist locals and tourists cited in Sonoma and Napa, as well as those cited in San Francisco, Oakland, and Martinez.
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