Friday, December 2, 2016

Military Diversion For DUI

For those who sacrifice much to serve our country in the armed forces it is nice to see a little payback from the government and a good example of that is the newly enacted laws in a California allowing veterans and active duty military personnel to avoid a conviction for certain types of criminal offenses such as DUI and drunk driving.  

Recently the second district Court of Appeal in California ruled that DUI offenses are eligible for military diversion in Los Angeles County.  This means that active duty military personnel and veterans can get their drunk driving charges dismissed Pursuant to Penal Code 1001.80 if they suffer from ptsd, mental health issues or substance abuse issues as a result of their military service.  Recently, attorney Matthew Ruff got driving under the influence charges dropped for a client in Manhattan Beach California even though his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.  A Torrance Court Judge allowed the serviceman to get his charges dismissed following successful completion of counseling.

The benefit of military diversion is that if the client performs satisfactorily during the period of Military Diversion, the court will dismiss the criminal charges. In addition, upon successful completion of the Military Diversion program, the arrest upon which the diversion was based shall be deemed to have never occurred, except the arrest upon which the diversion was based may be disclosed by the Department of Justice in response to a peace officer application request, and the defendant is still obligated to disclose the arrest in response to a direct question contained in a questionnaire or application for a position as a peace officer, as defined in Pen. Code § 830. 

So, what must be shown in order to qualify for military diversion for DUI?


In short, to be granted Military Diversion, Counsel is required to provide an assessment or other evidence confirming The defendant is a current or former member of the military and may be suffering from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problem, as a result of his or her military service. The defense is also required to provide a recommended treatment plan for the accused sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problem. 

Assuming the defendant is granted the request for military diversion the Court will impose certain conditions that must be satisfied in order to earn a dismissal.  The terms of the grant of diversion can vary from Court to Court.  Here is a list of some common requirements:

EXAMPLES OF CONDITIONS OF MILITARY DIVERSION IN DUI CASES:
    1. Twelve to 24 months of treatment

    2. First Conviction DUI Program, minimum AB541, and MADD Impact Panel.

    3. Random drug and alcohol testing by the treatment provider. 

    4. Substance abuse or other counselling, therapy or treatment as recommended in the assessment and/or treatment plan. 

    5. Written progress reports from care/treatment providers due every 90 days.


Who is Eligible For A Grant Of Military Diversion?

    1. Defendant is charged with a misdemeanor or misdemeanors only. 

    2. Defendant is a current or former member of the United States military. 

    3. Defendant may be suffering from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance adbuse, or mental health problems as a result of his or her military service. 

    4. Defendant consents to being placed on Military Diversion and waives his or her rights to a speedy trial. 


    5. Defendant has not been granted Military Diversion for any other case. 



Here is a sample of a motion that can be filed in criminal court requesting military diversion for a DWI case:

MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES 
Counsel requests this Court to place the defendant in a pretrial military diversion program, as specified under California Penal Code section 1001.80.

(Documentation of the defendant's PTSD, mental health issues, trauma or substance abuse problems should be outlined and attached to the motion and presented to the Court)

Section 1001.80 became law in 2015. It creates a diversion program where a serviceperson is accused of a misdemeanor and appears to be suffering from mental health problems resulting from his/her military service, including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. The legislation was created with the express purpose of allowing veterans who are suffering from mental health concerns to not only "get proper services" but also, importantly, to "allow them to be more easily employed in the future by keeping the crime off their record if they complete their diversion program successfully." (Sen. Loni Hancock, Chair, Senate Committee on Public Safety; Bill Author's Summary, S.B. 1227; Hearing Date: April 8, 2014.) The legislation passed overwhelmingly, and reflects our nation's growing understanding of the mental health concerns faced by our members of the military. (See, e.g. VAL WILLINGHAM, "Study: Rates of Many Mental Health Disorders Much Higher in Soldiers Than in Civilians," CNN.com, March 4, 2014.)


LEGAL AUTHORITY
Penal Code section 1001.80 applies "whenever a case is before a court on an accusatory pleading" for a misdemeanor and (1) "[t]he defendant was, or currently is a member of the military," and (2) "[t]he defendant may be suffering from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems as a result of his or her military service." (Penal Code section 1001.80(a).) Upon motion by the defense, where a defendant is found to match these criteria, he can be placed in pretrial diversion program. (Penal Code § 1001.80(b).)

This recently-created military diversion legislation is uniquely broad, in that it places almost no restrictions on eligibility. Unlike diversion programs such as Deferred Entry of Judgment, military diversion under section 1001.80 does not specify that only certain types of misdemeanors are eligible, nor does it preclude servicemen with prior records. It never specifies that the diversion is only available once, nor limit the number of offenses for which a serviceperson can be diverted.

Defendant is clearly eligible for pre-trial diversion for his dui charges in this case.  The motion for military diversion can be made at any point prior to trial.  Most Judges will agree to hear the motion after the District Attorney has reviewed documents and has had an opportunity to object, when appropriate.