My office got word this week that the governor signed a bill that solidifies that San Diego DUIs are part of the military diversion program. I have at least 10 former military clients who will be happy to hear the news. For some of these guys, we have been waiting for over a year to have the issue resolved.
What is Military Diversion?
A law from 2014, California Penal Code 1001.80, provides that certain military personnel may qualify for a diversion program. So instead of taking a criminal conviction, the qualifying military person can complete a diversion program and then have his/her criminal Court case completely dismissed without a conviction.
As it relates to DUIs, in general, to qualify, the Defendant must show:
- He/she is a current or former member of the US Military;
- He/she suffered substance abuse as a result of his/her military service;
- The crime resulted from the substance abuse from the military service; and
- He/she is in treatment through the VA, and will have a treatment plan for this diversion program
When someone is arrested for a San Diego DUI, they will be processed like a normal DUI. They will likely need to set a DMV APS Admin Per Se hearing within 10 days of the arrest. They will get a court date (usually) six weeks out from the date of arrest. Once in court, you file the motion to get the judge to grant military diversion. Our firm has spent the last several years refining the motions to help ensure diversion is the path of a deserving client's case.
As a former prosecutor in a jurisdiction with a large former military population like San Diego, it was obvious to see that some cases were due to PTSD issues. At the time the prosecution would take that as a mitigating factor, but it would not go far enough to have a just result.
When I have opened my own office, I have had time to sit and talk to these folks. They are good people who have an undying love for the country. Most of my DUI clients are good people too. What separates the clients who have PTSD is that this was not a "bad choice" to drink. It was an escape from a terrible latent condition they have. Alcohol is the best way to hide getting away from PTSD symptoms. It is socially acceptable and easy to obtain. There is not a stigma when used. Neil Diamond summed it up perfectly in his verse, "Red Red Wine, go to my head, make me forget that I still need a soul."
I am letting you know there is serviceman who is hurting from PTSD. It is the unspoken cost of war. Please do what you can to get DUI cases to be part of military diversion. It is frankly shameful that prosecutors preach love of country but do not address the issues that come when people who serve have a byproduct of service.
Governor Jerry Brown has just signed a bill by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) that clarifies that military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health disorders associated with their service in the military are eligible for pretrial diversion programs for misdemeanor DUIs, thus ensuring that these veterans get the help they need sooner and more effectively.
Senate Bill 725 clarifies contradicting language in California law that had resulted in differing state appeals courts' rulings last year at a time when courts were experiencing an influx of requests from veterans charged with these misdemeanors. Provisions in the penal code established criteria for these veterans to qualify for diversion programs, while the California vehicle code prohibited it.
"This bill will not only clarify once and for all that these veterans are eligible for pretrial diversion programs, it will also ensure that veterans and service members who have served our country will get the help they need to address substance abuse and mental health issues," Jackson said. "This will ultimately help protect public safety and help prevent repeat DUIs, while giving these veterans a more hopeful future."
"This law serves the dual purpose of restoring veterans to health while protecting public safety," said Jude Litzenberger, executive director, California Veterans Legal Task Force, one of the sponsors of the bill. "When service members or veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, substance use, or other mental health conditions caused by their military service get DUI misdemeanors because they self-medicated instead of seeking mental health treatment, they will be ordered to get appropriate and timely treatment. A judge will monitor them for 12-18 months, which protects public safety by reducing repeat DUIs."
"All of California's military and veterans owe a great debt of gratitude to Senator Jackson for taking up this important issue and clarifying state law that current and former military members are eligible for treatment instead of prison when they are charged with a DUI," said Pete Conaty, a governmental advocate for veterans. "Without this legislation, active duty military careers would have been ruined by one non-injury DUI offense, and we would have had to wait for 18 months for the California Supreme Court to decide this issue."
Enacted in 2014, pretrial diversion programs provide an alternative to traditional criminal justice proceedings and are designed to help veterans get the services they need as a result of untreated trauma experienced during their military service. If they successfully complete a closely monitored program, they can have their criminal charges dismissed.
Under SB 725, veterans charged with felonies would not be eligible, and veterans could still have their licenses suspended and revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Data shows that timely treatment for conditions underlying substance abuse is effective and significantly reduces recidivism.
This bill continues Jackson's long-standing work assisting veterans. She is the author of laws giving teachers, school employees and state employees who are disabled veterans additional sick leave during their first year in the workforce to seek treatment for their service-related disabilities.
Jackson was previously named the Leo P. Burke Legislator of the Year by the American Legion, Department of California, for her work authoring a law to ensure that eligible veterans going through the justice system are steered to Veterans Treatment Courts. Jackson also authored Senate Concurrent Resolution 27, which designated portions of Highway 101 in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties for inclusion in the National Purple Heart Trail.
Hire a Proactive, affordable, and quality defense when you are facing San Diego DUI charges. Whether you have been charged of a San Diego DUI, Poway DUI, La Mesa DUI, Santee DUI, Mission Valley DUI, Clairemont DUI, Point Loma DUI, La Jolla DUI, Carmel Valley DUI, Mira Mesa DUI, Pacific Beach DUI, Del Mar DUI, Carmel Valley DUI, Encinitas DUI, Oceanside DUI, Escondido DUI, Vista DUI, San Marcos DUI, Carlsbad DUI, El Cajon DUI it is vital you need to hire an attorney who knows how to defend your rights and can determine if the government can prove their case. Contact the Law Office of Mark Deniz now for a free case evaluation at (858) 751-4384.