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Military service puts those who serve under significant strain, and service can leave servicemembers with trauma that may lead them to make mistakes when they return to civilian life. Thankfully, if those missteps result in a drunk driving charge, diversion may offer them the chance to avoid court and keep their record clear. What should servicemembers and veterans know about military diversion for driving under the influence (DUI)?

What is pretrial diversion?

California Penal Code Section 1001.9 allows a few specific groups to pursue a diversion program and suspend the charges against them. In the case of veterans and servicemembers, pretrial diversion allows them to postpone court involvement while they pursue mental health or substance abuse treatment. This can allow them to avoid a trial entirely and keep a potential misdemeanor conviction off their record if they successfully complete the program.

Do all veterans qualify for pretrial diversion?

While pretrial diversion can help servicemembers move forward, it is not available to all those who serve or have served. In order to qualify, a person must have a documented struggle related to their time serving their country. This may include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Mental health struggles related to sexual trauma
  • Substance abuse

Servicemembers and veterans may also qualify if they have other mental health struggles related to their time in the service.

In addition, servicemembers and veterans must not have gone through Military Diversion for a prior charge or have a prior related conviction.

Diversion does not halt administrative suspensions.

After a DUI arrest, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) automatically suspends the driver’s license. While diversion helps veterans avoid trial, drivers may still face a separate administrative hearing to fight back against this suspension.

Because preserving your ability to drive and protecting your freedom may depend on your ability to quickly respond to a DUI charge, it can be important to reach out to an experienced attorney. Not only can they help you determine whether diversion is the right option for you, they can also take steps to protect your ability to travel.

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