DUI/DWI Diversion Program

by Jamison Koehler on September 21, 2009

Getting pulled over for drunk driving can be an unsettling experience for most people. For many clients, the experience represents the first time they’ve ever been arrested. Being charged with DUI or DWI is even worse. So it is probably not much consolation to learn that, from the lawyer’s perspective, defending someone charged with DUI/DWI is in most cases pretty straightforward. The key here is to resolve the case before it ever goes to trial. Today’s entry will focus on the first step in that process; namely, determining whether the person is eligible for the “diversion” program in D.C. Future posts will address motions to suppress and then trial defenses.

If it is the first time the person has ever charged with DUI/DWI, the person will be a good candidate for “diversion.” While a diversion program is based on the recognition that sometimes good people make mistakes, it is not entirely true, as I have sometimes told clients, that this is like a “do-over” or, if they happen to be golf fans, a “mulligan.” Most states have some type of diversion program. Generally, it means the dropping of the criminal charges in exchange for the person’s agreement to pay a fine and possibly perform community service or take an alcohol and highway safety class. In Pennsylvania, for example, the diversion program is called the Alternative Rehabilitation Disposition program, or ARD. In the District of Columbia, it is simply called “diversion.”

Generally, having the case diverted from prosecution means you don’t lose your license. It shouldn’t show up on your criminal record, even as an arrest. But, because the prosecution will keep a record of your participation in the program, you can only do it once. It used to that you could do a diversion one time in every state. This is no longer possible now that states are so much better at sharing information with each other.

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