People charged with their first drunk driving offense are typically offered the opportunity to enter a “diversion” program.
Here is the criteria:
- You MUST attend your scheduled arraignment date. And you only have 30 days from arraignment to formally enter the program.
- No DUI convictions in the past 15 years.
- You can’t have completed any type of court ordered drug and/or alcohol treatment program (this includes prior diversions and drug court) in the past 15 years
- No diversion if you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- No diversion if your case involved an accident that caused injuries to someone else. (Injuring yourself in an accident is not a disqualifier)
Here is how it works, in very general terms. You sign a contract agreeing to comply with certain court requirements, show up at court, enter a guilty plea, and submit the contract. Requirements include:
- participating in and paying for a substance abuse evaluation
- competing treatment (at least 90 days)
- not drinking, smoking marijuana, or doing drugs for an entire year
- not being arrested for any more DUIs
- attending a Victims Impact Panel
- installing an IID
- and paying off fees and fines.
- You are not permitted to drive until your DMV suspension (if any) is over.
If you do everything the court requires, in one year, your DUI charge gets dismissed.
If you are unable to complete the program, you end up getting sentenced, your guilty plea turns into a criminal conviction, and your conviction can never be expunged. Before they can kick you out of the program, they have to hold a diversion revocation hearing.
You do not have to hire an attorney to enter Oregon’s diversion program. You have a constitutional right to handle the matter pro se, in other words, on your own. That’s a bad idea. Here’s why:
- It won’t save that much money. DUI diversion cases are straight forward and only take 3 or 4 hours of an attorney’s time.
- An attorney might be able to prevent you from having your license suspended by winning your implied consent hearing.
- An attorney will definitely make sure you don’t miss crucial deadlines, warn you about potential pitfalls, and answer all your questions.
- Nobody hates a pro se defendant more than a judge. They slow things down and create ample fodder for appeal. If you run into trouble later on (and many people do) that first impression will be hard to shake.
Pros and Cons of Diversion
Pros: If you can complete the requirements, you can keep driving and you end up with no criminal convictions.
Cons: Your insurance rates will go up. A lot. If you fail the diversion, you end up with an automatic conviction. You do not have the right to go to trial. And DUI convictions can never be expunged.
Does anyone ever choose to reject an offer of diversion and go to trial?
Yes. Clients sometimes choose to reject diversion if they have a very strong defense.