“Does Hillsborough County have a
DUI diversion program?” That’s a question that we get asked a
lot, especially because other areas of Florida, such as Palm Beach and
Miami-Dade have diversion programs that have not only proven effective,
but have helped
first time DUI defendants avoid the “stigma” of a criminal conviction.
As of this writing, Hillsborough County
does not have a DUI diversion program; however, that might change in the future. On
March 13, Gloria Gomez, of
Fox 13 News said, “Only two months into the job, State Attorney Andrew Warren
is considering a bold new program when it comes to DUI offenders.”
For Tampa residents, those are encouraging words.
In Miami-Dade County for example, the DUI diversion program used there
is called Back on Track, which is administered by two non-profits:
The Advocate Program and
Court Options. Back on Track was designed specifically for first-time DUI offenders who
need to catch a break.
Acceptance to the Back on Track program is not guaranteed; the DUI defendant
has to meet the following requirements before they can be admitted:
- It has to be a first DUI offense.
The defendant could not have caused an
- The defendant could not have injured anyone.
- There could not have been any children in the defendant’s vehicle.
- The defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was less than 0.25%.
- There could not have been any open containers of alcohol in the defendant’s vehicle.
Essentially, for someone in Miami to be admitted to the Back on Track program,
it has to be their first DUI offense, and there cannot be any “aggravating
factors,” such as an accident, bodily injury, or death.
Basics of DUI Diversion in Florida
While Hillsborough County has yet to implement its own DUI Diversion program,
let’s take a look at DUI diversion programs in other parts of Florida
and what they involve. While the program requirements vary slightly between
counties, DUI diversion in Florida typically requires that the offender
partake in the following:
- DUI School
- Submit to drug testing
- Substance abuse evaluation
- Treatment may be required
- Community service (40 or 60 hours)
- Victim Impact Class (40 or 60 hours)
Ignition Interlock Device (IID) requirement
- Donations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
Not everyone will qualify for DUI diversion in the counties that offer
it. If the DUI defendant has a felony on their record, multiple misdemeanor
convictions, or if they were driving on a suspended license when they
were arrested for DUI, or if they have already completed a misdemeanor
diversion program in the past, the defendant would not qualify for DUI
diversion. Additionally, having a poor driving record can make one ineligible.
What Are the Benefits of DUI Diversion?
The consequences of a Florida DUI under Section 316.193 of the Florida
Statutes are far-reaching. On the surface, the penalties include: community
service, DUI probation, up to 9 months in jail, up to one year
license revocation, and DUI School.
Beyond the criminal penalties, a DUI remains on one’s criminal record
indefinitely and it results in skyrocketing insurance premiums for years
to come. Then, there’s the professional implications of having a
DUI on one’s record.
A DUI can destroy employment opportunities, lead to termination (depending
on the job), and lead to the denial or cancellation of a professional
license. So, what are the benefits of having DUI Diversion brought to
If Hillsborough County decided to have a program like the Back on Track
program, upon successful completion of the program the DUI defendants
would be able to avoid a DUI conviction and a criminal record –
that is highly beneficial in more ways than one.
We’ll have to wait and see what Warren decides. In the meantime,
we’re sure many people in Hillsborough County will be rooting for
a DUI Diversion program in their own backyard.
Searching for a Tampa DUI attorney?
Contact our firm today for a free case evaluation!