Does Hillsborough County Have a DUI Diversion Program?

“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 accident.
  • 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 Hillsborough County?

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.

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