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Florida DUI Defense Attorney > Blog > DUI Defense > What Is A Mental Health Diversion In A DUI Case?

What Is A Mental Health Diversion In A DUI Case?


Not all DUI cases are created equally. For those who are facing a DUI for the first time and are also struggling with mental health issues, the Florida courts allow what is known as a diversion program. Instead of treating the DUI like a criminal offense, it is removed from the criminal courts and the defendant is placed on a contract using a collaborative law approach. The defendant signs the contract and is required to meet specific goals outlined by the court. These goals involve mental health treatment, substance abuse abstinence, and remaining on the right side of the law.

Understanding diversion restrictions 

Again, you’re placed on a contract. If you violate the terms of the contract, then your case will be remanded back to the criminal courts where you will face the charges. The function of the diversion program is to place restrictions on the driver that include enhanced education and rehabilitation programs. This may include drug tests, counseling, victim impact education, and alcohol monitoring devices such as the installation of an interlock ignition device (a breathalyzer attached to your starter which prevents the car from starting if you can’t blow clean).

Understanding Orange County pretrial diversion programs 

Counties generally set the rules for their pre-trial diversion programs. In Orange County, where Orlando is, successful completion of a pre-trial diversion program will result in the dismissal of your criminal DUI case. Not everyone qualifies for a pre-trial dismissal program. The courts focus on youthful offenders, first-time offenders, and the wealthy.

Qualifying for the pre-trial diversion program 

The standards are set by the state’s attorney for Orange County. These include:

  • Your DUI must be a misdemeanor offense
  • No prior convictions or dismissals of a DUI case
  • More than one misdemeanor conviction (any offense)
  • One prior felony conviction (any offense)
  • Any alcohol-related driving offenses

So, even if you were charged with DUI, and the charges were later dismissed, you cannot qualify for the pre-trial diversion program. This can include juvenile offenses.

The biggest hurdle that most individuals face is that they need the approval of the state’s attorney’s office. Even those who meet every eligibility requirement may be prevented from entering the program at the discretion of the state’s attorney. This is a problem because the vast majority of individuals who qualify for pretrial diversion can afford an attorney with enough social capital to sway the state’s opinion. So, pre-trial diversion ends up being unfairly applied. Hiring an experienced DUI defense attorney is crucial to resolving the matter without a criminal conviction.

Talk to an Orlando DUI Attorney Today 

First-time offenders can apply for a pretrial diversion program in their DUI case, but securing such a lifeline can be complicated. FL DUI Group has experience handling complex DUI cases including those emerging from untreated mental health or substance abuse issues. Call our Florida DUI defense lawyers today to schedule an appointment and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.

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