Getting your first DUI can be quite disruptive to your life. Getting a DUI is often a mistake you will always regret. Some people think that you may be able to avoid a conviction for certain crimes if it is your first offense and you participate in a diversion program. In certain cases, this is true. Under California law, certain first-time offenders may be eligible for alternative consequences for their crime. The courts may allow someone being charged with certain first-time offenses involving controlled substances to enter into what is called a diversion program. Diversion programs require defendants fulfill certain requirements, after which their charge will be dismissed. This is called a deferred entry of judgment. It requires the defendant plead guilty to their crime, but provides them the opportunity to avoid their plea being entered into the record thus preventing them from being sentenced. On their criminal record, the arrest will still be viewable, but the charge will have been dismissed.
If the defendant does not fulfill the requirements as set forth in their specific diversion program, their guilty plea will be entered into the record; they will be convicted, and then sentenced. If they do fulfill the requirements of the diversion program, they can walk away without a conviction on their record. Those with first-time controlled substance offenses are often eligible to participate in a diversion program. Although alcohol is a controlled substance in the formal sense of the word, driving while under the influence of alcohol is not a charge you can so easily walk away from. California takes DUIs very seriously so DUI offenders don't have many options when it comes to getting a reduced sentence or avoiding sentencing altogether. Those facing DUI charges in the state of California are not eligible for a first-offender diversion program as some other controlled substance offenders are. However, if a defendant was facing charges of driving under the influence of drugs in addition to drug possession, he or she may be eligible for a first-offender diversion program for their drug possession charge only.
Being a DUI first offender will set in motion a series of automatic consequences, none of which can be stayed through a diversion program. A first-time DUI conviction is typically charged as a misdemeanor crime, punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of between $390 and $1,000, three months of DUI classes, six months of a suspended license, and in some cases, an order for the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device. While you will not be able to avoid a conviction by participating in a first-offender diversion program, first-time DUI offenders may not have to serve a lengthy jail sentence. They may also be eligible to get a restricted license after serving 30 days of the license suspension. This will allow you to drive to and from work and your DUI classes. Although first-time DUI offenders enjoy some of these breaks, repeat offenders suffer from harsher consequences with little room for leeway and they will increase in severity with every subsequent DUI you get within a ten-year period.
If you are facing DUI charges, speak with an experienced California DUI defense attorney. An attorney can assess your case and help you get a minimum sentence and advise you on how to apply for a restricted license after you serve one month of your suspension. In certain cases, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution. If granted, a plea bargain would typically result in a wet-reckless driving charge, which does not come with all the same penalties of a DUI. While there is no DUI diversion program, there are ways you can minimize the effect the DUI conviction will have on your life. Negotiating a plea bargain and minimizing your sentence can be complicated, however, which is why having a good DUI defense attorney on your side is extremely helpful.
Are you or a loved one facing first-time DUI Charges? Experienced California criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 to trial. Attorney Martens will assess your case and advise you on how you can defend your case and obtain an outcome you are satisfied with. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert DUI defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.