Does the military diversion program apply to DUIs?
A law from 2014, California Penal Code 1001.80, provides that certain military personal may qualify for a diversion program. So instead of taking a criminal conviction, the qualifying military person can complete a diversion program, and then have his/her criminal Court case completely dismissed without a conviction.
As it relates to DUIs, in general to qualify, the Defendant must show:
- He/she is a current or former member of the US Military;
- He/she suffered substance abuse as a result of his/her military service;
- The crime resulted from the substance abuse from the military service; and
- He/she is in treatment through the VA, and will have a treatment plan for this diversion program
Well, the People have argued that this military diversion program does not apply to DUIs. They argue that California Vehicle Code 23640 precludes a military Defendant, even if he/she meets all the qualification, from benefiting from this diversion program. Defendants argue otherwise.
That left us with two cases that were taken up on appeal. And guess what, we have split decisions from the two cases.
- People v. VanVleck*, August 11, 2016 from Court of Appeals of California, Fourth District, Division One held for the People.
- Hopkins v. Superior Court (People)**, September 1, 2016 from the Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Four held for the Defendant.
So that leaves us two sides still fighting how we interpret Penal Code 1001.80. We need clarification, either from a higher Court, or from the Legislature. From the Hopkins Court, “[w]e urge the Legislature to act by amending section 1001.80 to express its intent with regard to military diversion in DUI cases.”
Look, our military gives so much for our Country. And the truth is, many members come back from their service with tons of PTSD and substance abuse problems. And they get discharged many times with no method of coping with this pain. We owe it to our Military to allow them to find treatment, rather than just processing them through the criminal system. Fingers crossed our Justice System holds in favor of allowing for the diversion program to apply for DUIs.
*cited as 2 Cal. App. 5th 355
**cited as 2 Cal. App. 5th 1275