DC DUI Diversion Program
Many first-time Washington, DC DUI defendants are offered a plea agreement by the prosecution. If that happens, your DC DUI lawyer may be able to improve your situation using certain DUI diversion program options in the “deal” that allow the government to dismiss the charges against you, provided you complete a variety of conditions. Common conditions include community service, traffic and alcohol counseling, and a victim impact panel.
If you complete these diversion program conditions, the government will dismiss your case and you will become eligible to have the arrest removed from your record if you stay out of trouble for a few years. Such an agreement is called that a Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA).
DC Deferred Sentencing Agreement
A DSA is a way to resolve your case without trial that does not result in a permanent conviction. It comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. You generally must not have a prior drunk driving offense, agree to give a breath, blood, or urine sample at the time of arrest to determine your BAC score, and that score must not be above .10 in order to qualify for a DSA after being charged with a DUI.
In addition to DUI, defendants charged with similar offenses involving substance abuse may qualify for a DSA, such as:
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI)
- Operating while impaired (OWI)
- Drinking in public in a vehicle
- Possession of an open container of alcohol in a vehicle
DSAs require individuals to remain arrest-free, complete community service and alcohol education programs within a specific period of time, and make a formal admission of guilt to the underlying offense. Sentencing is deferred for a period of six months to one year in order to give you an opportunity to fulfill the obligations required by your diversion agreement. If you fulfill those obligations, you may withdraw your guilty plea and the government will dismiss your case.
Requirements for Entering DSA
In addition to the DSA’s required admission of guilt, an individual who wishes to enter into a DSA must plead guilty to the underlying offense upfront. Then, sentencing is deferred for a period of six months to a year. There are several conditions that the defendant’s offense must meet in order to qualify, including:
- Having no prior driving offenses involving alcohol or drugs
- Having provided a chemical test sample (breath, blood, or urine) if requested by police after arrest
- No minor having been present in your vehicle at the time of the incident
- Not having had an accident causing injury or property damage
Your defense attorney may be able to negotiate the individual conditions of your DSA with the government. During the period of time that covers your DSA, you must fulfill all required conditions that your diversion agreement requires. They involve completing a specific amount of community service (usually 48 hours), not being rearrested for any offense, and complying with any additional conditions dictated by the court, such as payment of restitution or avoiding a particular person or area.
DSAs also often require additional conditions, such as alcohol-awareness programs for DUI cases. If you abide by all conditions within the DSA and successfully complete your alcohol awareness and community service programs, you and your lawyer will return to court, and the judge will allow you to withdraw the guilty plea. The case is then dismissed.
Entering a “pro-forma” guilty plea in order to receive a DSA can bring with it several implications and consequences, however. If you are unable to complete the terms of your agreement – regardless of the circumstances – the prosecutor may revoke the deferred sentencing agreement and head straight to sentencing without trial.
So, the decision of whether to reject or accept a DSA requires careful consideration and counsel from your experienced DC criminal defense lawyer. But in spite of the risks of entering into a DSA, it is often a prudent decision, simply because of the significant upside to successful completion: avoiding a conviction on your criminal history.
Speak with a DC DUI Lawyer
Once familiar with your case, your experienced DC DUI attorney can counsel you on the pros and cons of accepting any plea offer and whether a DSA is advisable or not.
It is critical that you consult with an experienced DC DUI lawyer before accepting any plea offer from the government, including that into a diversion program. Call today to schedule your free consultation.