In 2020, a new misdemeanor diversion law - Penal Code section 1001.95 - took effect in California, allowing for diversion on most misdemeanor offenses. Diversion allows people to avoid a criminal conviction if they participate in a pre-conviction rehabilitation program and successfully complete that program. DUIs are eligible for diversion under that new law. DUIs are eligible for three reasons:
Previous Versions of Penal Code section 1001.95 Excluded DUIs from Diversion
Before Penal Code section 1001.95 became the law in California, Los Angeles County ran a “pilot program” of the law. This means that the law was tested in Los Angeles County to see if it reduced recidivism and rehabilitated offenders. During the pilot program, the legislature specifically excluded DUI offenders. But, when the legislature wrote the law that applied statewide, the legislature removed the DUI offense exclusion. Under the law, it is presumed that the legislature knows what they're doing. By previously excluding DUIs, and then failing to exclude them under the new diversion statute, this suggests DUIs are eligible for diversion under Penal Code section 1001.95.
The Floor Discussions Reveal the Legislature Included DUIs in the Diversion Statute
When the legislature debated Penal Code section 1001.95, many legislators spoke up and objected that the new law made DUIs eligible for diversion. Despite the objections, the new law passed without amendment.
The Purposes of the Diversion Statute is Fulfilled by Granting Diversion to DUI Offenders
The purpose of diversion is to offer a second chance to offenders who are minimally involved in crime and maximally motivated to reform. It allows offenders to complete pre-conviction programs to rehabilitate themselves, and avoid getting a criminal conviction and criminal record.
The criteria for granting diversion are unclear. A criminal defense and DUI attorney in your area should be familiar with the practice of the judges in your area in granting diversion, especially for DUI offenses.