Discipline in the military is essential as it helps develop the best character as well as contribute to cohesiveness in military units. Without strict regulation, there is a belief that military units, platoons, and divisions will not be able to function as one team during training, exercises, and missions. Drunk driving is one of the heavily punished offenses in the military.

However, military members and veterans who suffer from emotional and psychological trauma are treated differently. If you are facing a misdemeanor DUI, for instance, you may qualify for Military DUI Diversion Program as opposed to spending time in jail. If you want to understand more about this program, The DUI Defense Attorney will be willing and ready to take you through the entire process. Get in touch with us if you are in Van Nuys, CA.

What is a Military DUI Diversion Program?

California lawmakers revised Section 1001.80 of California laws to allow military members and veterans facing misdemeanor DUI charges to go for a diversion program before trial in place of prosecution. Before the passing of this amendment, offenders facing DUI charges were not allowed into the military diversion program.

According to Section 1001.90 of California laws, the Military DUI Diversion Program is a temporary or permanent suspension of an accused person's prosecution. The program works the same as probation and is a postponed adjudication. It is also similar to the state’s Veterans Court Program. With the plan in place, the court will defer the proceedings awaiting the offender's effective completion of the diversion program. If the offender completes the diversion program successfully, they might not face criminal penalties. 

The need for this diversion program is to allow treatment for military members and veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries, sexual trauma, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorders, and any other mental health problem that results from military service. 

It is the court's mandate to decide if the offender will take part in a community-based or federal treatment service program. The kind of program that is preferred is one with a history of the specialized treatment of issues related to mental health, such as:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Military sexual trauma
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Other problems related to mental health

Who Can Benefit From the Military DUI Diversion Program?

Not all military members and veterans can benefit from the diversion program. The law only allows those military members who are suffering from the conditions mentioned above and other psychological problems that could be linked directly to the military.

These are the people who are eligible for the military diversion program:

  • DUI offenders who were or those who currently are U.S. military members
  • DUI offenders suffering any of the mental conditions listed above as an effect of their involvement in the military service

After going through the program successfully, the DUI arrest could be treated as if it never occurred. The accused is allowed to keep the arrest or diversion a secret if asked about the arrest or any criminal record in an interview for another job other than a protected officer job.

Note that the diversion is generally only available for first-time DUI offenders. Those with a previous conviction for a similar offense will be sent to a veteran Court. The Veteran Court is one that provides better supervision and structure as compared to a military diversion.

To understand eligibility in detail, let us look into the qualifying conditions closely.

  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD

It is a psychological condition or illness that is experienced by individuals who have encountered a traumatizing experience like sexual assault or combat. Note that not every person who goes through trauma suffers PTSD. There are a good number of people who go through difficult experiences, but they can snap out of them quickly.

However, there is a class of people who suffer severe symptoms long after the traumatic experience. The symptoms could stay for some weeks and sometimes months. The condition is referred to as a severe stress disorder, abbreviated as ASD. When indications of ASD fail to go away, the person will be said to suffer from PTSD. A person is said to be suffering from PTSD if the symptoms:

  • Are experienced for more than one month
  • If the condition seriously affect their capacity to function
  • If the symptoms did not result from a medical illness, substance use, or anything else other than the distressing event

How to tell if a person has PTSD:

PTSD symptoms generally begin within three months after a traumatic occurrence. They can also start a year later. For a patient to be identified with the disorder, they must show all the following symptoms for at least a month after the traumatic incident:

  • One or more re-experiencing signs. Re-experiencing signs are for instance terrible dreams, flashbacks, and frightening thoughts
  • One avoidable sign, at least. Avoidance signs are, for example, shutting out events, places, or objects, which might remind them of the distressing experience. the patient could also be avoiding feelings and thoughts that relate to the harrowing event
  • Two arousal and reactivity signs at a minimum. Arousal and reactivity signs include feeling on the edge or tense, getting startled quickly, experiencing angry outbursts, or having trouble sleeping
  • Two cognition and mood symptoms at a minimum. These signs are, for instance, harboring negative feelings about themselves or the general world, having trouble recalling the critical events of the traumatic incident, having distorted feelings of blame or guilt, and sometimes losing interest in the things he/she enjoyed doing.

What are the Risk Factors of PTSD?

After any traumatic event, it will be normal for a person to experience some fear or anxiety. However, not everyone that experiences trauma ends up with PTSD. But, some people are at a higher risk of developing PTSD more than others after a traumatizing event. These individuals are, for instance:

  • People who have undergone childhood trauma
  • Women
  • Those who have little or no social support
  • Persons who have an account of substance abuse or mental illness
  • Those who have, in recent times, experienced another stressing ordeal for instance loss of a home, of a loved one or a job
  1. Military Sexual Trauma

According to the U.S Veterans Affairs Department, Military Sexual Trauma is a psychological trauma or pain which results from physical, sexual assault, or sexual battery or harassment. It might have happened while the military member or veteran was in active service, training, or inactive duty.

Sexual harassment, in this case, could mean unsolicited physical or verbal sexual contact that is frightening in nature and is done repeatedly. Some of the acts that are covered under military sexual trauma are, for instance:

  • Rape
  • Sexual battery
  • Oral copulation by force
  • Penetration by the use of an object
  • Coerced sex
  • Groping
  • Offensive remarks or threats about the body or sexual acts of a person
  • Unwelcome and threatening sexual advances

Note that sexual assault or harassment will count whether the military serviceman was on duty or off duty.  The act could also have happened when the serviceman was on duty but for training.

  1. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

It is a form of mental impairment that could result from a jolt or violent blow to the body or head. TBI is, in most cases, triggered by a severe fall or by an object like a bullet that has penetrated the brain tissue. Some cases of TBI are also caused by explosive blasts, especially when the affected person is in the military. When a pressure wave goes through the head, it can significantly disrupt its functioning, resulting in a traumatic injury to the brain.

Military members that have experienced penetrating wounds, falls, bodily collisions, and severe shocks to the skull by debris or shrapnel could also suffer a severe brain injury. Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries are many. Some of these include dizziness, headaches, lack of sensation, or coordination. The patient could sometimes experience emotional or cognitive difficulties.

Some of these symptoms will be seen immediately after a traumatic event, but others can show up days and sometimes weeks later. Emotional and cognitive issues could be a great source of conflict and frustration for the affected military members and their families.  Sometimes these symptoms could get worse, leading to issues related to mental well-being, such as substance abuse and depression. These could occur as the affected member attempts to manage the symptoms they are already experiencing as a result of TBI.

Note that there are long-term problems that are linked to TBI. These are, for instance, issues with:

  • One’s memory
  • Insomnia
  • Learning ability
  • Reasoning
  • Judgment
  • Concentration or attention
  • Decision making and problem-solving
  • Beginning or completion of jobs
  • Language and communication
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Organization and planning
  • Self-control
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability, mood swings or both
  1. Substance Use and Mental Health issues

Other than the conditions mentioned earlier, the military diversion program is also available for people who are in the misery of substance abuse. Individuals with other psychological problems such as stress and depression are too included in the program

 What matters to the court is that the problem stemmed from their involvement in the military. The court will also want to be sure that the accused will benefit from the treatment

Offenses that Qualify for Military DUI Diversion Program

The military diversion program is available for an eligible defendant that is facing misdemeanor charges for crimes such as:

  • California DUI
  • Battery and Assault
  • Possession of drugs and other narcotics

Misdemeanor DUI in the state of California is a defendant’s first, second, and third DUI offenses with no aggravating factors. Some of the aggravating factors that could make the first three DUI offenses to be charged as felony offenses include:

  • Driving with a minor under 14 while drunk
  • Causing bodily injury or property damage while drunk driving

If no aggravating factors are present in your DUI case, the offender can benefit from a military diversion program.

If you are a military member and you are facing misdemeanor DUI charges, you can get in touch with a competent DUI defense attorney. Your attorney is the one who will place a request for diversion firm the court on your behalf. After that, the court might request to assess your situation to make a better decision.

If you are lucky and the court approves your attorney’s request, you will be put in a pre-trial treatment program. With that, any criminal proceedings on your case will be deferred for at most two years to allow you to receive the treatment.

Military Diversion Programs Available in California

The decision on the kind of diversion program a defendant should be placed in rests with the court. After it has received a request from the defendant's attorney, the court can proceed to evaluate the defendant to be able to put them in the diversion program. The service program could be community-based or federal.

Preference is given to the treatment programs that have a record of successfully handling people who experience service-related trauma. Those programs could be those managed by the U.S. Department of Defense or Department of Veteran Affairs.

The court, together with the assigned diversion program, will team up with the two departments above to ensure that the offender is enjoying maximum benefits through the services delivered to them.

If the court realizes that the defendant could also benefit from treatment for mental health problems, it could refer him/her to the mental health specialist. The condition, in this case, will be for the agency to agree to accept accountability for the following:

  • Treatment for the accused
  • Coordination for a suitable recommendation to a service officer from county veterans office
  • Submission of reports about the defendant to the referring court

Conditions for Participating in a Military DUI Diversion Program

There are conditions enforced by the assigned program or the court that the defendant must comply with. Some of these conditions include:

  • Mandatory attendance to all treatment sessions
  • Mandatory counseling for substance abuse or domestic violence offenders
  • Random testing for alcohol, drugs or both
  • Satisfying reports about the defendant’s progress from the organization that is administering the treatment program.

Agency/agencies providing treatment to the defendant are expected by the court to provide regular information on the progress of the defendant. The frequency of these reports will be more than energy for six months.

Note that military DUI diversion programs usually last between 12 and 24 months. The law provides that the length of time the accused might be diverted should not exceed two years.

The court may terminate your diversion before you complete it. Their decision could be based on the regular reports it will receive every six months from the agency responsible for the treatment. If the accused is not progressing as the court foresaw, the court will hold an inquiry any time from that. Their decision will be based on:

  • If the performance of the offender is satisfactory in the program, they were assigned to
  • Whether or not the accused is benefitting from the services and treatment that are being provided in the DUI diversion treatment

If the court feels that the plan is not suitable for the defendant, it could dismiss the diversion program and proceed with the suspended criminal trial against the accused.

Sealing of Arrest Records after Completion of Military Diversion

The law allows sealing of the defendant's arrest records after they have successfully completed the military DUI diversion program. In addition to that, the criminal charges the offender was facing could be dismissed. The sealing of the arrest records will, however, be done with the defendant's agreement. It will help ensure that the defendant can still get suitable employment, benefits, license, and certification without the influence of a criminal record in their name.

After that, the offender can candidly indicate that they were not detained or in a diversion program for any offender is a question regarding their previous criminal record that arises in the future. The exception to this, though, is in case they are applying for a job as a protected officer.

The only time the offender can disclose their arrest and diversion is in case they are applying for a job as a protected officer. In such a case, the law requires disclosure of information, but only if a question about the same is asked directly. For instance, if it is in the form of a questionnaire or the application.

Again, the information could be revealed by the U.S Department of Justice while responding to an application request of a protected officer.

How About the Defendant’s Driver’s License?

The first thing that happens to anyone after drunken driving arrests in California is to lose their driver's license. Your license will be confiscated on the spot, and then, you are given a temporary permit awaiting the decision of a DMV hearing or the criminal court proceeding. Even after completing the California military DUI diversion program, there is no guarantee that you will be given back your license. California DMV may want to take action against you, for instance, suspending your permit for a particular period.

Find a DUI Defense Attorney Near Me

The military diversion program comes as a great relief for misdemeanor DUI offenders whose fault can be attributed to their presence in the military service. If you are facing DUI charges and you would like to benefit from diversion, get in touch with a competent DUI defense attorney. The DUI Defense Attorney offers the best advice, support, and legal representation for eligible military members in Van Nuys, CA. Call our Van Nuys DUI lawyer at 818-253-1913 and let us help you get the treatment you deserve.