Although other counties in Florida have previously adopted diversion programs for drivers arrested for DUI, the program had met previous resistance in Florida's 6th Circuit, which is comprised of Pinellas and Pasco Counties. With Bruce Bartlett now serving as State Attorney, the times have changed. Those drivers arrested for DUI on or after June 1, 2021 are now eligible for the DUI Rehabilitation of Offenders Program, or "DROP". In order to be considered for eligibility, defendants must apply for the program at or before their case's second pretrial hearing and pay a $50.00 non-refundable application fee.
Upon approval, drivers must complete the following three conditions:
1. Complete 20 community service hours;
2. Complete DUI school;
3. Complete the M.A.D.D. Victim Impact Panel.
Following the completion of these conditions, the State will amend the charge to Reckless Driving, Florida Statute 316.192(5). In exchange, the State will accept the following sentence:
1. For "Tier One" offenses ( BAC under 0.120), adjudication will be withheld;
2. For "Tier Two" offenses (BAC under 0.15 and refusals), adjudication;
In addition, the sentence will include a period of probation and conditions determined by whether the DUI was either a "Tier One" or "Tier Two" offense. The program documents make clear that cases will be evaluated on an individual, fact-specific basis and that a driver's eligibility will be within the sole discretion of the State Attorney. In other words, the judge has no role in the eligibility process. Some cases will be automatically excluded. Those cases include:
1. Cases involving a BAC over 0.15;
2. Cases involving bodily injury or significant property damage;
3. Cases where there are accompanying felony charges;
4. No cases where the driver has a prior DUI;
5. Cases when a minor child was in the vehicle at time of offense;
6. No cases where driver did not have a valid drivers license.
While this program provides a predetermined outcome and avoids the time and expense of trial, it is not for everyone. You may still wish to contest a DUI charge which is not based on sufficient evidence of impairment or where there are legal issues regarding the traffic stop and subsequent investigation. I have handled DUI cases, as both a prosecutor and defense attorney for 37 years. If you are facing a DUI charge and are uncertain of how to proceed, please contact y office at 727-822-3700 to schedule a no-cost consultation at my offices in downtown St. Petersburg.
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