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Misdemeanor diversion law sparks confusion, disparities in DUI cases – San Bernardino Sun

The new California law, which allows judges to allow misdemeanor drunk driving offenders to divert for the first time, creates a swamp in the legal system, criminal lawyers and prosecutors dispute its interpretation, and judges are clear. Conflict about lack.

One lawyer described the law introduced as Parliamentary Bill 3234 by Congressman Filtin of D-San Francisco as the most litigation issue in the state since it came into force on January 1, last year. District attorneys in Riverside, Los Angeles, and Sacramento County disputed it in their higher court appeal department.

Opponents argue that the new law, which corresponds to state criminal law, is inconsistent with existing states Vehicle code section This prevents judges from allowing diversion to drunk driving offenders in lieu of criminal penalties.

At the judicial level, there was a clear disparity in who was allowed to divert (eventually the prosecution could be dismissed) and who was not allowed to divert.

Mike Hestrin, a lawyer in the Riverside County district (file photo: Will Leicester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG).

“Flying in the wind”

Prosecutors, criminal lawyers, and lawmakers have sought clarification from the High Court or new law to resolve disputes.

“This is what’s happening now. It’s like a wildfire going through court,” said Lara Gresley, a criminal defense counsel on the riverside who specializes in drunk driving cases. In June, she petitioned the State Supreme Court to weight her after a judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed her allegation to allow the client to divert.

The Supreme Court refused to consider Gresley’s proceedings. She believes this is because there was no lower court appeal on this issue.

Gresley said the new law has plagued judges struggling to decide which way to go.

“They have been litigating for several months at a time, hoping for the opinion of the Court of Appeals,” Gresley said. “Everyone wants an appeals court decision because all the courts in California are binding. Now we just flutter in the wind. We need to understand that.”

In court

Since Tin’s law was enacted, judges in higher courts have been misdemeanor based primarily on the severity of the crime, including the defendant’s blood alcohol level, speed, location of the crime, and whether property was damaged. We have the discretion to allow the diversion of a criminal drunk driving case.

Pomona Police Department detective J. Dorgobin is monitoring the Drunk Driving Checkpoint in Pomona on December 21, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / SCNG)

Drunk driving crimes that injure others are usually charged as felony and are not eligible for diversion under the law.

Prosecutors immediately filed a motion within the Appeals Department of their respective High Courts, claiming that drunk driving offenders were not eligible for diversion due to vehicle code section 23640.

On July 27, a committee of three judges from the Riverside Superior Court’s Appeal Department dismissed the allegations by district attorney Mike Hestrin, and DUI’s defendants were actually diverted pretrial under the new law. I voted 2-1 that I was eligible. Hestrin and senior deputy district attorney Chris Buffard filed a motion after the judge granted the three defendants diversion in separate drunk driving proceedings.

Two weeks ago (July 14 in the Los Angeles County Superior Court), a judge in the Appeals Department unanimously ruled that a drunk driving defendant was not eligible for diversion. When the state legislature approved AB 3234, they claimed that they were “silent about whether drunk driving could allow misdemeanor diversion,” and the new law did not abolish the provisions of the Vehicle Act. ..

A court spokesman said the Orange County Superior Court ruled that misdemeanor drunk driving violations were not eligible for diversion, while others refused to hear the petition raising the issue. Kostas Kalaitzidis said in an email.

Judgment disparity

In her petition to the Supreme Court, Gresley said the lack of decisions by the Court of Appeals on the dispute resulted in “a large disparity in judgment” by judges in the state-wide Trial Court.

“The lack of guidance on the question resulted in inconsistent judgments across the state,” Gresley said in her petition.

She quoted 11 drunk driving cases from eight higher courts across the state, including Riverside, Orange, and Los Angeles counties. In the eleventh case, the judge said further review was needed.

Get more distraction

In Riverside County, more than 12 drunk driving defendants have been allowed to divert since the new law came into force, said public defender Thule Dialo, deputy public defender. However, some judges are still reluctant to allow diversion even after the Appeals Department ruled in favor on July 27.

Martin Schwartz, a public defender at Orange County, said the conviction of misdemeanor drunk driving is unique in that it imposes heavy fines. Probably not important to the means people, they have a dramatic impact on the people his office tends to defend most, the poor.

Schwartz did not comment on how many drunk driving defendants had been allowed to divert, but said most of the requests were denied.

He couldn’t provide a certain number, but Jeff Canti, deputy public lawyer in San Bernardino County, said he had seen “only a handful” of drunk driving criminals since January. .. He accepts the new law.

“It follows the trends we see in California, providing different access to services and treating the root causes that lead people to our criminal justice system,” he said. “Much more beneficial than punitive.”

Jason Anderson, District Attorney of San Bernardino County, disagrees. Due to the high recidivism rate of drunk driving criminals and the public security risks they impose, he said it was important to convict him for the first time to prevent a second case. He argues that diversion is equivalent to “giving people a pass for their first drunk driving.”

Patricia Rirella, Executive Secretary of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California. (Photo courtesy of MADD)

MADD reacts

Patricia Rirella, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, said AB 3234 not only gives DUI offenders a free pass, but much more that her organization has achieved over 40 years of history. Said to cancel.

“From our point of view, it undermines the seriousness and progress of years of crimes committed to reduce drunk driving and drunk driving-related deaths,” Rirella said.

She states that affected drivers kill more than 1,000 casualties a year in California and more than 10,000 people nationwide, and the same repeated drunk driving offenders appear repeatedly in court-ordered classes. Said he was watching.

But there are also questions about the punitive nature of California’s drunk driving law and whether it’s really effective in preventing criminals from repeating past mistakes.

At a Senate Public Safety Commission hearing in July, Senator Nancy Skinner said that while prosecution for drunk driving violations has become more severe year by year, drunk driving cases have declined by only 4% in the last 22 years. Said.

“I haven’t seen any studies showing that diversion is less effective in reducing drunk driving,” Skinner said. “Obviously more data is needed to fully understand it, but there are some signs that some detour programs are more effective.”

Legislative measures

Legally, the bill was provided to clarify or tighten Tin’s bill.

Introduced by Senator Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, SB 421 limits detours to those who have not been previously convicted of drunk driving and have not completed detours within the last decade. For those who are allowed to divert, the bill will require defendants to install ignition interlocks and participate in education and counseling programs.

Two major Senate committees have approved Bradford’s bill.

Another bill, AB 3234 by Congressman Tom Lucky, was designed to exclude drunk driving under Tin’s diversion. However, the bill was rejected by the Senate Committee in July.

Lucky said he would submit the legislation at the next session. For him, the fight is personal. As a retired CHP officer who worked in LA County for 28 years, he saw dozens of accidents by DUI drivers and informed more than 40 families that their loved ones had died in a DUI-related accident.

“I personally arrested more than 1,000 drunk drivers. I’ve literally seen hundreds of tragedy related to driving disabilities, and it’s all preventable, and it’s a big tragedy.” Lucky said.

Change of heart

When Governor Gavin Newsom signed Tin’s bill on September 30, 2020, he stated that drunk driving was one of the eligible crimes.

“I’m worried that the drunk driving crime wasn’t excluded from the misdemeanor diversion program. I’ll try to quickly remedy this issue with Congress at the next legislative session,” he said at the time. rice field.

Tin has changed his mind due to the unintended consequences of the law over the past nine months and its spillover to the entire state.

When Lucky AB282 appeared in front of Congress on May 27, he was one of more than 60 members of Congress who voted in favor of it. The bill was passed and only nine lawmakers voted against it. However, two months later, it was rejected because it was submitted to the Senate Public Safety Commission.

Mr Tin said the main concerns raised about which crimes were subject to diversion as the bill went through the legislative process were related to domestic violence and sexual assault. The drunk driving breach did not come out during the discussion, he said in an email.

He said he was primarily concerned about the harsh treatment of first-time drunk driving criminals and “a universal approach to a non-functional criminal justice system.”

But now he wants to fix the flaws in the law.

“The legislative process allows for debate and compromise. Just because a law is enforced doesn’t mean it’s just that,” Ting said. “I’m always happy to listen. But one legislator doesn’t have the authority to make changes. It requires the approval of a majority of both homes and the governor.”

Misdemeanor diversion law sparks confusion, disparities in DUI cases – San Bernardino Sun Source link Misdemeanor diversion law sparks confusion, disparities in DUI cases – San Bernardino Sun

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