DUI Diversion – RIDR

The State Attorney’s Office in the Thirteenth (13th) Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, FL, recently announced the creation of a new DUI initiative called Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism (RIDR). The new program became effective on March 1, 2018.

The RIDR diversion program aims to do the following:

  • improve highway safety;
  • reduce impaired driving; and
  • reduce offender recidivism.

The advantages of these DUI diversion programs include:

  1. A more uniform result occurs, especially for people who cannot afford a more skilled criminal defense attorney or the expense of an expert witness;
  2. Before the DUI Diversion Program, many first DUI offenses were already being reduced to “reckless driving” as part of a plea bargain;
  3. Diversion programs save a first-time offender with no aggravating factors from the collateral consequences of a DUI conviction and reduce the amount of money paid for fines and costs;
  4. The money saved on attorney fees and the collateral consequences of a DUI conviction can be spent on completed enhanced sanctions that reduce recidivism;
  5. Public defenders and privately retained DUI Defense attorneys will be able to spend fewer billable hours representing clients who qualify for diversion and want to participate in the program;
  6. Diversion programs create a less adversarial working relationship between prosecutors and defense attorneys because the criteria for the most favorable outcome are largely pre-determined;
  7. Prosecutors can reduce the amount of time and effort spent on providing discovery, litigating options, negotiating disposition, and going to trial;
  8. Prosecutors can spend more time focusing on the most serious DUI cases that do not qualify for a diversion program instead of spending a disproportionate amount of time on the first time offenders who often mount the most aggressive defense;
  9. The different state attorneys can craft different types of diversion programs, which can then be evaluated to see which provides the most benefit for public safety;
  10. Allowing a case to be resolved through a diversion program reduced the time between the arrest and the final disposition of the case; and
  11. Judges’ and prosecutors’ caseloads are reduced because many DUI cases are resolved quickly without the need for trial motion hearings or as many pre-trial court dates.

People in favor of DUI diversion programs point to the reductions in the number of fatal car accidents involving drugs or alcohol in the other counties where DUI diversion programs exist.

In the end, the success of the program will come down to the benefits it provides the first-time offender, how it impacts recidivism rates, and how it impacts the number of fatal accidents caused by alcohol or drug impairment in Hillsborough County and other counties using diversion programs.

According to the State Attorney’s Office 2019 Annual Community Report published on January 31, 2020, “over the past 2.5 years, RIDR has proven extremely effective: recidivism rates are down, traffic safety is up, and we are prosecuting DUI cases more consistently and in a manner that allows first-time offenders an opportunity at rehabilitation.”

Attorneys for the RIDR Diversion in Tampa, FL

If you were arrested for DUI in Hillsborough County, FL, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm. We can help you protect your driving privileges by demanding a “FORMAL REVIEW HEARING” at the DHSMV within ten (10) days after your arrest.

Unless you demand the formal review hearing, the notation of the DUI administration suspension will remain on your driving record for the next 75 years, even if you avoid a DUI conviction and seal your criminal history record after completing the RIDR program.

Demanding the formal review hearing to challenge the administrative suspension within 10 days of the arrest is particularly important for anyone arrested for a first DUI who might be entering RIDR.

You do not have to decide whether you want to enter RIDR until after your formal review hearing. By then, you and your attorney can review the police reports and any audio or video at the roadside or the central breath testing unit.

Before settling for the RIDR program, learn more about the pros and cons. The RIDR program has some amazing benefits for someone charged with DUI when overwhelming evidence supports a conviction.

But if you are not guilty of the charge or the prosecutor has insufficient evidence, you might be better off filing a motion to suppress or dismiss the charge or proceeding to trial.

If you do decide to enter the RIDR program, we understand the best way to complete the enhanced sanctions, which might save you time and money. For the past 10 years, our office has been at the same location in downtown Tampa, FL, just a few blocks from the courthouse.

Call 813-250-0500.

The History of Tampa’s RIDR DUI Diversion Program

Andrew Warren, the new State Attorney in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, was elected on November 8, 2016. Andrew Warren ran on a platform of being more progressive when implementing programs that reduce recidivism and keep the community safe.

Before March 1, 2018, Hillsborough County did not have a diversion program for individuals arrested for DUI. The Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion (APAD) program in Hillsborough County, which took effect on July 1, 2017, specifically excluded anyone arrested for DUI or other criminal traffic offenses from participating.

The misdemeanor intervention program (MIP) also excludes people arrested for DUI from participating in that program.

On February 19, 2018, Rena J. Frazier, the Chief of Policy and Communication for the State Attorney’s Office in the 13th Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, FL, announced the creation of the new DUI initiative called “Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism” or “RIDR.” The program became effective on March 1, 2018.

On February 26, 2018, the State Attorney’s Office invited criminal defense attorneys from the private sector and the Public Defender’s Office to attend an informational meeting about the new RIDR program at the Edgecomb Courthouse, located at 800 E. Twiggs Street in downtown Tampa, FL.

More than a hundred (100) attorneys attended the meeting, where the eligibility conditions and process were explained. After the presentation, criminal defense attorneys could ask questions and voice their concerns about the initiative.

Based partly on the innovative RIDR Program, the State Attorney’s Office in Hillsborough County received the 2018 Outstanding Prosecution Award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Florida.

Who is Eligible for the DUI Diversion RIDR Initiative?

The State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, FL, has imposed the following eligibility requirements to enter the DUI diversion program:

  1. The defendant was not arrested for DUI with property damage or personal injury;
  2. At the time of the stop, no minor passenger under 18 years old was in the vehicle;
  3. The defendant has no pending charges for:
    • Driving While License Suspended with serious bodily injury or death;
    • Driving Under the Influence (DUI);
    • Leaving the scene of an accident with injury or death; or
    • Vehicular homicide.
  4. The defendant is not currently participating in any Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program;
  5. The defendant is not currently on probation;
  6. The defendant does not have a prior record for:
    • any prior DUI offense;
    • any alcohol-related reckless driving;
    • leaving the scene of an accident with injury or death;
    • vehicular homicide;
    • any DUI diversion program or more than one non-DUI diversion program as an adult; or
    • any adjudication or withhold of adjudication to any felony within the last five years before the date of this offense.

Although not expressly listed here, the State Attorney’s Office has also taken the position that a CDL holder is not eligible for RIDR even if they were not driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the stop.

Part of the reason for excluding CDL holders from RIDR is that federal regulations prohibit “masking” any traffic offense by withholding adjudication for CDL holders. Click here to read more about special issues for a CDL driver charged with DUI and how to challenge the CDL disqualification after a DUI arrest.

The State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, FL, will evaluate all cases on an individual, fact-specific basis. As the offender’s eligibility is determined at the SAO’s sole discretion, it may be based on relevant factors not mentioned above.

The State Attorney’s Office has indicated that it might be flexible on these conditions under the right circumstances, so even if you think you might not be eligible, it is a good idea to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about how these eligibility requirements might impact your case.

Even if you are not eligible for RIDR, if the prosecutor will have difficulty proving the case at trial, they might agree on a similar disposition to avoid a trial.

At Sammis Law Firm, we’ve had many cases in which our client was eligible for RIDR but decided not to enter the diversion program. We then negotiated a slightly better result right before a motion hearing or trial.

Different Levels of RIDR Initiative Sanctions

For each case in the program, the State Attorney’s Office assigns a level that depends on the facts of the case:

  • Level 1 sanctions apply when the BAC is at .15 or below;
  • Level 2 sanctions apply when the BAC is above .15, when no breath sample was provided (or in a BAC refusal case); or
  • Level 3 sanctions apply for drug-related DUI.

At the arraignment, the defendant must waive speedy trial and agree to set the case for disposition approximately sixty (60) days out. During that 60-day period, the defendant must provide proof of completion of the Pre-Plea Sanctions to the SAO.

Pre-Plea Sanctions to Be Completed Before the Disposition

During the first 60 days after the arraignment, the State Attorney’s Office expects the defendant to complete certain pre-pre sanctions for Level 1, 2, or 3, including:

  • completing at least (10) ten community service hours
  • attending the MADD victim impact panel
  • completing DUI school and recommended treatment
  • remaining crime-free

For the Level 1 and Level 2 programs, the defendant must:

  • provide proof of installation of an ignition interlock alcohol monitoring device or continuous alcohol monitoring device, e.g., SCRAM.

For the Level 3 program, the defendant must also:

  • not possess or consume alcohol, illegal drugs, or non-prescribed drugs; and
  • use PharmCheck Drugs of Abuse Patch with results provided to the SAO.

Enhanced Sanctions for the RIDR Plea

After the satisfactory completion of the Pre-Plea Sanctions, the offender will be offered a plea for reckless driving with a withhold of adjudication. The negotiated plea also requires twelve (12) months of probation to complete the following terms and special conditions:

  • pay the standard court costs;
  • immobilize the vehicle for ten (10) days;
  • do not possess any illegal drugs or non-prescription drugs or consume alcohol while on probation; and
  • completion of DUI school and any recommended treatment.

For Level I, the defendant must further complete:

  • fifty (50) hours of community service; and
  • install the ignition interlock alcohol monitoring device or any continuous alcohol monitoring device for three (3) months.

For Level 2, the defendant must further complete:

  • Seventy-five (75) hours of community service; and
  • Install the ignition interlock alcohol monitoring device or any continuous alcohol monitoring device for six (6) months.

For Level 3, the defendant must further complete:

  • fifty (50) hours of community service; and
  • wear a PharmCheck Drug of Abuse Patch (PharmChek® Drugs of Abuse Sweat Patch) for three (3) months with results provided to HCSO probation.

The State Attorney’s Office will credit the defendant for the completion of sanctions already completed after the arrest but before the time of sentencing.

 Pros and Cons of Entering a DUI Diversion Program

Diversion programs have many pros and cons that must be carefully considered. The pros and cons depend largely on the facts of the case. If the case can be won at trial or during a pre-trial motion hearing, then the Defendant is far better off fighting the charges in court.

But when the facts of the case are bad, and the chances of success during motions or trial are remote, the Defendant is often better off entering a diversion program. From the defendant’s perspective, the benefits of entering the program include having more predictable results and allowing for a better resolution. By avoid a DUI conviction, the Defendant avoids:

  • a court-ordered suspension of the driver’s license (although that won’t impact any administrative or on-the-stop suspension that wasn’t challenged at a formal review hearing);
  • needing the high-risk FR44 insurance that comes with the dramatic increase in insurance premiums.

If the defendant has no prior convictions, the withhold of adjudication means the driver might be eligible to seal the entire criminal history record after the case is completed.

For these reasons, the participant in the diversion program avoids the stigma and collateral consequences that come along with a DUI conviction. The money saved can be spent on enhanced sanctions, such as more intensive substance abuse counseling, a scram monitor, or an ignition interlock device.

Criticism of DUI Diversion Programs in Florida

Some criticize DUI diversion programs because they change the way law enforcement agencies allocate resources and tend to decrease the number of DUI arrests. Others complain that the prior offense cannot legally serve to enhance the mandatory penalties to be imposed in the event that the diverted defendant is later adjudicated after committing a second DUI offense.

The idea that diversion enables repeat offenders to be treated as first-time offenders is absurd because the prosecutor almost always knows about the prior arrest. Even if the record has been sealed, the administrative suspension stays on the driving record for 75 years.

The prosecutor always has the option to ask for more than the statutory minimum for a second offense, especially if the prior case was resolved in a diversion program.

Other DUI Diversion Programs throughout Florida

The Florida Legislature has failed to create any DUI diversion program. Instead, different state attorneys throughout Florida have created their own programs. These types of DUI diversion programs have worked in other parts of the state, including:

  • Third Judicial Circuit – Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, and Taylor Counties – “Back on Track” Program
  • Sixteenth Judicial Circuit – Taylor County and Monroe County – “Back on Track” Program
  • Orlando DUI Diversion Program
  • Palm Beach Pre-trial DUI Diversion Program (Fifteenth Judicial Circuit)
  • Miami-Dade’s “Back on Track” Program

Like the diversion programs in those counties, the diversion program in Hillsborough County has strict eligibility requirements.

Many of the DUI diversion programs in Florida have extra requirements for a person arrested with a BAC of 0.08 or above. In some programs, a person with a particularly high BAC would be ineligible. Some diversion programs also make people ineligible if they have an open container or pet in the vehicle.

Although Hillsborough County’s RIDR program makes any DUI with a BAC of .20 or higher ineligible, in other counties the BAC can be higher. In Monroe County in the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit, the BAC limit for diversion can be up to .24. The benefit of having higher BAC limits for diversion is discouraging people from refusing to submit to chemical testing.

Frequently Asked Questions about DUI Diversion Programs in Florida

If I complete RIDR and get arrested for a DUI years later, will the enhanced penalties for a second conviction apply? 

No, once the DUI is reduced to reckless driving, it cannot legally serve to enhance the mandatory penalties to be imposed “in the event that the diverted defendant is adjudicated after committing a second DUI offense.” See Hon. Karl B. Grube, Florida’s Non-Statutory, De Facto Dui/Dwi Diversion Programs: Diverting Justice for Judicial and Prosecutorial Expediency?, 48 Stetson L. Rev. 547, 555 (2019).

Although the RIDR disposition can’t enhance a second offense, the prosecutor or judge can certainly take it into consideration when making an offer to resolve a subsequent offense. Even a first DUI is subject to up to 6 months in jail and other harsh penalties.

If I complete RIDR, can I get a diversion program the next time I get in trouble?

No. As a practical matter, the prosecutor will know about the prior DUI arrest if you suffered an administrative (on-the-spot) suspension. Regardless of whether your record is sealed, that notation on your driving record remains. Therefore, if you are arrested again for DUI, you will NOT be eligible the second time for a DUI diversion program.

Additional Resources

Diversion Enhances Sanctions to give First-time DUI Offenders in Hillsborough Chance of Lesser Charge, No Conviction – Read an article recently published in a Tampa newspaper at New Channel 8 on February 28, 2018, explaining the new plan by the State Attorney, Andrew Warren, to help first-time offenders arrested for drunk driving while enhancing public safety.

DUI Attorney for Diversion Programs in Hillsborough County, FL

Call an experienced DUI defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm, P.A., to learn more about the New DUI initiative called Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism (RIDR) in Hillsborough County, FL. Find out more about programs that might impact how your case is resolved.

During your consultation, our attorneys can explain the differences between diversion programs in Hillsborough County, including:

The success of the program will depend on the benefits it provides to a participant who is considering fighting the case in court. The length of time required to complete the program and its cost will be two of the most important factors.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm also represent CDL holders who might not be eligible to enter a formal diversion program, but still need to avoid a conviction for DUI or reckless driving.

Call 813-250-0500.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.