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 diversion program, Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism (RIDR), is intended to do the following:
- improve highway safety
- reduce impaired driving
- reduce offender recidivism
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 with DUI diversion programs exist. The proponents of these programs point out that many DUI offenses are already being reduced to “reckless driving” as part of a plea bargain even without a diversion program. At least with RIDR, the more uniform program requires enhanced sanctions that tend to reduce recidivism.
Other benefits include the fact that with a diversion program like RIDR, prosecutors now have more time to devote to the most serious cases and can offer fewer plea bargains in those cases.
Some criticize DUI diversion programs because they change the way law enforcement agencies allocate resources and tend to decrease the number of arrests being made (which is really a problem with the law enforcement agency).
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 minimums for a second offense, especially if the prior case was resolved in a diversion program.
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.
The History of Tampa’s RIDR DUI Diversion Program
The new State Attorney in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, Andrew Warren, was elected in November of 2016. Andrew Warren ran on a platform of being more progressive when implementing programs that reduce recidivism and keep the community safe.
Prior to 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 that 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 in both the private sector and at the Public Defender’s Office to attend an informational meeting about the new RIDR program on at the Edgecomb Courthouse, located at 800 E. Twiggs Street in downtown Tampa, FL.
More than 100 attorneys attended the meeting where the eligibility conditions and process were explained. After the presentation, criminal defense attorneys had an opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns about the initiative.
Based in part 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:
- The defendant was not arrested for DUI with property damage or personal injury
- At the time of the stop, no minor passenger under 18 years old was in the vehicle
- 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
- Vehicular homicide
- The defendant is not currently participating in any Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program
- The defendant is not currently on probation
- 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
- any adjudication or withhold of adjudication to any felony within the last five years prior to 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. Federal regulations for CDL holders prohibit ““masking” any traffic offense by withhold adjudication. 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 a difficult time 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 were then able to negotiate a slightly better result right before a motion hearing or trial. We sometimes call it – “RIDR-Light”.
For instance, some clients have no good way to install the ignition interlock device or use a SCRAM monitor. If all the other RIDR conditions are completed, the prosecutor might wish to avoid trial by dropping one or more of the typical RIDR conditions from the plea deal, especially if a “not guilty” verdict at trial is likely.
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 or when no breath sample was provided (or in a BAC refusal case)
- 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 program, 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
- 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 of reckless driving with a withhold of adjudication. The negotiated plea also requires twelve (12) months 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
- completion of DUI school and any recommended treatment.
For Level I, the defendant must further complete:
- fifty (50) hours of community service
- 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
- 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
- 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 that is saved can be spent on the enhanced sanctions such as more intensive substance abuse counseling, a scram monitor, or an ignition interlock device.
Advantages of DUI Diversion Program for the Criminal Justice System
The Florida Legislature has failed to create any type of DUI diversion program. Instead, different state attorneys throughout Florida have created their own programs. The advantage of these DUI diversion programs include:
- A more uniform result occurs especially for people who cannot afford a more skilled criminal defense attorney or the expense of an expert witness;
- Prior to the DUI Diversion Program, many first DUI offenses were already being reduced to “reckless driving” as part of a plea bargain.
- 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;
- The money saved on attorney fees and the collateral consequences of a DUI conviction can be spent on completed enhanced sanctions that reduce recidivism.
- The public defenders and privately retained DUI Defense attorneys will be able to spend fewer billable hours representing clients that qualify for diversion and want to participate in the program.
- 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;
- Prosecutors can reduce the amount of time and effort spend on provide discovery, litigating options, negotiating disposition, and going to trial;
- Prosecutors can spend more time focusing on the most serious DUI case 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;
- The different state attorneys are able to craft different types of diversion programs which can then be evaluated to see which provides the most benefit for public safety;
- Allowing a case to be resolved through a diversion program reduced the time between the arrest and the final disposition of the case; and
- The caseloads for judges and prosecutors are reduced because many of those DUI cases are resolved quickly without the need for trials motion hearings or as many pre-trial court dates.
Other DUI Diversion Programs throughout Florida
These type 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 of these programs, a person with a particularly high BAC would be ineligible. Some diversion programs also make a person 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 a have completed 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 or on-the-spot suspension. Regardless of whether your record is sealed, that notation on your driving record remains. For a second offense, you will NOT be eligible for a DUI diversion program.
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 creation of a DUI diversion program in Hillsborough County, FL, called Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism (RIDR). Find out more about programs that might impact the way your case can be resolved.
Find out more about the differences between diversion programs in Hillsborough County for the pre-trial misdemeanor intervention program (MIP) and the adult pre-arrest diversion (APAD) program for cases resolved at the courthouse in Tampa and Plant City, FL.
The success of the program will come down to the benefits it provides a participant who is considering just fighting the case in court. The length of time required to complete the program and the cost of the program will be two of the most important factors.
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm also represent the holders of a commercial driver’s license (CDL) who might not be eligible to enter a formal diversion program, but still need to avoid a conviction for DUI or reckless driving.
This article was last updated on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.