While few would dispute that anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime is entitled to a second chance, what would happen if that “first chance” was wiped from their criminal record? What if the offense committed was driving under the influence.
As with anything remotely politically tinged in 2020, AB 3234 has its share of supporters and detractors. Partially based on a shuttered diversion pilot program in Los Angeles County, it would allow courts to grant diversion to a wide range of misdemeanor offenses.
Serious Concerns Regarding Road Safety
One of those crimes, in particular, would be drunk driving. Unlike the program it was based on, the new law does not set any limitations on eligibility. This raises concerns that convicted drunk drivers would perpetually qualify for the plan and keep them on California roads if the multiple offenses occurred in different counties.
Throughout the state, prosecutors decried the bill, seeing it as a threat to public safety as convicted drunk drivers would not be held accountable over the long term. Instead, their cases would be dismissed and erased from their records after successfully completing a diversion program. Detractors also fear the loss of millions in federal funds that support DUI investigations and prosecutions statewide.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) also oppose the law, seeing it as a “free pass” for those who drive drunk and cause injury without the victims or law enforcement having any means to object.
Surprisingly, one opponent of the drunk driving component in AB 3234 is Gov. Gavin Newsome. While signing the bill into law, he issued a written response where he hoped that the legislature would “remedy the issue” and remove DUIs from the list of offenses eligible for diversion.
Stay tuned as I’m sure we will hear much more about this issue in the near future.