Palm Beach County offers unique DUI Diversion Program for first-time offenders

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods agreed to enter Palm Beach County State Attorney's first-time DUI offender diversion program.

In order for a person to reap the rewards of this program, they have to be disciplined and adhere to the strict program rules for an entire year.

State Attorney Dave Aronberg says the county's diversion program for first time DUI offenders is among the strictest with harsh penalties.

“At an arraignment, you would plead guilty to reckless driving,” Aronberg said. “Then you have all these hoops to jump through the next year. You have probation for a year, but you also have to do community service, you have to pay fines, you have to have an interlock in your system if alcohol were involved. You have to do a victim panel, you have to have a vehicle immobilization program. There are all these requirements.”

The county created the diversion program in 2013.

The program is the only one of its kind and endorsed by MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“That is because we require an interlock device,” Aronberg said. “We enforce it for three months in Tier 1 and six months in Tier 2. “

Palm Beach County is only one of four counties in the state to offer this type of program.

“We are tougher on DUI’s with this program than if someone went to trial on DUI and is found guilty,” Aronberg said. “If you are found guilty of a first time DUI in this county, the sentence is rarely, if ever, jail time, but you could face jail time.”

In fact, those who don't succeed can face up to 90 days in jail.

The first-time DUI offender program is not open to drivers who were involved in a crash, or had minors or animals in their vehicles.

Aronberg says there is a high success rate for those who complete the program, but many offenders don’t even try because of the program's difficulty.

“Since 2013, we’ve had 2100 people go through the program and it’s been a great success,” he said. ”We’ve had a low recidivism rate.”

The State Attorney contributes the success of the first time DUI offender program to its strict requirements.

Those who are caught with alcohol, drugs that are not prescribed to them, or who don't complete the various requirements for the full year, including DUI school, community service and victim impact classes, could face jail time.

“One percent of the participants of the program have failed the program,” Aronberg said. “That is a real success story because not everyone qualifies for the program. Someone who has a history of DUI will never qualify for program.”

The state attorney’s office says the program benefits public safety, saves taxpayer’s money and makes first time offenders accept accountability for their actions.

“Since this program has been enacted, our conviction rates for DUI have gone way up, the number of trials has gone down and our recidivism rate has gone way down, so it has been a win, win, win all around,” Aronberg said.

Tiger Woods’ attorney says his client will enter the program at his Oct. 25 arraignment hearing and is already seeking treatment for addiction.

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