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New bill may give first-time DWI offenders clean record

On March 3, lawmakers in Texas looked at a bill that would allow some first-time DWI offenders to maintain clean criminal records. The initial version of the bill would require any county in Texas with a population of greater than 200,000 to implement Direct Intervention Voluntary Education, Restitution, and Treatment programs. DIVERT programs allow first-time offenders to have a drunk driving charge expunged after two years.

Proponents of the bill say that putting drunk drivers in jail does not cure the problem. By allowing people who are convicted of DWI for the first time to go through DIVERT programs, authorities can send a message that they want to help people who are suffering from a substance abuse problem. Participants in the programs would be required to undergo weekly testing, attend education courses and have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles. Participants would also be responsible for paying the program fees themselves.

Although the first bill that was introduced would make DIVERT programs obligatory for counties, an alternate bill is being considered that would make DIVERT programs optional. According to a state legislator, DIVERT programs cost less for taxpayers than putting drunk drivers in jail.

A person who has received a drunk driving charge for the first time should speak to an attorney about alternatives to jail time such as a DIVERT program or other forms of counseling. If one of these programs exists in a defendant's area, an attorney can help the client to take advantage of it. However, in cases where the prosecution does not have a strong case against a defendant, an attorney can choose to instead dispute the charges.

Source: KEYE, "Bill Could Get 1st Time DWIs Taken Off Record," March 4, 2015

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