In early spring, the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office unveiled a program designed to reduce the charges for people who have had their first DUI arrest. Reducing Impaired Drivers Recidivism Program, referred to as the RIDR, was intended to help those who made one mistake clear their record of the DUI, but its implementation has been less successful than expected. The problem with the system is that it is too cumbersome and expensive for most people to complete within the required timeframe.
Not every first time DUI offender is eligible for the RIDR program and you cannot participate if you:
- Where driving with a minor in the vehicle;
- Tested above a 0.20 blood alcohol content;
- Caused an injury or property damage;
- Have a prior conviction for reckless driving or vehicular homicide;
- Have a driving while license suspended prior; and/or
- Have a felony on your record from within the past five years.
Also, since each arrest will be viewed on a case-by-case basis, you can be denied eligibility for the program for reasons not identified above. According to the guidelines, if you do not qualify for the program, you may be subject to harsher penalties.
Participation Benefits and Requirements
A reason to participate in the program is that, upon completion, the charge is reduced from a DUI to reckless driving. In addition, you would receive a “withhold of adjudication” which allows you to have the DUI arrest sealed. This means that employers and other conducting a background check will not see the DUI conviction on your record.
There are several “sanctions” or criteria that you must meet to successfully complete the program, and all sanctions must be met prior to your court date. These requirements vary depending on the level category of the DUI arrest but everyone is must:
- Remain crime-free;
- Complete DUI School, undergo an alcohol evaluation, and begin treatment;
- Attend a MADD victim impact panel; and
- Complete ten community service hours.
Additional requirements are based on “levels” and may include:
- Installing an ignition interlock alcohol monitoring device;
- Using a continuous alcohol monitoring device (e.g. a SCRAM monitor);
- Not possess or consume alcohol, illegal drugs, or non-prescribed drugs;
- Use PharmCheck Drugs of Abuse Patch with results provided to the SAO;
- 50 to 75 additional hours of community service.
While this program appears to provide an opportunity for first time DUI offenders to reduce their sentence and keep the DUI conviction from appearing on their record, there are problems with the program that limit its effectiveness.
Problems with the RIDR Program
In theory the program represents a great opportunity for people facing a first time DUI charge. However, now that we have several months of experience with the practical aspects of the program, there are some significant problems. First, most people find it difficult to either:
- Be eligible for the program; or
- Meet the cumbersome conditions when they are eligible.
Many people who are eligible for the program find it cumbersome and unmanageable to successfully complete within the required timeframe, especially when they have a family and full time job. Meeting the community service and substance abuse treatment program hour sanctions along can require more time than they have available. In addition, the cost of installing an ignition interlock device on their vehicle is beyond their means. The cost of the continuous alcohol monitoring device or the PharmCheck Drugs of Abuse Patch can also be prohibitive.
These requirements are unnecessarily burdensome, especially for someone with a job and family who made only one mistake. Fortunately there is another option.
Hire an Attorney
As soon as you are arrested for a DUI, hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who has extensive experience representing clients facing this charge. This attorney can determine if:
- You are eligible for the program and
- The program is in your best interests.
The attorneys of Stechschulte Nell have often successfully had charges reduced to reckless driving without our clients having to go through this program, saving them the time, money and stress. Also, we review each case prior to making a recommendation and may decide to contest the charges in court. For clients who want to participate in the program but are found to be ineligible, we advocate on their behalf, and work to get them accepted.
Experiencing your first DUI arrest is difficult, but we can help smooth the path and achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Call or go online to schedule a free consultation.