The 2013 legislature made two changes to Oregon’s Diversion Program. The changes were sponsored by the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association and the Oregon District Attorney’s Association. As a Portland DUII Attorney I support these changes.
Diversion is a deferred sentencing program in which a person enters a plea of guilty or no contest to DUII, but the sentencing is deferred for one year. A program participant is required to complete certain requirements, the main one being treatment, with the promise that the case will be dismissed at the end of the one year period if the person complies. The period can be extended once for 180 days.
A diversion participant must pay many expenses. There are court fees for entering the program, fees for a drug and alcohol evaluation and the cost of treatment itself. Many people struggle to pay these costs and end up needing more time to pay off their obligations.
More Time To Pay Costs
House Bill 2627 allows the Court to give a person a little more time to pay the court costs, if the balance is under $500.00. The maximum length of a Diversion agreement is one and a half years. This bill allows the Court, at the end of a year and a half, to set a court hearing outside of the year and a half period to allow a person to pay the remaining court costs. HB 2627 does not specify how long a period of time the Court can allow, but it will likely be one or two months. In the past, the Court had no authority to go beyond the one and a half year limit. I have seen many people terminated from the Diversion Program simply because they could not afford to pay court casts. This is a sensible change that shows consideration for people who are struggling to pay Diversion costs.
Defendants Now Pay Restitution
HB 2627 also allows the Court to impose a restitution obligation if a person caused an economic loss to another person during the course of their DUII. This was not possible in the past because Diversion eligible DUIIs never had a formal sentencing in which the Court could make a determination that restitution was appropriate. Now, the Court can hold a restitution hearing as a part of a Diversion agreement and enter a Judgment against the Diversion participant for any economic loss they have caused to another person.
The best part of this change is that a diversion participant cannot be terminated from the program just because they still owe restitution monies at the end of their Diversion. If a person does owe restitution money at the end of their case, the Court will enter a money judgment against the participant for the unpaid balance. This can then be paid in installments or sent out to a collection agency.
As an Gresham DUII Lawyer I am always pleased to see defense lawyers and prosecutors work together on matters of mutual interest. These changes provide assistance to people with financial hardships and restitution to persons who suffered an economic loss as a result of a DUII driver.
By James F. O’Rourke Jr.
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