Efforts to reduce impaired driving in Illinois and around the country often involve passing stricter laws with more severe penalties, but recidivism rates among drunk drivers remain worryingly high. Lawmakers in several states have tested the effectiveness of intoxicated driver diversion programs that allow offenders to avoid criminal penalties when they meet certain requirements, and the results have often been extremely promising.
Tiger Woods will be participating in such a program after pleading guilty to reckless driving in connection with a drunk driving incident. Police in Palm Beach County say that Woods was found unresponsive behind the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz in May, and reports indicate that both prescription medications and THC were discovered in his blood during subsequent toxicology testing. The guilty plea allows Woods to avoid a criminal conviction for DUI, but he will be charged as a repeat drunk driving offender if he is found behind the wheel while impaired again.
Woods will also pay restitution and fines, perform community service and attend a drunk driving victim impact panel. The program Woods is entering claims a recidivism rate of less than 1 percent, and records show that more than 2,000 first-time offenders have taken advantage of the opportunity over the last four years to avoid jail and put a serious mistake behind them. Diversion programs are sometimes accompanied by ignition interlock laws. These devices have been found to reduce drunk driving recidivism by up to 65 percent.
The success of this type of program could be cited by experienced criminal defense attorneys during plea negotiations when drunk driving charges are being discussed. Attorneys could argue that the public is best served when drunk drivers do not reoffend, and they could urge prosecutors to consider leniency when their clients have not been in trouble before and are genuinely remorseful.