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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Tiger Woods to enter diversion program for impaired drivers

Washington residents may recall the media furor that ensued when Tiger Woods was charged with driving under the influence in May. Toxicology reports reveal that the former world number one was under the influence of prescription medications along with marijuana when he was discovered unconscious behind the wheel of his car, but he was scheduled to enter a guilty plea to a reduced charge of reckless driving at a Palm Beach County hearing on Oct. 25.

The plea agreement allows Woods to avoid a DUI conviction by entering into a diversion program for impaired drivers that has received the widespread support of state prosecutors. Similar programs are offered in states including Texas, Georgia and Pennsylvania, and some have claimed recidivism rates lower than 1 percent. Research has found that drunk drivers often reoffend, and organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have advocated for mandatory ignition interlock device laws to combat the problem. These devices have been found to lower recidivism rates by up to 65 percent.

The Florida diversion program provides rewards for offenders who follow the rules and penalties for those who do not. Impaired drivers who meet their obligations can ask the courts to expunge their reckless driving convictions, but those who reoffend face second-time DUI charges. Under the program, Woods will pay fines and court costs, submit to regular drug tests, perform community service and attend a drunk driving victim impact panel.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys may support approaches to drunk driving that concentrate on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Attorneys will likely know that a drunk driving conviction can linger in background reports for years and make securing a promotion or renting a home far more difficult, and they could urge prosecutors to consider alternatives to harsh criminal sanctions when their clients have not been in trouble with the law before and show genuine remorse for their poor judgment.

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