Ca. Litig. Rev. 2019

Developments in Law Regarding Veterans

By Justice Eileen C. Moore

California Criminal Law

Passed in 1998, California Vehicle Code § 23640 states that courts are prohibited from diverting drunk drivers away from criminal prosecutions. Thus, when Penal Code § 1001.80 became effective in 2015, matters got a bit confusing. The newer statute states that when a person is or was in the military and suffers from certain maladies as a result, and is accused of any misdemeanor, the court may divert the person. Penal Code § 1001.80 applies to defendants suffering from such conditions as traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual trauma, and substance abuse as a result of military service, and states the court may place that person accused of a misdemeanor in a pretrial diversion program.

Appellate courts interpreted the statute differently. In People v. VanVleck (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 355, the appeals court concluded that military diversion is not available for defendants charged with driving under the influence. In Hopkins v. Superior Court (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 1275, the appeals court reached the opposite conclusion. The California Supreme Court granted review in Hopkins.

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