Veterans struggling with emotional damage related to their service could get a break on DUI arrests.
Senate Bill 725 would allow veterans to get treatment rather than be convicted of misdemeanor DUI’s.
With nearly 40,000 veterans calling San Diego home, the proposed legislation could have a big impact in San Diego.
It would expand a current military diversion program.
Advocates say it will help drunk-driving offenders get treatment for their problems with alcohol.
Among the critics is the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, which is advocating the bill be amended to include a limit on the number of times offenders can access the diversion program.
A Deputy District Attorney told NBC 7, the proposed legislation does not provide any avenue for restitution for victims of injury DUI crashes
“We’re very much pro-veteran and pro-treatment, but we want it to be balanced with the needs of public safety,” said Harrison Kennedy, a prosecutor.
San Diego-resident Kim Moreno said he worked for a similar drug diversion program at MCAS Miramar during the Vietnam War.
“It had its successes and it had its failures and a lot of that depended on the individuals themselves,” Moreno said.
Some told NBC 7 society should be doing more to help our veterans before they get behind the wheel of a car drunk.
Last fall, a Wounded Warrior veteran went to the Veteran’s Administration seeking assistance with his alcohol addiction, according to his defense attorney Paul Pfingst.
Six days later, before receiving treatment, he picked up his two children from school, driving with a blood-alcohol content four times the legal limit, according to prosecutors.
Paul Schenk crashed his truck into 21-year-old Rachael Guarneros-Callahan, ending her life and injuring his two children, aged 5 and 4, who were unrestrained in the vehicle.
SB 725, first reported by the UT San Diego, applies only to misdemeanor DUI’s, so Schenk would not qualify for the diversion program for the fatal DUI in Ramona.
However, prosecutors say they want to avoid a situation where they would have to tell a family who lost their loved one that the defendant had done something similar before and avoided prosecution.
Senate Bill 725 unanimously passed the Senate and could be up for a full vote of the Assembly sometime this week, according to the UT San Diego.