Oregon DUII Diversion — How Long to Decide?

If you’re arrested for DUII and you’re eligible for the Oregon DUII Diversion program, the law generally requires that you file your Diversion petition within 30 days of your first court appearance. ORS 813.210(1). However, that deadline can be extended for “good cause.” ORS 813.210(1)(a). The legislature didn’t give us much guidance on what constitutes “good cause,” but they told us what doesn’t: filing a motion to suppress, demurrer, omnibus hearing, or starting a trial.

In 2013 Oregon passed a “Brady Bill,” codifying the discovery obligations of Brady v. Maryland, 373 US 83 (1963). The prosecutor must disclose police reports, notes, and any lab note results of blood alcohol content (BAC). ORS 135.815(1), (3). But subsection (2) addresses timing, indicating those disclosures “shall occur without delay after arraignment and prior to the entry of any guilty plea pursuant to an agreement with the state. If the existence of the material or information is not known at that time, the disclosure shall be made upon discovery without regard to whether the represented defendant has entered or agreed to enter a guilty plea.” ORS 135.815(2).

Most courts understand that a guilty or no contest plea entered without full discovery is on its face not an intelligent and knowing plea. That is, without a lab report indicating what BAC the state attributes to the defendant, the defendant cannot know how her lawyer would defend the case. Lawyers do not defend under-the-limit DUII cases the same way we defend over-the-limit DUII cases. An accurate measurement of BAC can help protect the innocent and convict the guilty, and it is arguably the most important piece of evidence in any DUII case — because it harks from science, not opinion.

Point being: even though the legislature didn’t tell us what “good cause” meant for delaying an Oregon DUII Diversion decision, they did tell us that we’re not supposed to permit guilty pleas without full discovery.

There are times where it may, nevertheless, be wise to enter a plea to enter DUII Diversion without full discovery. For instance, if you feel that you were three sheets to the wind while driving, and you want to start the Diversion obligations, you are not required to wait until blood draw results come back from the Crime Lab (which typically take 6-8 weeks at the time of this writing). The nice thing about starting Diversion obligations in that situation are: (1) they then end sooner; (2) sometimes starting the process of Diversion helps deal with guilt or shame brought on by the arrest; (3) the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) requirement can start during a time when you’re already suspended for refusing or failing a breath test; and (4) early recognition of an alcohol problem can be looked on favorably by courts and prosecutors in relation to other pending charges from the night of the arrest (Reckless Driving, Reckless Endangering, etc.).

The short answer to “how long you have to decide” is: 30 days from your first court appearance. But if discovery is not complete, the law makes clear that you shouldn’t be required to enter a plea and enter the Oregon DUII Diversion program just yet — to give up your rights and defenses at trial, you have to know about what they’d be. And most lawyers can’t tell you how they’d defend your case without knowing what the BAC is.