Davidson County, Tennessee District Attorney Glenn Funk has decided to divert drivers license violations such as Operating After Revocation out of the overburdened criminal justice system and into a diversion program called “steering clear,” which is a diversion program designed to help people get their driver’s licenses reinstated. This program avoids recidivism by assisting those with suspended or revoked driver’s licenses to obtain valid and active licenses, which prevents future arrests and avoidable criminal charges. This is a smart way to best utilizes limited prosecutorial resources.
DA Funk realized the substantial expenditures of time and money that go into operating after suspension arrests and prosecutions. These involve booking, prisoner processing, transportation, administrative time, a burden on the courthouse support staff, and taking time in front of a judge which could be spent on other more serious offenses.
The new program avoids the requirement to book and process defendants whose only charges are misdemeanor violations for driving while suspended. They are excused from having to appear before a judge so long as they agree to an alternative disposition which may involve getting their licenses reinstated, performing community service, and/or completing a safe driving program.
Offenders who are on probation for DUI or other similar offenses, are involved in a collision, or have outstanding warrants will not be eligible for diversion and they will have to appear before a judge.
This progressive program realizes that when it comes to operating after suspension, for many drivers, the punishment simply does not fit the crime. This program represents a “win-win” situation. The criminal justice system benefits by a more effective use of resources and the person accused of driving on a suspended license gets the benefit of not having to appear in court as a criminal defendant. Massachusetts should investigate the feasibility of adopting a similar program here.