My friend and Officemate, Tyler Flood, was kind enough to share his recent experience with Pat Lykos' new, controversial DIVERT program. Tyler, who's criminal law specialty is DWI and other related intoxication offenses details how Bridgwater's "rehabilitation program" really is just a great opportunity for a DWI Defendant to risk getting betrayed and screwed over by the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight.
Tyler describes his experience as follows:
I accompanied a client to a DIVERT interview a week and half ago and met Raymie Hairell-Sweat, the person in charge of this program at 49 San Jacinto. She was very professional and did an excellent job at calming my concerns about what questions would be asked of my client about the actual incident. I was concerned with my client making any admission that could later be used against him. I expressed my concern to Raymie that I didn’t want my client to have to go into details about the incident and she ASSURED me that the interview wouldn’t be that intrusive and that a brief statement of what happened would suffice, such as “I was arrested for DWI.” I was more impressed upon our exit that Raymie actually went to the interviewer and told her to be cautious about asking too many questions about the incident that the attorneys were there and are very concerned.
WELL…on another client, we just received an email from ADA Roger Bridgwater, stating, “It appears his needs exceed the ability of DIVERT.” A Rejection from the program! His SALCE scores weren’t even at the highest 5 mark. They were in the middle and they still rejected him. Mr. Bridgwater attached the interview and it is a complete de-briefing on the incident covering EVERYTHING about what happened, including how much the client drank, admissions of operating, basically everything they need to have a solid case at trial now. They first promised they wouldn’t ask intrusive questions and were not seeking admissions and now not only do they send me a rejection letter into the program but through the interview process they have just prepared themselves for trial at our $202 expense!
After calming down and reflecting, it all makes perfect sense…They claim DIVERT is about rehabilitation and treatment for those that struggle with substance abuse. They also say that they are going to have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy meaning one screw up, one reading of alcohol in the ignition interlock, one relapse, whatever you call it, that person is out of the program and on their way to jail.
The problem is that treatment and zero tolerance are contradicting strategies. Treatment is not about "no mistakes". Treatment commonly involves relapse. This presents a problem to the DIVERT program. It sets it up to have very low success rates. The DA’s office needs for it to appear successful. So how do we fix the problem? By now deciding to reject anybody who they think won’t make a zero tolerance policy. Rejecting everyone who truly needs and could benefit from REAL treatment. Reject anybody who may have a problem and then you’ll have higher success rates. From what I heard yesterday, there was a meeting and it was stated that half of all applicants are in fact being rejected. So much for across the board acceptance for first time offenders.
I was suspicious of this program before, and now I am just angry. I would caution every attorney and client considering taking it and I would urge the attorney’s presence at the interview when possible.