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How Substance Abuse Assessment Units Influence DUI Cases

By San Diego Attorney on April 18, 2021

In the most populated counties in California, district courts have several divisions to handle specific cases. These includes juvenile courts, drug courts, and alternative sentencing courts. These courts appoint special task forces to find alternative ways of dealing with criminal offenders — ways that do not include jail time.

For San Diego County residents who are arrested for DUIs, their cases may receive the attention of the Substance Abuse Assessment Unit.

What Is the Substance Abuse Assessment Unit?

San Diego County’s Substance Abuse Assessment Unit (SAAU) is a special division of our district court that assists judges in determining if a defendant is eligible for a diversion program, probation, or alternative sentencing after being arrested for driving under the influence. Since 1994, SAAU has advised judges on the importance of substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation as a part of sentencing guidelines for DUIs.

There are four SAAU offices that handle different regions throughout San Diego County, including:

  • Central Division, located at 1100 Union Street, San Diego, CA 92101
  • North County Division, located at 325 S. Melrose Dr., Vista, CA 92081
  • South County Division, located at 500 Third Ave., Chula Vista, CA 91910
  • East County Division, located at 250 E. Main St., El Cajon, CA 92020

Each of these offices works closely with our district judges to determine if a defendant has a substance abuse issue and needs alternative sentencing rather than jail time. Not all DUI arrests are eligible for these programs, and it is SAAU’s job to decide if a defendant is eligible. In most cases, a judge will reach out to SAAU to evaluate a defendant and offer advice about a case.

If SAAU does get involved, its team will perform an assessment on the defendant, which may include an interview and a questionnaire with a substance abuse specialist. Based on the SAAU recommendation, you may be offered probation or a diversion program instead of jail time.

If you have the opportunity to meet with SAAU, speak honestly about your situation. Let them know if you have a history of substance abuse issues, if addiction runs in your family, and you believe you need help from a treatment program.

SAAU is ultimately here to help people in need, and could possibly be beneficial for you in the long term.

Always Discuss Your Options With a Criminal Law Specialist First

Entering a substance abuse program is one way to lessen your charges after a DUI, but there are other options as well. At jD LAW, our team specializes in tackling DUIs throughout San Diego County and has experience getting these charges reduced or dismissed. Our lead attorney is a Certified Criminal Law Specialist in the state of California and a former LAPD investigator who understands how the prosecution thinks. He can review your case in a free confidential consultation and outline how to defend against your charges. To speak to a San Diego drunk driving defense lawyer today, call jD LAW at (760) 630-2000.

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