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Sarpy County stands as lone county in Nebraska to offer diversion for DUI's

Posted at 6:19 PM, Apr 25, 2018

When a person gets picked up for a DUI in Nebraska  they will typically get some kind of combination of probation, house arrest, jail and heavy fines. But in Sarpy County, things are different. 

Folks who get a first-offense DUI can enter a diversion program and wipe their record clean of a drunk driving conviction. 

"We see success, we don't see those people coming back, the majority of those folks," says Sarpy County Attorney Lee Palikov. 

Longtime Sarpy County Attorney Lee Palikov says his program is effective, and that an internal survey showed that just 5 percent of people that completed DUI diversion re-offend. 

"That empirical evidence tells me it's been successful, that's it's an opportunity for people to learn and change their behavior, if they're willing to,” says Palikov. 

Hundreds of people a year are able to get into this diversion program, with some out of it as soon as six months. It's typically just for first offense drunk driving, but exceptions can be made. 

But, not everybody is okay with the county program.

'I think overall it's bad policy," says executive director ofProject Extra Mile Chris Wagner.  
"A lot of times the folks drinking and driving haven't been caught yet, so they're already doing it regulary." 

Wagner, who advocates for the reduction of alcohol-related crimes, says that people who get DUI’s typically already have driven drunk many times before and a slap on the wrist like diversion, would not fix the issue. 

He also says tactics such as taxing booze and putting liability on alcohol establishments would be better methods for reducing drunk driving. 

Still, Polikov stands by his program, saying it allows people to get attention and treatment for alcohol abuse while also saving the county money by staying out of the court system. 

"Because it's money better spent in a lot of ways, for the offender and for the community."

Because of this, he hopes the legislature eventually reverses their decision and allows dui diversion statewide. 

This diversion law has come back into the public eye recently after former Omaha Fire Chief and current state senatorMike McDonnell was arrested for DUI in Sarpy County. He will likely have the chance to enter that DUI diversion program.