The Sacramento Bee is reporting that due to Aldon Smith's first time offender nature, he qualified for a diversion program that allows his DUI charge to be reduced to reckless driving. I did a little poking around, and it turns out the program was instituted last June. It is called the "Back on Track" program and combines a mix of alcohol education, treatment and fines.
The program was apparently created because many drunk drivers had been getting off with no penalty due to problems in bringing cases to trial. Police officers and other witnesses sometimes would not show up, thus impacting the legal process.
Defendants are eligible only if their arrest did not involve an auto wreck or another crime, and if they had no children in their vehicle during the arrest. The defendant has to have a valid drivers license and "cannot have a checkered traffic history, including reckless driving citations or other DUI arrests."
The program consists of enrollment in alcohol treatment and education classes and payment of between $2,000 and $3,000 in fees and court fines. If a drivers registers a BAC of more than .15 or refuses to take a Breathalyzer test will have to deal with greater monitoring. This includes placing an "ignition interlock" device on their car, which won't allow the vehicle to start without blowing into a device that tests for alcohol.
Upon successful completing the program, the DUI charge is reduced to reckless driving and the conviction will not appear on their record. However, if Smith is arrested on a future drunk driving charge, prosecutors will be able to tell that the reckless driving had previously been a DUI, and can subsequently seek enhanced penalties.