Program allows DUI suspects to donate to MADD to avoid prosecution

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Channel 9 has learned some Orange County DUI suspects are making donations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving to avoid being prosecuted.

First-time drunken drivers, including those accused of driving with blood-alcohol levels almost three times the legal limit, can avoid prosecution in Orange County by meeting certain requirements that include donating at least $500 to MADD or another crime victims' organization, reporter Kathi Belich found.

Last year, MADD raked in $150,000 from the program, but a new jail study calls the program improper and unfair.

Prosecutors get to decide who's eligible and the jail makes sure the offenders do what they've promised.

But the new report from the county's jail consultant said donations to MADD need to stop because its "economic benefit from DUI participants provides the organization with a vested interest."

Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer agrees.

"That's cash register justice," he said.

Brummer told Channel 9 he was stunned when he heard how the program was operating, and he believes a requirement for any donations in the pretrial diversion program is not fair.

"I have a problem with the donation as a requirement, because the folks with money get out and the folks who are in tough times can't," he said.

Channel 9 tried to talk to someone at MADD's Winter Park office, but we were referred to the state director, who has yet to get back to us.

The study also recommends that state attorney Jeff Ashton take the jail out of the mix and take over the entire program.

Belich contacted Ashton's office on Tuesday to ask about taking over the program from the jail. His spokesman said they haven't officially received the report but Ashton began reevaluating the donation requirement earlier this year.