Most states, including California, are members of the Interstate Driver’s License Compact (DLC), which is administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The DLC is an agreement between member states to share information about driver violations, including DUI/DWI driving convictions. Pursuant to the DLC, member states are required to report driving convictions to the state in which the driver holds a driver’s license.

Let’s say you are on vacation in Arizona, you go out for a night on the town and get stopped and arrested and eventually convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). Or let’s say you used to live in Texas but now live in California. Four years ago, you were convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas. In both of these cases and in almost any case where a California driver has an out-of-state DUI/DWI conviction on his or her record, it will be treated as a DUI on the California driver’s record as if the DUI conviction occurred in California.

In the case of our hypothetical California driver convicted of DUI in Arizona, the statute mandates the suspension or revocation (depending on prior DUI convictions) of the driver’s California license to drive, just as if the conviction occurred in California. In the case of the Texas driver who moved to California, the DWI conviction will remain on the driver’s California record just as if the driver had been convicted four years ago of a DUI in California . In both cases, the out-of-state DUI/DWI conviction will appear on the California driver’s record and will count as a prior DUI under California law.

In California, the out-of-state DUI/DWI conviction must pass the “equivalency test” meaning that the out-of-state conviction would be a DUI violation in the State of California. For all practical purposes, this is almost always true since California has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country. The equivalency test requires that the out-of-state offense or violation be of a “substantially similar nature” as the equivalent law in California. (VC 15023(c).) While this may appear to provide a “legal loophole,” recent years have seen the California Appellate Courts find in favor of prosecution (or DMV) in almost every case tested under this standard.

If you are visiting another state and are arrested for DUI/DWI, the initial arrest will proceed under that state’s laws. . If the state is a member of the DLC, which almost all states are, the arrest will be immediately reported to the California DMV. Most DUI/DWI laws are fairly consistent across states and it is probable that your driving privileges will be immediately suspended in the state where you are arrested as well as in California.

Defending an out-of-state DUI/DWI arrest can be quite complicated because the driver will be required to defend the charge in the state where he or she was arrested, even though the charge and potential consequences will affect the driver’s privilege to drive in California. Usually when a driver is convicted in another state, the driver will be allowed to serve the term of probation in California and attend DUI education classes in California.


Many of us are familiar with the blatant corruption in some countries where you just pay off the cop that stopped you and be on your merry way. Well, Orange County apparently has its own version of corruption, a court clerk who we might call “The Fixer”.

According to news reports, an unidentified court clerk was fixing DUI charges… for a hefty fee. This clerk was charging thousands of dollars to drivers who were facing DUI and misdemeanor traffic cases in Orange County courts to alter their case record. Among the alterations were changes to case records to create fake plea bargains to a lesser charge, dismissed charges and lowered penalties.

The fixed cases go back to 2006 and are reported to involve over 1,000 cases. It was first discovered late this winter when a single missing document in a DUI case triggered an investigation. The deception was brazen as this clerk not only made up a plea bargain but also “assigned” to the defendants a defense attorney who never actually represented the defendant. The clerk achieved this fraud by figuring out how to enter the computerized court system and make the unauthorized changes.

Unfortunately for the defendants who paid off the court clerk, they are now being called back into court to face the charges. The defendants who paid large sums to this clerk, reportedly thousands of dollars to fix a case, are being given the opportunity to negotiate with the district attorney or the judge or to hire a private attorney. Not only are the defendants out the thousands paid to the clerk, but they are back at square one on their case. But it could be worse: There is no indication that they will also be prosecuted for subverting justice when they chose to pay off the clerk, but they certainly could be prosecuted for these acts in addition to the underlying DUI or traffic violations.

A DUI is no fun and it’s no wonder that these defendants imagined they could make it go away with a payoff to a corrupt clerk. But these defendants have learned the hard way: “There just ain’t no free lunch.” Even though this cost the defendants a pretty penny, they are going to be paying much more and will either have to successfully defend the charge against them or end up with a charge they thought they subverted. The truly “easy way” is to simply not drive under the influence. Yet, sometimes we make mistakes and it is not uncommon for a driver to think he or she is ok to drive when actually his or her blood alcohol is over the limit, if only by a pinch. When that happens, it is much easier to have an experienced DUI attorney on your side than to pay off a corrupt clerk.

As for the court clerk, the future is probably not so rosy. The F.B.I. has even been involved and Orange County prosecutors are no doubt preparing a case that may put this clerk on the other side of justice for many years to come.



Just as it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. It does not matter if the driver has a Medical Marijuana Identification Card; it is still a violation to drive while under the influence of any substance, including marijuana, if that substance affects your ability to drive safely. The statute[1] itself is vague and requires the subjective observations of the officer.


An arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana is treated much the same as an arrest for drunk driving except that the arresting officer will not suspend the driver’s license to drive immediately upon arrest. However, if the driver is convicted of the charge, the court will inform the DMV of the conviction and the DMV will proceed on suspension of the driver’s license to drive and the driver will be required to take DUI classes.


But just how does the prosecution prove that someone was driving under the influence of marijuana? After the arrest, the driver’s blood or urine will be tested for the presence of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). But detection of THC in a person’s system does not establish evidence that the driver was impaired by this substance. The compound THC, which is the chemical that causes a person to get “high” on marijuana, can stay in a person’s system long after the high has worn off. In fact, THC can stay in a person’s system for days. Therefore, it is not enough for the prosecution to establish that the person had THC in his or her system at the time of the arrest, there must be a connection between the THC levels detected in the driver’s system and his or her driving impairment. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that it is difficult to establish the effects of THC in a person’s blood and his or her driving performance.[2]


Often the prosecution must rely on circumstantial evidence such as the driver’s behavior or appearance when he or she was stopped (e.g., bloodshot eyes, slowed speech, etc.) or perhaps other evidence the officer writes up in the arrest report. The smell of freshly burnt marijuana in the car plus a chemical test indicating THC in the driver’s system is most often the type of circumstantial evidence that will result in a conviction. But without solid evidence, the prosecution is in a weak position and with the right defense the prosecutor will often allow the driver to plea to a lesser charge or even dismiss the charge.


True, a driving under the influence of marijuana can be difficult to prove, but the consequences of a conviction on this charge are more than a minor inconvenience. And even when the charge is based on weak evidence, the prosecution often will still enthusiastically pursue a conviction. It goes without saying that it is important for anyone arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana to consult with an attorney with experience in these matters. He or she can identify the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and while every case has its own evidence, an experienced attorney can readily assess the facts and discuss the best defense options available based on the particulars of each case.


[1]“It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” (Cal. Veh. Code §25152(e).)

[2] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Drug and Human Performance Fact Sheet.


Penal Code Section 191.5 defines Gross Vehicular Manslaughter as:

(a) The unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence. A conviction of 191.5(a) is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 4, 6, or 10 years.

(b)  The unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, but without gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.  A conviction of 191.5(b) is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months or two or four years.

You may be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated if you: (1) Are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; (2) Your actions could result in the death of another; and (3) Someone is killed as a result of your negligence.

Being involved in an accident where someone dies is a devastating experience for anyone.  But if you are involved in a fatal accident, and you have been drinking, the devastation is magnified by extreme guilt and fear.  However, is important to remember that there are defenses to this type of charge.  It is common for authorities to assume and place blame on the driver who has been drinking whenever there is an accident involved.  But, just because you have been drinking doesn’t and shouldn’t automatically mean that the accident was your fault.  An experienced criminal defense attorney, who has experience in dealing with DUI involving accidents, will know what defenses are available and know how to use them when appropriate.  A few examples of defenses to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated are:

(a) that you were not intoxicated at the time of the accident.  It could be that you had had a drink or two but are not legally intoxicated.  An experienced DUI defense attorney will use all defense available in a typical DUI arrest such as challenging the blood alcohol results and the tests performed.

(b) your actions were not negligent or grossly negligent;

(c) your actions, whether negligent or not, was not what caused the death; and

(d) your actions were the result of a situation that happened suddenly and you acted accordingly.

Every case and every situation is unique in it’s own way.  When facing a charge as serious as Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while intoxicated, finding the right criminal defense attorney who will explore every defense possible, can make the difference between jail time and straight probation.


Can I Fight My DUI Case

Being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs doesn’t mean that you will be convicted of driving under the influence. An experienced DUI defense lawyer will know the defenses available and will know what to look for when reviewing your case.

Your driving pattern is usually the first thing an arresting officer notices, and is usually the first thing the District Attorney will focus on. The police report will most likely document some sort of traffic violation or weaving within your lane. But, just because you are a bad driver doesn’t mean you were intoxicated. People commit traffic violations all the time while sober and weave within their lanes for a variety of reasons. So, these driving patters, which an officer relies on, are not a reliable indicator that an individual is driving drunk.

The police report will also identify what the officer refers to as “objective signs of intoxication”. This, like the driving pattern, can be explained. Objective signs typically include: (1) the odor of alcohol on your breath; (2) slurred or slow speech; (3) red, watery eyes; (4) a red or flushed face; and (5) the individual was unsteady on their feet. All of these objective signs are listed on the officer’s DUI arrest form. All he or she needs to do it check the box without any sort of explanation whatsoever. Further, these objective signs can have many explanations that have nothing to do with alcohol.

For example, someone with red, watery eyes may be very tired, may have eye irritation, may have a cold or may suffer from allergies. The smell of alcohol may be the result of having had one drink. Being unsteady on your feet, while performing a field sobriety test is not unusual. There are many individuals who have balance problems. If you couple that with being nervous, it is understandable how someone would perform poorly on a field sobriety test.

The next step an officer uses to determine intoxication is the field sobriety test. These hand-held, roadside intoxilyzers are notoriously unreliable.   The maintenance logs and calibration logs need to be examined closely by an attorney who understands what they are looking for.

What most people do not know is that, the officer who is administering the breath test, must observe the individual for 15 minutes prior to the test being administered. Most officers use this 15-minute time period to do their paperwork or get the intoxilyzer machine ready, rather than observing the individual, as is required. An experienced DUI defense attorney will seek out any video of the stop and field sobriety tests, looking for signs that the officer did not follow the proper procedures.

So there are many details that need to be examined and many defenses that must be explored when defending a driving under the influence charge. Hiring an aggressive, experienced defense attorney is the best way to ensure that your rights have not been violated and to know that all defenses have been considered.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

California has strict laws when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Drugs, as defined by California law, include anything other than alcohol that may affect a person’s brain, muscles or nervous system. It is considered driving under the influence if a drug, prescription or otherwise, affects your ability to drive like a sober person.

The District Attorney may file criminal charges for driving under the influence of prescription drugs, over the counter drugs or illicit drugs. This is often surprising to my clients when they come to me with proof of a legal prescription. What I explain to my clients is that just because you have a doctor’s prescription to take a certain drug, that does not make it ok to drive while you are under the influence of that prescription drug. There are many types of medication that have an affect on our thinking, seeing and motor skills. For this reason, people are advised not to drive when taking certain types of medication.

With alcohol, there is a specific level that is acceptable to be at while driving and can be measured. But with drugs, there is no legal level of driving after having taken drugs. For this reason, the prosecution does have the burden of proving that the level of drugs was such that it impaired the person arrested, enough that they were unable to drive like a sober person.

There are defenses to a charge of driving under the influence of drugs, depending upon your circumstances and the drug(s) in question. Some of the more common defenses are: (1) Having drugs in your system does not, in and of itself, mean that you were under the influence; (2) Signs of drug impairment, which is what an arresting officer will look for, can be caused by a multitude of other reasons; and (3) The procedures used to collect and test the blood or urine, may not be in compliance with the law.

Just like driving under the influence of alcohol, DUI of drugs is a misdemeanor but can be filed as a felony under certain circumstances. The penalties are typically the same as well. Penalties include informal probation, fees and fines, DUI School and a license suspension. However, if this is your second, third or fourth offense, the penalties are more severe. The fines may be higher, the DUI class/school longer and a more strict driver’s license suspension.

If you have been arrested to driving under the influence of drugs, seeking the advise of an experienced DUI defense attorney should be your first step. An aggressive DUI defense lawyer must review everything from the initial stop to the testing procedures to determine whether your rights were violated.

Defending a DUI in Orange County is a specialized field of law, which requires an experienced defense lawyer. Understanding the science associated with blood alcohol testing, as well as understanding evidentiary law, combined with criminal and constitutional law, is of key importance when defending someone who has been charged with driving under the influence. Equally as important, is understanding the rules and guidelines that the Orange County law enforcement agencies must adhere to when stopping and ultimately arresting someone.

An attorney who possesses these qualifications will have a good understanding of how to uncover the weaknesses in the evidence and in the prosecution’s case. Every arrest and every DUI case is different, but an aggressive DUI defense lawyer will always strive to minimize the impact that a DUI has on a person’s life, in every case. The focus should always be to attempt to reduce the charges or have them dropped altogether.

While some DUI cases are fairly simple and straightforward, there are those that are more complicated and require review and examination by a good DUI defense attorney in order to determine what, if anything can be done to minimize the negative impact that the arrest, and potential conviction, may bring.

California DUI laws are strict and Orange County specifically, has a very low tolerance for those individuals who have been arrested for DUI. The consequences for a conviction may include jail time, loss of your driving privilege, expensive fees and fines and court ordered DUI school or classes. Depending upon the circumstances of your arrest, blood alcohol level, and your past history, the severity of the consequences increases with the severity of the circumstances.

Contrary to what most people believe, there are defenses to DUI. Your attorney must peal back and analyze all layers, starting with the initial stop. It must first be determined if the stop was legal. Did they have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to make the stop? This is a very key point because the law requires that there be a good reason for an officer to pull someone over. If it can be determined and proved that the stop was not legal, then anything else after that is not admissible and therefore the case dismissed.

The field sobriety test is one of the key tools that an officer will use. But, this is a subjective test, which alone by itself cannot determine intoxication. This is something an officer uses to help him determine whether or not to precede with the investigation. Some people will perform very well when being administered the field sobriety test and others, whether they have been drinking or not, will perform poorly. Further, there are guidelines as to how the field sobriety test should be give. Often times, these tests are given incorrectly.

The roadside Breathalyzer is another tool used when an officer is trying to determine whether or not the driver has been drinking. The problem with this roadside, handheld breathalyzers is that, if they have not been properly calibrated and/or maintained, can result in a false reading. For this reason, the attorney, making sure that the machine has been properly maintained, should always examine the calibration and maintenance logs.

There are other things to consider like, if a blood sample was given, what is the timeline. When did you start drinking and when did you have your last drink. What had you had to drink and eat, when did you start driving and what time was the blood draw. All of these details must be carefully looked at because it can determine what your true blood alcohol level was at the actual time of driving.

The ultimate outcome of the case rests on the evidence, which is why it is so important to hire an experienced DUI defense attorney who will take the time to look at everything in an effort to find the weaknesses in the case.



When you hear the word “enhancement”, it sound like a good thing. But when you are talking about enhancement as it relates to a DUI sentence, it means that the potential sentence may be enhanced, meaning additional penalties.

An enhancement adds additional penalties to a dui penalty due to some other factor associated with the dui incident. Here are some situations, which may cause an enhancement:

  1. If you refuse to submit to a blood alcohol test after you have been arrested, the District Attorney may add an enhancement, which could result in additional jail time or higher fees and fines.
  2. If your blood alcohol level is a 0.20 or higher, which is more than twice the legal limit, the District Attorney may, and probably will, include in their filing an enhancement for high “BAC”. Usually this means that the class you will ultimately be ordered to take will be longer than if your BAC was below 0.20. The results of the blood alcohol test, whether it be a breathalyzer or blood test, will play a role in the charges that will be brought, as well as the penalties.
  3. If you were speeding or driving reckless, the DA may include an enhancement for that. As a general rule, driving 20 miles over the speed limit on surface streets or 30 miles over the speed limit on a freeway can result in an enhancement.
  4. Having a minor in your car, under the age of 14, is an enhancement that may result in jail time being added to your sentence. This may also result in an additional charge of child endangerment.
  5. Prior DUI convictions within a 10 years can result in an enhanced sentence.

If you are facing a driving under the influence charge with enhancements in Orange County, an experienced DUI lawyer may be able to get the enhancements dropped. An aggressive DUI defense attorney, who is respected and has a good reputation among judges and prosecutors, will help you get the best possible outcome.


There is an interesting case out of Livingston County where a man was arrested and charged with DUI and then the case later dismissed.  According to the article, the man was involved in an accident and asked to take a breathalyzer test at the scene.  This, after the officer at the scene said he smelled alcohol on the man’s breath.  The man refused and was arrested, taken to the police station, booked and blood drawn.  Apparently, in Livingston County, once someone is arrested and the case submitted to the District Attorney, they must go ahead and file formal charges.  This is unfortunate for the individual in this situation because, even though it was later proved that he was not DUI, he now has an arrest on his record and a history of having a DUI filed in Court.   It is the right of any individual to refuse to take a roadside breath test and to refuse to submit to a field sobriety test.  However, when someone refuses, it usually results in being arrested and taken to the station where you are then required by law to submit to blood, breath or urine testing.  So as is the case with this individual, his blood results did prove that he was not DUI, but he was then faced with having the arrest and charges on his record.

In California, and more specifically Orange County, the District Attorney will usually wait until the results of the blood test are available before deciding whether or not to file charges.  This seems to make much more sense.  For the DA to file charges just based on the police officer’s opinion that the individual was, or may have been under the influence, doesn’t seem to make much sense knowing that if they wait for the results, they will have scientific proof one way or the other.

For someone to refuse to take a roadside breath test or submit to a field sobriety test, may make the individual look guilty or give an officer a reason to doubt sobriety.  So why would someone, who knows that they are not under the influence, refuse to submit to such roadside tests?  There are some who feel that the roadside hand-held breathalyzers are unreliable and may produce false results.  There are those who may refuse to submit to field sobriety tests merely due to the fact that they have balance issues and know that they will be unable to pass the test.  So there are legitimate reasons that people refuse these roadside tests, and as mentioned above, it is their right to do so.

So, what can an individual do if they are faced with the situation we are talking about here?  Can the record/arrest record be corrected.  The answer is Yes.  It is called a Petition for Factual Innocence.  The process works this way:  The Court is Petitioned to find the individual factually innocent based upon the circumstances presented.  The Judge will review the Petition, and any supporting documentation such as the police report and test results, and then make a ruling either in favor of the Petitioner or will deny the Petition.  In basic terms, the Judge must be able to determine that there was no reasonable cause for the arrest to have occurred.  The scenario above could be problematic in that the police officer said he smelled alcohol which, if the Judge wanted to, could determine that there was good cause to arrest.  But, given the circumstances and also, based on how the police report reads, it would seem that it is in the best interests of all to grant a Petition under these circumstances.

Anytime someone is arrested and charged with driving under the influence, all of the details beginning with the initial stop, all the way to the filing by the District Attorney must be reviewed.  Law enforcement must follow strict guidelines in stopping, testing and arresting an individual for DUI.  The process of administering field sobriety tests have guidelines, as well as administering a breathalyzer at the roadside.  Having an experienced DUI defense lawyer is the only way to determine that law enforcement have followed the rules and guidelines they are required to follow and to determine that your rights have not been violated.

Recent statistics have shown that there are approximately 13,000 DUI arrests in Orange County alone, out of nearly 200,000 in the State of California. In some years, more than 90 percent of Orange County DUI arrests result in conviction.

A conviction of DUI carries severe and long lasting effects on a person’s life. An experienced DUI defense attorney can help to minimize the consequences of being arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

DUI, or driving under the influence, charges are typically charged as misdemeanors. However, some DUI’s can be charged as felonies. A DUI that is charged as a Felony DUI, usually involves DUI manslaughter; DUI causing serious injury; 3rd DUI conviction within 10 years; and 4th DUI conviction at any time. Drunk drivers who cause injury, or DUI with injury is sometimes referred to as a “wobbler” charge, which means that it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. However, prosecutors typically pursue the charge that carries the most punishment. An experienced criminal defense attorney, or DUI defense attorney, will have the knowledge and experience to determine the likelihood of getting the felony reduced to a misdemeanor. A conviction of felony DUI carries a much more serious punishment than a misdemeanor DUI. A misdemeanor first offense DUI can be punishable by up to six months in the county jail, whereas a felony DUI can carry a year or more in state prison sentence.

Most individuals arrested for DUI or Drunk Driving are employed and have families that depend on them. If convicted of Driving Under the Influence and sentenced to serve time in jail, this can be an enormous burden on one’s family and can jeopardize the job that provides the income for the family. For this reason, alternative sentencing is something that should be considered.

If you have been convicted of a DUI in Orange County, there are options for alternative sentencing. Some of these include:

Community Service: An experienced DUI attorney in Orange County should attempt to work with the DA and the Judge to lower the charges in exchange for doing community service.

CalTrans Work Program: The CalTrans Work Program is another option, generally set as a condition of probation. The CalTrans Work Program involves cleaning up litter along the roadways, clearing brush and cleaning graffiti where needed.

Sober Living Programs: As an alternative to jail, a good DUI Attorney will suggest a sober living program rather than jail. These programs provide housing, alcohol and drug counseling, education and employment assistance.

House Arrest with Electronic Monitoring: House arrest or home confinement allows an individual to continue their regular activities, such as going to work, attending school and caring for children or other family members.

Private Jail or Work Furlough: There are a few private jails in Orange County that often allow work furlough privileges and are a nicer alternative to county jail. These facilities can be expensive but much less disruptive to one’s life.

Anyone who has been arrested for driving under the influence should immediately consult with an attorney to make sure that they receive the best possible outcome.