Since 1989, the California DMV is legislatively mandated to produce an annual report that analyzes data regarding driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The most recent report, the 2015 Annual Report of the California DUI Management Information System, analyzes data from 2003 to 2013. This report gives us an objective look at DUI realities in the state.

We can start with the rate of DUI arrests over the ten year span. From 2003 through 2013, the rate of DUI arrests per 100,000 licensed drivers has been fairly consistent at a little under 1%, with a noticeable bump in 2008 and a significant decline in 2012-2013.

DUI ARREST RATE (per 100,000 licensed drivers):

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
809 792 786 849 863 906 880 823 752 712 651

If this rate continues to trend lower, then ride sharing could quite possibly have a role in the decrease.

Unfortunately, the alcohol-related crash fatalities increased substantially in 2012 and 2013, 7.3% and 2.4% respectively. And it is, let’s say, sobering to learn that in 2012 and 2013, approximately 39% of all traffic fatalities were alcohol related.

For every driver arrested for a DUI, about 75%, end up being convicted. That rate has been consistent with a low of 73.3% in 2011 and a high of 79.4% in 2004. I would suspect that a number of those not convicted were first-time DUI arrestees who, with the help of a skilled defense attorney, were able to plea down the charge to a reckless driving or other non-DUI traffic offense. Orange County has a much higher conviction rate than most counties at 84.6%! In fact, only two California counties have a higher conviction rate: Marin (85.2%) and Ventura (84.9%). I am sure that is no reflection on Orange County defense attorneys, who are among the best in the state, but rather a demonstration of a zealous district attorney’s office.

The median age of drivers arrested for DUI in 2013 was 31 for males and 30 for females. Speaking of gender, almost 77% of the drivers arrested for DUI in 2013 were male.

The majority of DUI convictions involved a driver who tested at between .10 and .19 BAC, with the median BAC being .16%; that is double the legal BAC threshold of .08%.

Most of the drivers arrested for DUI were first offenders (73.8%). The number of repeat offenders (one DUI conviction or more within a ten year look back period) has decreased considerably since 1989. In 1989, the look back period was only seven years, yet the rate of repeat offender arrests stood at 37%. In 2012, it was 26.2%. I suspect that the increasingly strict enforcement of DUI laws and harsher penalties over the intervening years can account for the decrease. Once burned, you’d have to be addicted to alcohol to drive drunk again.

There is much more to be gleaned by this study; perhaps I’ll blog more about these statistics when the 2016 report is published. While these reports cannot explain causes, the statistics are useful for discovering trends. I look forward to seeing what they next report reveals.

William Weinberg is an experienced criminal defense attorney who is available to speak with you about your particular DUI matter. You can contact Mr. Weinberg at his Irvine office at 949-474-9700 or emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.

With the popularity of ride-sharing apps that make it convenient and inexpensive to “hail” a ride in most urban areas, common sense would say that the incidence of DUI arrests and drunken driving accidents would decrease accordingly. After all, one of the best uses of these apps is to have a designated driver on-call. And, indeed, as I discussed in an earlier post on this blog, there are studies that preliminarily confirm that ride sharing apps have decreased the incidence of drunken driving and all the dangers associated with it, in particular the incidence of traffic fatalities caused by drunken drivers.

But a recent study found that the ride sharing apps have not had much of an impact at all on traffic fatalities, including those caused by drunken drivers. In a recent study released by the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from the University of Southern California and the Oxford University collected data for 100 different metro areas between 2005 (pre-ride sharing) and 2014. Controlling for a variety of factors that could affect the study, the researchers found that ride-sharing had no statistically significant impact on the number of drunk-driving fatalities. Several factors may explain these results. In particular, ride sharing vehicles represent a tiny percentage of the vehicles on the road. Additionally, the judgment of a driver who has had too much to drink may affect the driver’s ability to understand that he or she should let someone else do the driving.

While this study got quite a bit of press, it seems to be the only one so far that has found no impact—at least as far as drunk driving fatalities—since the advent of ride-sharing. Then again, it seems to be the only well-designed study so far on this question.

You would expect that the Glendale mother who recently ran over her 7 year old while she was driving under the influence would be charged not only with DUI but child endangerment. But you don’t necessarily have to injure your child to get slapped with child endangerment charges if you are driving drunk.

In the case of the Glendale mother, she ran over her child’s leg as she left a parking stall at a grocery store with her son clinging to the passenger side door. Fortunately, the child did not suffer significant injuries but his mother was booked for felony DUI and child endangerment. This mom is probably going to prison and she will certainly lose custody of her children, perhaps permanently.

DUIs may be charged as a felony whenever there is bodily injury to another person caused by a vehicle being driven by someone under the influence (Vehicle Code §25153). A person convicted of felony DUI with injury can be sentenced to up to four years in prison.


A new law, scheduled to go into effect across the state on January 1, 2019, will put ignition interlock devices (IID) in almost every vehicle driven by someone who was convicted of drunk driving. IIDs are akin to a breathalyzer installed in a vehicle. The devices include a small camera that shows who is blowing into it and have other mechanisms that prevent the driver from any attempts to defeat the device. They are, in fact, pretty much fool-proof.

The new law is, in one way, less restrictive because it will give first time DUI offenders, who caused no injuries by his or her drunken driving, an option of installing an IID for six months with full driving privileges. As the law stands now, a first time (non-injury) DUI offender can only drive on a restricted license usually for a period 4 to 6 months. With the new law, if a person declines the IID, he or she will be subject to a one-year restricted license. .A restricted license allows the driver to only drive to and from work or school and to DUI-ordered treatment programs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studies the effectiveness of DUI counter measures and publishes reports on the findings. You may be surprised to learn that one of the most effective deterrents to driving under the influence is DUI checkpoints. You probably know what a checkpoint is; most likely, you have probably also driven through one.

In what is described as high-quality studies, the NHTSA reports that publicized checkpoints reduce alcohol-related fatalities, injuries, and property damage crashes each by about 20%. You might think that the police want to keep the locations of their DUI checkpoints a secret in order to snag unsuspecting drivers but that is not correct. According to the NHTSA, the purpose of the checkpoints is not to increase arrests but to deter drunken driving by increasing the perceived risk of getting arrested for DUI. To that end, the effectiveness of checkpoints depends on well-publicized and highly visible checkpoints conducted on a regular basis.

In one particularly compelling study, a year-long program of weekly checkpoints in two West Virginia counties resulted in a 70% fewer drivers with BACs over the drunken driving threshold in those counties as compared to West Virginia counties that did not operate the weekly checkpoints.


After 20 years of defending DUI cases I am convinced that many of the individuals who have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs — and especially those who have been arrested for DUI more than once — have an addiction and are in need of treatment. Statistics indicate that on average, the person who is arrested for DUI drove drunk 80 times before his or her first arrest. While it is true that some drivers are just unlucky find and themselves arrested for drunk driving after say a family gathering or other occasion where the driver uncharacteristically had a little too much to drink, most drivers who end up on the other side of my desk have a drinking or drug problem.

I don’t write this to judge or accuse; my goal here is to help. The courts and the DMV almost always order DUI classes and perhaps attendance at AA meetings but I have seen all too many multiple DUI offenders walk into my office. Clearly, the DUI classes and AA meetings don’t always work.


WalletHub recently tallied up the states from the strictest to the most lenient on DUIs. You may be surprised to learn that according to WalletHub’s methodology, California was among the most lenient on DUIs. WalletHub identified 15 key metrics and assigned weighted points to each metric. The key metrics included minimum jail time for 1st and 2nd offenses, the point at which a DUI becomes an automatic felony, minimum fines, automatic license suspension duration, average insurance rate increase after a DUI, and other factors. California ranked among the more lenient states, coming in #34 out of 50 overall.

So where did California rank high? Well, as you might guess given that we have among the most expensive auto insurance rates in the nation, the only metric where California ranked #1 was the average insurance rate increase after a DUI. Indeed, the Auto Club of Southern California reports that a DUI will run a 1st time offender an average of $10,000 more in insurance costs over the ten year look-back period. Let’s just say that Uber or Lyft—even many rides over—will be cheaper than one DUI.


A recent and particularly gruesome DUI incident in Oceanside made news around the world. In the early morning of June 27, a 29-year-old woman who was driving under the influence veered onto the sidewalk and hit a homeless man near her home in Oceanside. She was driving so fast that the impact forced the man through the woman’s windshield, tearing off his clothes as he flew through the windshield, falling crumpled up in the passenger seat. But it gets worse than that. The woman continued driving for about one-half to one mile with the dead man in her front seat. The man’s leg had been severed from his body and went flying through the rear windshield landing on the trunk of the car. After she stopped her car, she got out and walked away. She walked home but she didn’t get away for long; her husband called the cops.

The driver’s blood alcohol level was tested two hours after the crash and registered twice the legal limit. She is facing four felony charges: Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated (Penal Code §191.5(a); Hit and Run (Vehicle Code §20002); Driving with Measurable Blood Alcohol Causing Injury and DUI with Injury (Vehicle Code §§25153(a) & (b)). The judge set her bail at $1.5 million.

It’s summer travel season and maybe you are planning a trip to another country. Don’t let your R&R be ruined by a driving under the influence arrest. You may not be aware of this but most countries have harsher DUI laws than those in the United States. Now, how strictly those laws are enforced may be another matter but here’s the low down:

In Canada, the BAC threshold runs from 0.05% to 0.08% depending on the province. Same in Mexico, where the BAC limit is determined by state and can run between 0.04% and 0.08%, but the national limit is 0.08% for those states that do not impose their own law.

Going to Europe? You might want to lay off the alcohol altogether if you are driving. In Scandinavia, for example, you can be arrested for a DUI with just a 0.02% BAC (Norway and Sweden). Denmark is slightly more lenient with a 0.05% BAC threshold. Elsewhere in Europe, the BAC reading at which you can be arrested for drunken driving is generally 0.05% although many European countries have a lower threshold if you are involved in an accident. For example, in Germany you can be arrested for drunken driving if you are involved in an accident (regardless of fault) with a BAC of 0.03%. Only Malta and the U.K. have a 0.08% BAC threshold; the rest of the countries run between 0.00% and 0.05%. (Yes, 0.00%: in the former Eastern bloc countries of Hungary, The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Croatia you can be arrested for drunken driving with any amount of alcohol in your system.)


Most people in California are aware that there is a device that may be ordered installed in person’s vehicle upon conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol. This device, called an Ignition Interlock device or IID is a mechanism that prevents a person from starting a vehicle without first blowing into the device, which registers any alcohol in the person’s system. If any alcohol is registered, the vehicle will not start. Some counties in California require that this device be installed— even for first time DUIs— but in most California counties, ordering the installation of a IID is left to judgment of the court.

Most people in California are not aware, however, of another alcohol monitoring device that may be ordered by the court in DUI cases. This device, called a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor or SCRAM device is an ankle bracket that continuously monitors for alcohol in the system through the skin. When the court orders installation of an IID, the defendant is only monitored for blood alcohol content when he or she wants to drive, when the SCRAM device is worn, the defendant is continuously monitored. DUI probation includes a zero-tolerance condition, that is, anyone on probation for a DUI cannot drive with even a small amount of alcohol in his or her system; the IID is just an extra level of enforcement. But if the court orders that the DUI probationer cannot drink at all, the court may order that the defendant wear a SCRAM.