DUI School

When a driver is convicted on a DUI, his or her term of probation will include a requirement to complete a DUI program. On a typical first-time conviction, the driver will be required to complete a 3- to 4-month, 30-hour program. In some instances, the court may order a shorter program of 12 hours if the offense was reduced to a “wet reckless” or for other reasons, such as a conviction on a below .08% BAC. However, if the driver’s BAC was over .19% or if there were extenuating circumstances, such as reckless driving or an accident coincident to the DUI, the court may order a 6-month, 42-hour program or even a 9-month, 56-hour program.

In straight DUI conviction, without enhancements, the 6-month and 9-month programs are generally ordered only on a second or third DUI (within ten years). A driver convicted of a third (or more) DUI within ten years will be ordered to complete an 18-month, 64-hour program or even a 30-month DUI program.

A Foothill Ranch woman faces a murder charge under Penal Code section 187(a). It is alleged that on October 1, 2016, this woman, only 24 years old at the time, “with malice aforethought” killed another human being. Why am I writing about this on a DUI blog? Well, this young woman faces murder charges because she caused the death of another after her vehicle crashed into the truck of the deceased. It is alleged that she was intoxicated when the collision occurred.

When a person causes the death of another in an accident, it is usually charged as manslaughter if the fault of the accident was due to the driver’s negligence or if the driver was violating the law. When a driver is DUI and causes a fatal injury to another, the driver may be charged under Penal Code section 191.5 for vehicular manslaughter. This is a separate offense and by definition includes gross negligence.

But when a driver causes the death of another while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and has been previously convicted of a DUI, the driver may, and probably will, be charged with second-degree murder. A DUI murder charge is no different than any other second-degree murder charge and carries of punishment of 15 years to life imprisonment in state prison. The murder charge this woman faces is called a “Watson murder,” so named following a California Supreme Court decision in 1981 (People v. Watson). The Watson court held that when a person drives under the influence, the driver acts wantonly and in disregard for human life. This rises to the level of implied malice. Without getting too technical, California law provides that anyone convicted of a DUI be advised that driving under the influence is dangerous to human life and that if the driver kills someone while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she can be charged with murder. This is called a “Watson Admonishment” and provides a basis for the prosecution to allege that the driver had the requisite mental state of implied malice.

A while back, I wrote a piece on my criminal website blog about donkeys serving time in jail. Now, we have a dog arresting a DUI suspect…. Well, sort of.

Last week, police attempted to stop a suspected DUI driver in Orange County. The police had been alerted because they received reports that the driver had hit a trash bin. The driver made the poor decision to keep on driving, entering the 55 freeway then driving onto the 91 before exiting. At some point he stopped, but by now this had become a full-on police action, with a K-9 unit and even a SWAT team called in.

A stand-off ensued but after 4 ½ hours, it was the police dog who took down the recalcitrant DUI suspect. Reportedly, when the suspect came to a stop, surrounded by police vehicles, he made threats to harm the officers. The suspect apparently had mixed feelings as he kept opening and closing his car door. This gave the police dog an opportunity to move in. The dog took multiple punches from the suspect but just kept at him. This allowed the police to move in and taser the suspect. The suspect was arrested and taken in an ambulance where he was being treated for dog bites. The police report he was suspected of driving under the influence of drugs but did not give any more information.

IT WAS MY CAR’S FAULT

It was sure to come soon. A San Francisco driver was arrested for DUI last week after he was found sleeping behind the wheel of his stalled Tesla smack dab in the middle of the Bay Bridge. The driver pleaded his innocence to the officers on the basis that his Tesla Model S was on autopilot. Nope, not so fast—at least for now. While the “self-driving” ability of the vehicle may have caused the driver to believe he could use the car as his “designated driver” or at least use that as an excuse when the cops found him, the Tesla isn’t yet ready for prime-time self-driving capabilities. For now, the self-driving cars have all the driver controls and requires an alert driver in control of the vehicle, even if it is presumably driving itself.

But this poses an interesting question that law makers will have to address in the near future when self-driving cars really are self-driving with no driver required. Yes, that is coming.

THE HOLIDAY SEASON SAW AN ALARMING INCREASE IN DUIs

While promising trends suggest a declining number of drivers are getting behind the wheel while under the influence, statistics from this past holiday season may be cause for concern. The holiday season of 2017 saw a substantial increase in the number of drivers arrested by the CHP for driving under the influence as compared to the 2016 season. Statewide, arrests for DUI were up almost 20% over the prior year during the Thanksgiving holiday and up 30% during the Christmas holiday. The New Year’s holiday weekend continued the trend with a 22% increase in drunk driving arrests. The uptick occurred over all areas of the state; it is not attributable to only a few locales.

What explains this? It may be a one-time spike and no trend at all. Or a reasonable assumption may be that this holiday season, CHP patrol and enforcement was increased as compared to last year. While that may make sense, it is incorrect. The 2017 holidays were a Maximum Enforcement Period as were the holidays in 2016. For many years now, the CHP has been conducting Maximum Enforcement Periods (MEP) wherein more CHP officers are deployed on the roads. MEPs are conducted during the winter holiday season and warm weather holidays such as the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. During an MEP, all available officers in the state are called to duty. Their enforcement focus is on speeding, seat belt violations and, of course, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Under California law, an alcohol beverage manufacturer is prohibited from offering premiums, gifts, or free goods in connection with the sale or distribution of alcohol. This is a long-standing public policy that prohibits manufacturers of alcoholic beverages from giving something of value to their retailers or consumers.

Beginning this year, the law has been relaxed to allow manufacturers of alcoholic beverages, including distillers and wineries to provide free ground transportation home to consumers who attend an invitation-only event relating to the promotion or sale of their product. It also permits breweries or beer manufacturers to offer free or discounted rides directly to consumers through taxi cabs, ride sharing, or other transportation services in the interests of public safety. The new law was enacted January 1, 2018 as an amendment to Business and Professions Code section 25600.

Section 25600 still prohibits alcohol beverage manufacturers from offering free gifts or premiums as a consumer protection policy, ostensibly to protect the consumer from predatory marketing. Free or low cost sober rides were, until the passage of this law, included in the prohibition.

Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) Grant DUI Saturation Patrol, now that’s a mouthful. STEP grants are awarded by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to programs across the state that serve to achieve the STEP grant goal of reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our roads and highways. The OTS campaign includes safety awareness and education, but the bulk of the grants go to police enforcement of DUI laws. That’s where the DUI Saturation Patrol comes in.

DUI Saturation Patrols operate throughout Orange County. Many of these patrols are funded by STEP grants. A DUI saturation patrol targets specific areas, at specific times, that are known to have large concentrations of drivers under the influence. The officers deployed on a saturation patrol are specially trained and specifically patrolling for drivers under the influence. Every city in Orange County and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department have saturation patrols, most funded by a STEP grant. Saturation patrols are almost exclusively deployed in the evening and night hours and increased during holidays. DUI Saturation Patrols are not the same thing as DUI checkpoints although they are often deployed in tandem and have the same goal: To reduce the number of drivers on the road who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Officers on a DUI saturation patrol are specifically looking for driving behaviors that suggest the driver is under the influence. However, just because a driver’s behavior is suspicious does not mean the officer can lawfully pull a driver over. The driver must be violating a traffic code; speeding, unsafe lane changes, or driving without the required lights (even one burned out tail light can be a violation), and failure to properly use blinkers are obvious candidates. But officers can also cite a driver for lane straddling, tailgating, or driving at a slow speed and other “catch-all” type violations. If the initial stop was not based on a reasonable suspicion that the driver was violating the law, the stop may be challenged by a motion to suppress on the grounds that the stop was unlawful.

DUI with Injury Plea Vacated After Court Finds Violation of Victim’s Rights

When a driver, who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, causes injury to another person, the driver will almost always be charged with violation of Vehicle Code section 23153, also known as DUI with injury. This violation can be charged against the driver even if his or her BAC is under the 0.08% per se threshold if the responding officer believes that the driver was impaired by any alcohol consumption.

Not only must the driver be driving under the influence, but the driver must have been driving in a negligent manner or violated a law during the course of the charged conduct. This could be an allegation, for example, that the driver was violating the speed limit (violating a traffic law) or say, even looking in the mirror to put on lipstick while driving (negligent driving).

Yesterday morning at around 6:30 a.m., three people inside the bedroom of their Pasadena home—probably still sleeping although news reports don’t tell us—suddenly found their bedroom decorated with a pickup truck. Fortunately, none of the residents was seriously injured but the structural damage to the home rendered the house being designated by authorities as uninhabitable.

The driver of the pickup was not injured but he was arrested for driving under the influence. Now either he fell asleep at the wheel or he was so drunk or affected by drugs that he didn’t even realize he was veering straight into a house. The driver was arrested and incarcerated with a $15,000 bail imposed. Police have not yet released information regarding what substance, whether alcohol or drugs, he was under the influence of.

The driver will likely be charged with not only driving under the influence but also because he caused an accident, an additional jail sentence and/or sentence enhancement. Even though the injuries were minor, he can be charged with a sentence enhancement for DUI causing injury. If the prosecutor determines that the injuries were serious enough to warrant it, he could even be charged with a felony DUI, which if convicted, could land the driver in state prison.

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND STATISTICS

In 1989, declaring that drivers under the influence present a danger on the roads and in an effort to deter and punish driving under the influence, the California Legislature passed a bill that ordered the California DMV to establish and maintain data on driving under the influence violations. The purpose of this bill was to provide an evaluation tool for the legislature in the development of future regulation of driving under the influence. The bill became law under Section 1821 of the Vehicle Code. The information the DMV is required to provide under this law is left to the DMV but the statute makes suggestions. This report is supposed to be submitted annually by the DMV to the legislature and it must include a ranking of the efficacy of punishments for DUI and alternative intervention programs.

The latest Section 1821 report submitted by the DMV is dated January 2015 and covers statistics only through 2012. In compliance with the statute, the 2015 Annual Report of the California DUI Management Information System, as it is titled, includes statistics for DUI recidivism rates for first, second, and third DUI offenders with an analysis of the effectiveness of referrals to DUI programs.