Articles Posted in DUI and other Crimes

After an afternoon barbeque party, Dave gets in his car and heads home.  As he turns the corner on his street, he hits the side of a car parked on the corner. Dave had more than a few beers at the party and he figures that if he sticks around, he stands a good chance of getting a DUI. So, Dave quickly backs up, and speeds down the street to his home where he parks his car in the driveway and runs inside. His neighbor Millicent heard the collision and peeked through her front window. She saw Dave backing up and thought she recognized him (and his car) as a neighbor down the street. When she sees the damage to the parked car, she calls the police and reports the incident. She tells the dispatcher that she believes the driver of the car was a neighbor who lives down her street and she describes the neighbor’s car.

The police arrive and spot the car described by the neighbor parked in Dave’s driveway. They feel the hood of the parked car and find that it is still warm. They see front-end damage consistent with the damage they noted on the car parked down the street. The officers knock on Dave’s front door and Dave’s wife, Susan, answers. By this time, Dave was upstairs vigorously rinsing his mouth out with mouthwash. On his way upstairs, he had briefed his wife on what happened and told her, “If the police come, don’t tell them I am here.”

The police ask Dave’s wife whose car is parked in the driveway. She tells them it belongs to her and her husband and in an effort to protect her husband, she tells them she just brought it home from grocery shopping. When questioned, she tells them the damage they observed on the front end is from a previous fender bender. Based on Millicent’s report, the police don’t buy Susan’s story. They ask if her husband is home. She tells them he is not. The police remain suspicious. As the police question Susan, the police hear footsteps upstairs.

Perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that the United States has among the highest rates of death from drunk driving in the world, with 31 percent of all fatal accidents being attributed to alcohol impairment. You might be surprised to learn that our neighbor to the north, Canada, has an even higher rate at 34 percent and South Africa’s rate is even higher at 58%–that represents 25.1 deaths caused by impaired drivers for every 100,000 people in South Africa. These three countries, according to the Global Status Report on Road Safety (2015) have the three highest rates in the world of road deaths caused by impaired drivers. Australia, France, and Italy come in just below the United States at 30 percent, 29 percent, and 25 percent, respectively.

There may be a number of reasons to explain the high rate of fatalities caused by impaired drivers, including lack of public transportation options and dispersed population centers. But Russia, a country rumored to celebrate drinking and a country with a huge land mass, is reported to have only 9 percent of its road fatalities caused by drunk driving. Now you might reasonably surmise that Russia’s statistical reporting is lacking or otherwise manipulated, but the World Health Organization, which compiled this report takes into account any data manipulation or lack of reliable statistics. Germany, a country known for its robust beer drinking, matches Russia’s 9 percent rate.

Could these differences be explained by the drunk driving laws? Perhaps, but probably not by the legal BAC levels. Canada (most provinces) and the United States have a 0.08 percent BAC threshold. But the legal limit is South Africa is 0.05 percent BAC. And while Germany and Russia have a 0.05 percent BAC legal threshold, so does Australia, France and Italy, countries that have a much higher rate of deaths caused by impaired drivers. Consider that France, with a 29 percent rate of drunk driving fatalities has a 0.05 percent BAC threshold, while Great Britain, with a 16 percent rate of drunk driving fatalities has a 0.08 percent BAC limit.

Driving under the influence is dangerous enough; it affects a driver’s motor skills, reaction times and judgment. But how many drivers out there are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and using their cell phone while they drive? My guess is a lot. Recently an 18-year old Stockton driver who was under the influence of alcohol thought it was a clever idea to record video to Instagram while driving with two 14-year-olds in the backseat. One of those passengers was her sister. As the drunken, video-streaming teen drove down a road near Los Banos, California, her car veered and she overcorrected causing the car to overturn. Her 14-year-old sister was killed; the other passenger suffered serious injuries.

The 18-year-old should never have been drinking in the first place, much less driving with two 14-year- olds in the car. As I have discussed on previous occasions, teen brains have not matured and many teens have poor decision-making skills. That doesn’t give this driver a pass–she has been charged with vehicular manslaughter and other crimes. Worse yet, she will live with the memory of killing her little sister for the rest of her life.

But I wonder about all the adults of legal drinking age who are out on our roads driving under the influence and texting, posting to social media, or even just navigating on their cell phone. Researchers have asked: What’s more dangerous, driving with a .08% BAC or texting? One study conducted by the University of Utah found that cell-phone use resulted in greater driver impairment than driving under the influence of alcohol. Car and Driver Magazine conducted simulated driving test on driver reaction times. Their results: the texting drivers’ reaction time was as much as two times slower than the drunk drivers’ reaction time.

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.

HOW ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS AFFECT YOUR BRAIN

Everyone knows that when a person is under the influence of certain drugs, their driving may become impaired, but not everyone knows why.

Let’s start with the most common drug: alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant. Depressants cause the central nervous system to slow down, usually by enhancing a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA reduces a person’s nerve cell excitability (the process that transmits information in our brains). Without GABA, we’d be a “bundle of nerves.”

Did this Napa school bus driver take a wine tasting detour? A school bus driver in Napa was recently arrested for driving under the influence after she damaged the undercarriage of her bus with 28 students on board. Fortunately, none of the students were injured.

As hard as it is to believe that a school bus driver would be driving under the influence, this Napa driver is not the only one. The same week the Napa driver was arrested, another bus driver was arrested for driving under the influence of prescription drugs in Boulder County, Colorado after she lost control of her bus, which resulted in the serious injury to two of the eight children on board.

A month before these two incidents, a school bus driver in Lincoln Rhode Island stumbled off her bus after having driven students from school. She was arrested for drunk driving.

Is this a trend? The DUI arrests made in Orange County during the 2016 New Year’s holiday was almost half the number of DUI arrests during the 2015 New Year’s holiday. Los Angeles County also saw a decrease in DUI arrests although not as sharp a decline as that in Orange County. So too in San Diego where DUI arrests were slightly down from last year. This might be explained by fewer checkpoints this year than last but there is also the possibility that the increasing popularity of ride sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft are encouraging more people to leave the car keys at home on New Year’s Eve.

In fact, several studies have indicated that ride sharing programs are directly responsible for a decrease in drunken driving crashes among drivers under the age of 30 and a 3.6 to 5.6 percent decline in deaths caused by drunken driving. The research was conducted by studying DMV records from different markets before ride sharing entered that market and comparing those records to records after ride sharing entered each particular market studied.

While the verdict is not in, early studies do suggest that ride sharing programs can take credit for a decrease in drunk driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving agree: “We definitely do believe that Uber, or any other ride-sharing company, has helped us in our fight against drunk driving,” said Natasha Thomas, a program director for MADD.. “They offer reliable, right-to-the-minute services to help people get home safe instead of getting behind their wheels intoxicated,” she added.

Consequences Of DUI With Passenger Under The Age Of 14

In California, if you are arrested for driving under the influence and you have a passenger in your car under the age of 14, Vehicle Code section 23572 states that any sentence/punishment associated with the conviction of DUI may be enhanced. The enhancement depends upon whether it is your first, second or third offense for driving under the influence. For a first offense, the enhancement would be an additional 48 hours in jail and up to 90 days in jail for multiple offenses. This is in addition to your sentence for the underlying DUI charge.

So what this means is that when the District Attorney is filing their case, they may or may not include the enhancements for having a child under the age of 14 years. This often depends upon the circumstances of the arrest such as, the blood alcohol level of the defendant, the driving pattern, the age of the child, and the officer’s observations of the defendant during the initial stop.

Driving Under The Influence And Hit & Run In Orange County

Under California law, anyone who is involved in an accident is required to immediately stop at the scene, provide the other party involved with contact and insurance information, and to assist anyone who may have suffered injures. Failure to do any of these requirements can result in being charged with hit and run. More seriously, being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the hit and run, will result in multiple charges and potentially serious consequences.

DUI at the time of a hit and run usually involves several offenses and may result in one or more of the following charges:

A 27 year old Santa Ana man was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, felony hit and run and driving on a suspended license, in connection with the hit and run death of a 75 year old man last week. The charges have yet to be filed but due to the fact that the suspect was on probation for a 2011 dui conviction, if it is determined that he was in fact the driver and was intoxicated at the time of the accident, he could be facing murder charges.

According to authorities, the 75-year-old man was out for a walk on Thursday morning when he was struck and killed by a vehicle described as a dark blue BMW. Another driver who followed the vehicle until police arrived spotted a damaged vehicle matching the description Saturday. The suspect was arrested and reportedly, the damage to the car was consistent with evidence from the crime scene.

At this point, the evidence seems to be pointing to the fact that the car was involved in a hit and run which doesn’t necessarily mean that the suspect was the one driving the car. Further, if the suspect were driving the car, absent any positive blood or breath test for alcohol, there would be no physical evidence of intoxication. This is a very important detail in this case because, as mentioned above, the defendant has a prior conviction for dui, which puts him in danger of being charged with dui 2nd degree murder. This is known as a “Watson Murder”, which is explained in more detail below.

In California, when someone pleads guilty to DUI, they either sign a “Watson Advisement” or the Judge advises in Court of the “Watson Advisement”. This basically requires that the defendant acknowledge that he/she understands that driving under the influence is dangerous to human life and that in the future; any dui’s, which result in the death of another, can be prosecuted as a murder. For this reason, the hit and run charge in this case, absent any evidence of alcohol involvement, will definitely be the lesser of two evils as far as charges go.

However, these are very serious charges and require the advice and assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with these types of cases and the defenses thereto.

There are defenses to a hit and run which an aggressive defense attorney should pursue. A couple of the more common defenses are: 1) The suspect was unaware that there was an accident and, 2) The suspect wasn’t driving the vehicle. As in all cases, a defense attorney should pay close attention to the conduct of the police officers and investigation reports, as well as the conduct at the scene. Errors and holes in the reports can often assist in the defense of this type of case. Something else to explore is the possible need for an accident reconstruction expert. Finding out how the accident occurred could be helpful to the defendant’s case. An expert would look at the road conditions, lighting, and anything that may have contributed to the accident.

If you or someone you know is facing charges of this serious nature, consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in the County in which the case is pending, may be the most important thing you ever do.

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