Articles Posted in DUI and other Crimes

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.

Continue reading →

A drunk driver caused a three-car accident on the 91 Freeway in Anaheim after crashing into the center divider. When the woman driver attempted to flee the scene, she put her vehicle in reverse and in doing so crashed into another car, which then was hit by yet another vehicle. There were 5 people involved in the collisions and all five were taken to the hospital. The two individuals in the third car were ejected from their vehicle and seriously injured. It is important to point out that the driver of the second car was also determined to be driving drunk and arrested at the scene.

Being charged with a DUI in Orange County, California can have a devastating effect on a person’s life. As I have discussed in previous blogs, Orange County is extremely strict when it comes to driving under the influence. But, in this particular situation, it becomes much more serious due to the fact that there were accidents with injuries involved. Whenever someone is arrested for DUI with injuries, the prosecution can file the charges as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending upon the circumstances. This case will most likely be charged as a felony due to the severity of the accident and injuries of the passengers that were ejected from their vehicle. The district attorney will also look at the defendant’s past history to determine whether or not she has any prior convictions for driving under the influence. A prior history would substantially affect the charges in this case.

Anytime there is an automobile accident and alcohol is involved, most officers on the scene automatically assume that the person who had been drinking caused the accident. While this would be a plausible assumption, it is not always the case. There are many circumstances that could have contributed to the accident. Road conditions, weather, illness, and in some cases, the actions of another other driver.

In this particular situation, it was reported that the driver of the second car involved was also driving drunk and arrested. This is a good opportunity for a defense lawyer to hire an accident reconstruction expert to determine who was actually at fault. If it is determined that driver number two was at fault, or contributed to the accident, then the woman who initially crashed into the center divider may only be charged with misdemeanor dui with accident.

For this reason, it is recommended that anyone involved with an alcohol-related accident consult with an experienced DUI defense lawyer to determine whether or not there may be a good defense available to the charge of DUI with injuries.

If however, the evidence is overwhelmingly against the defendant, then a good experienced defense attorney, who has a good relationship with the Judges, Court staff and District Attorney Office, will begin trying to have the charges reduced to misdemeanors, if filed as a felony, and mitigate the sentence exposure the defendant may have. There are sentencing alternatives that a good attorney will recommend in order to keep their client out of jail.

Continue reading →

According to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, in the first 9 months of 2012 there were 1500 arrests for drug-related dui’s. 95 percent of those arrests resulted in convictions. Compared to 2010, there were 1400 arrests for the year and 92 percent resulted in conviction. Orange County is very aggressive and has become the model in the state in the efforts to crack down on drug-related DUI cases. The state’s Office of Traffic Safety has acknowledged that, while the problem is recognized everywhere, Orange County is the leader in the push for new technology and more drug expert police officers. A $480,000.00 grant was recently awarded to Orange County to train more police officers as drug experts and help the crime lab with updated equipment to detect drugs.

Because I am a DUI defense attorney and my practice is focused primarily in Orange County, I take a special interest in this type of information. I have for a long time known that Orange County is extremely conservative when it comes to driving under the influence cases. I recognize that there is a continuing effort to make the laws more strict and that the authorities have become more aggressive in the arrest and prosecution of people arrested for DUI. Along with this aggressive push, I have also seen an increase in police misconduct when it comes to the initial stop and ultimate arrests. There are specific guidelines that an officer must follow in stopping, detaining and arresting someone for driving under the influence. Too often, these guidelines are not followed properly and unless the stop and detention are specifically addressed, the arrest is considered legal.

As mentioned above, Orange County is funding the increased training for drug recognition experts. These are officers who have been trained and can detect if a person is under the influence of meth, cocaine or heroin just by observing and talking to them. There are specific signs they have been trained to look for that a traffic officer may not recognize. If someone is arrested for DUI and taken to the police station but the Breathalyzer is negative for alcohol, blood will be drawn and sent to the Orange County Crime Lab to be tested. The crime lab has several tests that can detect both legal and illegal drugs. However, not all of the tests are able to determine how much of the drug is present. This has been one of the challenges for the prosecution in these types of cases. The burden to prove whether or not there was enough of a drug present to impair a person’s driving and thus, resulted in dismissals. However, this is about to change. As explained below, new equipment is now available to detect the amount of certain drugs in a person’s blood.

The Orange County Crime Lab is scheduled to begin using a new machine that can measure the concentration of a drug. This new piece of equipment, which costs $350,000.00, was paid for by one of the Traffic Safety grants and has been described as “powerful”. There is no doubt but that we will see an increase in arrests and convictions for DUI of prescription drugs as well as illegal drugs once the crime lab begins using their new machine.

Anyone arrested for DUI whether alcohol related or drug related should immediately seek the advice and assistance of an experienced DUI defense attorney. An arrest for DUI is time-sensitive in that you have only 10 days within which to request a DMV hearing or your license will be suspended. Requesting a hearing “stays” the suspension until after a hearing is conducted.

Although a conviction for DUI may seem inevitable if you were in fact driving under the influence, there are defenses to this charge Looking closely at the conduct of the police officers involved, as well as any tests performed can help determine whether or not challenging the initial stop is a viable defense for you. Further, with an experienced defense lawyer on your side, the ultimate outcome will most surely be more favorable. It is also important to note that there are sentencing alternatives and a good, experienced criminal defense attorney should negotiate aggressively to avoid having his client go to jail.

Continue reading →