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I recently wrote about individuals who work in criminal justice—and who should know better—getting DUIs. Today I read a tragic news story today about an off-duty Los Angeles police officer causing a crash that killed three people; the officer is suspected of driving drunk.

The crash happened in Riverside around 10 p.m. this past Tuesday, September 27. The off-duty officer, Edgar Verduzco, a Santa Ana resident, was speeding down the carpool lane when he rear-ended the victim’s Nissan. The Nissan burst into flames causing the death of a couple and their teen-aged son, who were trapped in their car.

The officer was booked on suspicion of felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter. LAPD is investigating, while Officer Verduzco is being held in the Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail on $100,000 bail. His only injury is a broken nose.

When parents send their kids off to college one of their biggest concerns is drunk driving. We worry that even though little Johnny or Suzie never got into trouble in high school, they might find the new-found freedom and new friends too much to resist. It is no secret that drinking is a big problem on college campuses. But what about drunk driving?

One thing we can be sure of is that this generation is more aware of the dangers and consequences of driving while intoxicated than previous generations were. But that doesn’t always stop the teenaged brain, especially one that is influenced by alcohol or other drugs, from making poor decisions. Hopefully, their decisions will not be as stupid as the Texas A & M freshman who recently ran smack into a cop car while driving under the influence of alcohol. But wait, it gets better. Why did she hit the cop car? Well, she was busy taking a nude snapchat photograph of herself driving to send to her boyfriend. Yes, college students don’t always use the best judgment.

Approximately 6.1% of the DUI arrests are arrests of those between the ages of 18 and 20 according to the latest DMV Annual Report. (Under the “zero tolerance” laws, a person under the age of 21 will be arrested for any amount of alcohol in their system.) The good news is that the rate of arrests for DUI for this age group has been steadily declining. The bad news is that this age group represents only about 2.5% of California’s population so the arrests in this age group are disproportionate to their representation in total state population.

The “future” of self-driving cars is here. In Pittsburg, Uber is currently testing their fleet of self-driving cars. Pittsburg Uber customers can now order a self-driving car although during this test period, there is a safety driver at the wheel. Experts predict that self-driving cars will become a common sight on the road by 2020. Sometime in the very near future (say before 2025), self-driving cars will be available for purchase by the public. I don’t mean the type of semi-self-driving car Tesla has already introduced; I am talking about cars without a steering wheels or foot pedals!

While self-driving cars will supposedly be accident-free, I imagine that will be a long way down the road as we will probably have human-driven cars sharing the road for some time to come. I don’t envisage circumstances where we will suddenly have accident-free roads just because some cars are self-driving. Traffic cops will probably have jobs for at least another generation.

Now as an attorney who defends drivers arrested for driving under the influence, my first thought is how this will play out with the DUI laws. Imagine this scenario: Joe Partyboy takes his self-driving car out for a night on the town. Even though he is not driving it, he does have some control over the car because, after all, he has to tell it where to go. He orders his car take him to a number of bars and by time he is ready to go home, he is very drunk. He stumbles into his self-driving car and manages to input “go home” on the car’s navigation controls. On the way home, another car, the old-fashioned kind, hits Joe’s driverless car. He stumbles out of the car just about the time a police cruiser pulls up. Can Joe be arrested for DUI?

DUI STATISTICS

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 949-474-8008 or emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.

(This post applies only to persons over the age of 21 or who are not on probation for a previous DUI.)

What should you do if you are stopped while driving a vehicle and the cop suspects you are driving under the influence of alcohol? The laws that govern a DUI stop provide you with less rights than you would have during an ordinary police contact. The premise underlying this diminished due process on a DUI stop is that driving on California roadways is a privilege, not a right, and therefore you are not afforded all the protections provided in the Constitution. But you still have certain rights when you are stopped on suspicion of DUI.

When you are pulled over for suspected driving under the influence, you are considered detained and you are not free to go. Even though the officer has not yet read you your “Miranda rights,” which is not required until you are arrested, your right to remain silent is triggered at the time of the detention. You must provide the officer with your driver license (and car registration) but beyond that you do not have to answer the officer’s questions. As with any police detention or arrest, your best approach is to be politely cooperative and provide your identification, but to let the officer know that you wish to remain silent.

Many people don’t know that a DUI conviction may have other consequences beyond the driver’s license suspension, probation, and mandatory DUI classes. In California, there is a huge body of administrative law, much of it quasi-criminal. The immediate administrative per se suspension of a DUI arrestee’s driver license is an example of an administrative law. Although the courts have ruled that most administrative laws that sanction an individual are constitutional, many, if not most, of the quasi-criminal administrative laws do not afford the individual the same due process protections that the United States and California Constitutions guarantee in a criminal prosecution.

Many who are arrested for DUI in California will only experience the administrative consequences of a per se suspension of his or her driver’s license and DMV sanctions. However, what many don’t understand is that a DUI goes on the person’s criminal record and that can trigger other administrative sanctions in California.

For example, a person convicted of a DUI—even a first-time DUI—and who works as a child caregiver, or even just volunteers in an after-school program, will very likely hear from their employer that the State of California will no longer allow him or her on the premises. In other words, a childcare employee could find themselves barred from their place of employment simply because he or she was arrested and convicted of a first-time DUI.

HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT I WILL GO TO JAIL IF I AM ARRESTED FOR DUI?

Even a first-time DUI carries a potential sentence in California of up to six months in county jail but such a sentence is rarely, if ever, handed down. A driver who is arrested for a first-time DUI may end up in the “drunk tank” after booking but that is usually the only time he or she will spend behind bars for the offense.   Most often, a driver convicted on a first-time DUI (within a ten year period) will be sentenced to a period of probation and ordered to attend DUI classes. Some counties in California will also sentence a first-time DUI offender to complete community service. But a jail sentence? In 99.9% of the cases, the offender will not receive a jail sentence.

However, spending time between three walls and the fourth wall of bars becomes increasingly likely with subsequent DUI convictions (if the convictions occurred within a ten-year period of time). In fact, a third DUI carries mandatory minimum jail time of 120 days although some counties will allow the offender to serve the sentence under a work-release program or house arrest, or sometimes even by serving the sentence by “volunteering” in a community service program.

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BOATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

California offers an abundance of outdoor activities. In the summer, we head out for the ocean, lakes and rivers with boats and jet skis in tow. Sunscreen? Check! Beach towels? Check! Beer in the cooler? Check! Designated boat driver? Ummm….

In California it is just as illegal to drive a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs as it is to drive a car. The laws concerning boating while under the influence are virtually the same as those for driving under the influence. You can be arrested for driving a boat, manning jet skis, or any motorized device, or, for that matter, manipulating water skis or similar equipment, if you are under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, drug, or combination of the two. In other words, the law encompasses more than just driving a boat; it’s illegal to operate or manipulate almost any equipment on the water while under the influence. Yes, you can be arrested for waterskiing or wakeboarding if you are under the influence while doing so!

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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CALIFORNIA DRIVER IS ARRESTED FOR DUI/DWI IN ANOTHER STATE

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.

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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.