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.
If you would like to know more about driving under the influence, contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg at 949-474-8008