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HOW HAS COVID-19 CHANGED THE DUI LANDSCAPE?

 

            The world has certainly changed since COVID-19 introduced itself to humankind. Almost every aspect of our lives has been affected. In the realm of criminal proceedings, a lot has changed and that includes the DUI landscape.

  • Courts are closed to the public. Hearings that must be conducted pursuant to statute, are being held via video conferencing. Individuals charged with DUI may be arraigned via a video appearance. Those who have already been arraigned and have a hearing scheduled may continue their hearing to a later date or appear via video. DUI plea agreements and trials have been suspended for now, absent good cause to proceed.
  • There appears to be a halt in DUI checkpoints. For example, a review of the Orange County DUI checkpoints on the Orange County Sheriff Department’s news archive reveals that the last checkpoint conducted by that agency was February 21, 2020. There are reports, although not confirmed, that Los Angeles County has halted all DUI checkpoints. A look at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department shows that the last checkpoint was conducted on March 13, 2020. This is to be expected. With bars and restaurants closed, there is less reason to conduct sobriety checkpoints.
  • DMV admin per se hearings must be conducted over the phone. Those who want an in-person hearing may request that but the hearing will be delayed indefinitely.
  • Cash bail for most misdemeanors and low-level felonies has been temporarily suspended by the California Judicial Council. However, this does NOT include DUI arrests.
  • DUI arrests have seen significant declines. San Diego County has reported a 50% decline in DUI arrests. Other nearby counties, including Orange County, have not released recent DUI statistics, but anecdotal evidence reported for the state indicates that California DUI arrests are significantly lower. Again, no surprise here since bars and restaurants are closed.

Even with the closure of bars and restaurants and “stay-at-home” orders, drunk drivers are still on the road. Psychologists and others have expressed concern that the continued lockdown may contribute to excess drinking. Indeed, there has been a significant increase in an alcohol sales. No doubt, some people who are drinking at home will get in their vehicle while under the influence.

There may be other knock-on effects. For example, some law enforcement agencies have expressed concern that with the decreased traffic, a driver under the influence might drive at higher rates of speed, when not constrained by traffic. (CHP reports a significant increase in speeding citations.) On the other hand, the lighter traffic makes it easier for law enforcement to spot a suspected drunk driver. Additionally, some counties are reporting more daytime DUIs since the lockdown.  That too makes sense considering that many people are not working in a traditional setting these days.

COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented upheaval of life as we know it. Even during this crisis, Orange County DUI defense attorney hasn’t ceased his commitment to defending those accused of driving under the influence. He is available to assist you today. He offers a free consultations via phone or video. You may contact him at any time by calling his office at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.

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