Articles Posted in Defending DUI Cases

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Driving under the influence of drugs, or DUID, is essentially the same as a DUI with alcohol. The code section reads: “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle. “

pillsIn essence, the prosecutor has to prove that the defendant drove a vehicle, and when s/he drove, s/he was under the influence of a drug. The drug can be an illegal substance, a prescribed medication or even an over-the-counter medicine that could affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person.

Under the influence” is the hardest element for the government to prove. According to the California Jury Instructions (2110), “A person is under the influence if, as a result of…taking a drug, his or her mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.”

Unlike drunk driving cases involving alcohol, Continue reading →

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In California, if a person is initially arrested for driving under the influence, the case may be negotiated down to other, less severe charges such as a wet reckless, dry reckless, drunk in public, or even an exhibition of speed charge. Successful negotiation will depend upon the facts of the case.

In my experience in San Diego courts, exhibition of speed as a reduction from a drunk driving charge is rarely available as a negotiated plea, unless the case has some serious flaws and the prosecutor believes the DUI case cannot be proven in trial. However, I have been able to obtain such a result in a case that was filed in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Courthouse. My client had a .08 BAC on both the preliminary alcohol screening test and the evidentiary breath sample.

The exhibition of speed charge is found in California Vehicle Code Section 23109(c), and it does not mention alcohol, drinking, drugs, blood alcohol content, or under the influence. Therefore, it is a much better result for the defendant because the penalties are a lot less severe. There is no license suspension, unless Continue reading →

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justice scales.jpgOnce a driving under the influence defendant pleads guilty or is convicted after a jury trial, their criminal record will reflect this indefinitely. Since criminal records are public records, they can be easily searched and found by law enforcement agencies, employers, and state licensing agencies. Most probationers want to get their criminal record cleaned up as soon as possible so their record does not hinder them.

A standard DUI sentence includes a term of probation. Under California law, Penal Code Section 1203.4, a person is eligible for an expungement “in any case in which a defendant has fulfilled the conditions of probation for the entire period of probation, or has been discharged prior to the termination of the period of probation.” There are a few exceptions to this rule where an expungement is not available. Examples of this are when the person served time in prison for this offense or the offense was a sex crime.

Most drunk driving cases are eligible for expungement.

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As you will recall, Susan Hartman, of the Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman, attended The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and The International Association of Chiefs of Police (ICAP) approved DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Practitioner Course, as presented by Mr. Robert La Pier.

The course went through the three standardized field sobriety tests (SFST’s), as laid out by NHTSA:  1.) The horizontal gaze nystagmus, (HGN); 2.) The walk and turn, (WAT); and 3.) The one leg stand, (OLS).  These are the only tests that have been validated by NHTSA and should be used by law enforcement in evaluating each potential DUI.  It should be noted that these tests were only validated to correlate to a specific blood alcohol content (BAC) and they are not be used to show impairment.

The two previous blog articles discussed the HGN and WAT tests. This article will address the OLS test.

The NHTSA manual states that this “test requires a reasonably dry, hard, level, and non-slippery surface.”  If the person is wearing heels that are more than two inches, they should be given the choice to remove the shoes and perform the test barefooted.

There are many reasons why a person may not be able to adequately perform this test, regardless of their consumption of alcohol.  For instance, as a person ages, balance and coordination is more difficult.  If a subject has any current or prior injuries to their back or legs, they suffer from inner ear problems, or they are overweight by 50 or more pounds, they may have problems performing the test.  However, in my experience, officers often state, “I will take your concerns and medical issues into consideration,” and then they proceed with having the subject perform the test. Continue reading →

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As you will recall, Susan Hartman, of the Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman, attended The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and The International Association of Chiefs of Police (ICAP) approved DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Practitioner Course, as presented by Mr. Robert La Pier.

The course went through the three standardized field sobriety tests (SFST’s), as laid out by NHTSA:  1.) The horizontal gaze nystagmus; 2.) The walk and turn; and 3.) The one leg stand.  These are the only tests that have been validated by NHTSA and should be used by law enforcement in evaluating each potential DUI.  It should be noted that these tests were only validated to correlate to a specific blood alcohol content (BAC) and they are not be used to show impairment.

In the last blog article, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, or HGN, test was discussed. This article will address the walk and turn test, (WAT).

The NHTSA manual states that this “test should be conducted on a reasonably dry, hard, level, non-slippery surface.”  If the person is wearing heels that are more than two inches, they should be given the choice to remove the shoes and perform the test barefooted.

There are many reasons why a person may not be able to adequately perform this test, regardless of their consumption of alcohol.  Continue reading →

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IMG_4136San Diego DUI defense attorney, Susan Hartman, of the Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman, recently attended The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and The International Association of Chiefs of Police (ICAP) approved DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Practitioner Course, as presented by Mr. Robert La Pier. This is the very course law enforcement is trained in for DUI investigations, giving them the tools to determine if a person should be arrested for drunk driving.

During the training, which lasted three full days, Susan was tested through written exams and practical demonstrations. In the end, she passed the course and earned the certificate of completion.

According to NHTSA, there are only three standardized field sobriety tests (SFST’s): 1.) The horizontal gaze nystagmus; 2.) The walk and turn; and 3.) The one leg stand. These are the only tests that have been validated by NHTSA and should be used by law enforcement in evaluating each potential DUI. It should be noted that these tests were only validated to correlate to a specific blood alcohol content (BAC) and they are not be used to show impairment.

In this blog article, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, or HGN, will be discussed. The other two tests will be addressed in upcoming blog articles. Continue reading →

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Man with Cop BehindIn San Diego criminal courts, the judge sentences DUI defendants.  For first time misdemeanor drunk driving offenders, that sentence usually does not include any jail time other than what was served at the time of the arrest.  As for subsequent DUI’s, in custody time is very likely to be ordered.

However, San Diego has a program called CPAC, County Parole and Alternative Custody, that is run by the Sheriff’s Department.  This is basically an electronic home confinement program where you wear a bracelet that uses GPS to track your whereabouts. It also has the ability to screen for alcohol use.

You cannot prequalify for this program.  If your sentence included a jail term, the judge may authorize you to be screened for this program.  The judge’s authorization must be on the Court Minute Order for the Sheriff to accept your application to start the screening process to see if you qualify for the program. Continue reading →

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iStock_000009219151MediumSan Diego residents often call me for their free phone consultation after being charged with their first drunk driving offense. At the end of the call, the person often says, “I have been talking to my friends and I just don’t know if I need an attorney on a simple misdemeanor DUI.” Here’s my answer: You absolutely need an attorney! Any time you are charged with a crime, whether it’s drunk driving, domestic violence, or murder, you must have an advocate on your side.

First off, all criminal matters are very serious. Regardless of whether your case is a misdemeanor or a felony, it can impact your criminal record throughout your lifetime. Your record influences the jobs and promotions you may seek, your housing, loans, and many other aspects of your life that you will not realize until you are getting a background check done. Don’t you want to try to get the charges dismissed or reduced and your penalties lessened?

A criminal defense attorney knows the law and protects your rights. In addition, the lawyer knows the system, how it works and what to expect. With the attorney’s legal insight, discovery is requested and then reviewed to look for issues with the case which can lead to reduced charges and possibly even a dismissal of your case.

If you don’t hire an attorney, would you know what defenses are available to you? Would you be able to review your discovery packet to look for issues the prosecutor will have proving their case? Would you know if you have any motions to file to challenge the State’s evidence, or if your case is worth a trial? Do you know what a fair offer is on your particular case? Do you know what things the prosecutor and judge want to hear about you and the facts of your case that can persuade them to reduce the charges or lighten the sentence? Continue reading →

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California has an implied consent law, which requires a driver that is lawfully arrested, suspected of driving under the influence, to submit to a chemical test. The tests that are typically offered for suspected alcohol intoxication is a breath and blood test.  A blood test is usually offered for suspected drug intoxication.  Occasionally, a urine test may be offered if it believed the driver is under the influence of drugs and is unable to give a blood sample for medical reasons, or the blood and /or breath test is not available.

The officer is only required to give you one chance to complete the test. If you refuse, but then change your mind, or you fail to pick one of the tests offered, that can be considered a refusal.

If you refuse, the police may forcibly draw your blood if they obtain a warrant or they can show exigent circumstances that justify the blood draw without a warrant.   In addition to the administrative penalties through the DMV regarding your privilege to drive, there are also enhanced criminal penalties for refusing to submit to a chemical test.

For a first DUI with a refusal enhancement, an additional 48 hours in jail will be added to the penalty. In addition, instead of the 3-month First Conviction Program, the 9-month program will be ordered.  With a second drunk driving conviction within 10-years, 96 hours in jail is added.  For a third driving under the influence conviction within 10-years, 10 additional days in jail are added to the sentence.  And, lastly, for a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction within 10-years with a refusal, the enhanced penalty is 18 additional days in jail. Continue reading →

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If you are driving a vehicle in California, you have agreed to a chemical test of your breath or blood to determine the alcohol and/or drug content, if you are lawfully arrested and suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, (implied consent). The required chemical test must be given after a lawful arrest. If you refuse, you may suffer harsher consequences through the DMV and in the court.

The preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test, the handheld breath test that is given at the scene, is just a field sobriety test. You can and should refuse to take that test, as well as any other field sobriety tests, unless you are under 21 or on DUI probation.

Once arrested, you must provide a sample of your breath or blood. However, in some instances, such as the other tests are not available, drugs are suspected and you cannot provide a blood test, or you have a medical condition that does not allow you to provide a breath or blood sample, a urine test may be offered instead.

If you fail to submit to a chemical test after a lawful arrest, the DMV will take immediate action on your driving privileges. You will be given notice that your driver’s license will be suspended 30 days after the arrest unless you request a hearing within 10 days after the arrest date. If you fail to request the hearing, or if the DMV does not set aside the license suspension after the hearing, your license will suspended for one year on your first offense, revoked for two years on your second offense within 10 years, and revoked for three years on your third offense within 10 years. (Note, this is separate from any action that the court may take against your license in the criminal portion of your case.)

If a DMV hearing is requested, the Administrative Per Se (APS) Hearing will only address four issues:

Continue reading →