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San Diego, California, it’s almost that time of year…to end all the political advertisements on the television and radio, in the newspapers and magazines, and, of course, in all those mailings. Yes, on Tuesday, November 6th, it will be your time to vote!

Although I usually don’t use this blog to talk about politics, and your personal politics are not an issue for this posting, I do want to take a few minutes to discuss a ballot measure that I think is very important to us as citizens and for myself as a criminal defense attorney. If you don’t think voting for our President of the United States or the Mayor of San Diego is enough reason to get to the polls next week, consider the implications of Proposition 34, the death penalty initiative.

California has had the death penalty reinstated on the books since 1978. There hasn’t been an execution in California in over six years; however, we continue to house more than 700 people on death row as they wait for their supposed execution by the California Department of Corrections. The reality is the day will never come, or if it does, it will take 20-25 years and lots of money to get there. The reason for this is the many legal processes that are in place in an attempt to ensure that the convicted are afforded all protections so as to not execute an innocent person because there is no turning back once that switch is flipped.

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A DUI lawyer in Texas decided to advertise his drunk driving defense firm by putting a message on wristbands that were given out to bar patrons. The message read, “Drinking tonight? Know your rights.” This was followed by the DUI attorney’s telephone number.martini and keys.jpg

Although this upset Mothers Against Drunk Driving, (MADD), the Texas lawyer was correct when he said, “If you are over the age of 21 you can consume alcohol and operate a motor vehicle. You can drive as long as you are not intoxicated.”

This is also the law in California. According to California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), “It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.”

According to the California Jury Instructions, (CALCRIM), 2110, “A person is under the influence if, as a result of drinking or consuming an alcoholic beverage and or 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.”

In addition, “The manner in which a person drives is not enough by itself to establish whether the person is or is not under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or a drug or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug. However, it is a factor to be considered, in light of all the surrounding circumstances, in deciding whether the person was under the influence.”

In San Diego and across California, it is not a crime to consume an alcoholic beverage and then drive a car as long as you are not under the influence at the time that you are driving!!

If you are pulled over by law enforcement and then charged with drunk driving, you owe it to yourself to hire an exclusively DUI defense firm to represent your interests with both the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the court system. Do not delay. You only have ten days from the date of arrest to contact the DMV to request a hearing to challenge the suspension of your driving privileges.

The above blog article is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may change and may not apply to your case. For the latest information or to get legal advice, speak to a DUI attorney in your area.

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halloween.jpgSan Diego Sheriff’s Department announced today 15 law enforcement agencies throughout the County of San Diego will conduct a drunk driving crackdown involving saturation patrols, (increased law enforcement specifically looking for impaired drivers), during Halloween week. They started yesterday and will continue through November 4th.

San Diego State University’s (SDSU) surrounding area will be targeted for DUI patrols on Saturday night.

The Sheriff’s recommend you plan ahead to avoid ending your party with a drunk driving charge. They encourage all partiers to designate a sober driver, call a taxi or a friend or family member, or use San Diego’s public transportation. You can also plan to spend the night at the house where the party is taking place.

If you happen to be pulled over by law enforcement, you do not want to help them build a case against you. Unless you are DUI probation, you are not required to do the field sobriety tests (FST’s) and you do not have to blow into the portable alcohol screening (PAS) test at the scene. You also should not answer the officer’s questions including what you had to drink, when did you last drink, etc. Everything you say to the officer is often included in the police report and used against you later in court.

You should understand law enforcement does not like it when a person does not cooperate with their investigation. So, you may end up being arrested and spending the night in jail if you do not comply with their requests.

If the officer has probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence, you are required to take either a blood or breath test. If you refuse to take the test, additional penalties are added.

If you get arrested and you are charged with drunk driving, you owe it to yourself to hire a accessible, aggressive, DUI defense attorney. Many criminal defense attorneys and even civil attorneys will often take drunk driving cases. These matters can be quite complex and it is best to hire someone who only deals with these type of matters to get the best results.

Do not just plead guilty, even if your blood alcohol content (BAC) was over a .08. There may still be defenses in your case that can lead to reduced charges or even a dismissal!

The above blog article is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may change and may not apply to your case. For the latest information or to get legal advice, speak to a DUI attorney in your area.

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A Vista driving under the influence trial concluded with a finding for guilt on three counts of gross vehicle manslaughter this week, according to

San Marcos resident, Debbie Sumi, 36, was in a vehicle that crashed into the back of another car that was parked on the shoulder on westbound 78 near Sycamore Avenue in August 2010. Her blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, was reported as .27 and .28 and she was ejected from the car.

Escondido resident, Susana Orozco, 23, and Erica Oliva, 23, of Fallbrook, were standing on the side of the road by the parked car and were killed. The defendant’s fiancé, Larry Alvarez, 34, was partially ejected and also died at the scene.

Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a felony. According to the California Criminal Jury Instructions, CALCRIM 590, in order for the jury to find a defendant guilty of this charge, the prosecutor must proof beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant drove while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and/or drug;
  2. While driving that vehicle while under the influence, the defendant also committed a misdemeanor, infraction, or an otherwise lawful act that might cause death;
  3. The defendant committed that misdemeanor, infraction, or otherwise lawful act with gross negligence; and,
  4. The defendant’s grossly negligent conduct caused the death of another person.

The defense argued that Alvarez was the driver of the vehicle, not Sumi. The jury did not accept this argument and they convicted her on the three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter. She is facing up to 14 years in prison when she is sentenced on January 8th.

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spilled beer.jpgDrunk driving rates of U.S. high school students have drastically fallen over the past 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC). In a report that was released this week, the CDC claimed it analyzed data from 1991-2011. The data was collected from self-reporting, voluntary, and anonymous surveys in 41 states. The teens were asked in a questionnaire if they drove a motor vehicle one or more times after consuming an alcoholic beverage within 30 days before taking the survey.

The survey found that in 1991, 22.3% of teens aged 16 years or older admitted to driving after drinking alcohol, while only 10.3% admitted to this behavior in 2011. The results in the reporting states varied. There was a higher rate in the Gulf Coast region but some states such as Utah were much lower (4.6%). No data was available for California.

The study did not report how many students were driving in 1991 versus 2011. With the fall in the economy, higher gas prices, and higher unemployment rates among teens, it can be assumed that the amount of teenage high school students that are driving at all is less than in 1991. In addition, the survey only asked students if they had been drinking and driving within the month prior to taking the survey. Considering these shortfalls, the reported drinking and driving rates may be very low.

Over the years, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have been lobbying states for zero-tolerance laws. California has complied. This means if you are under the age of 21, it is unlawful to drive a motor vehicle in California with a measurable amount of alcohol in your blood. In addition, you must submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test. The DMV will suspend your driver’s license for one year for the first offense of driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above a .01%.

The above blog article is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. For information about a specific case, speak to a drunk driving attorney in your area.

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When you are arrested for driving under the influence, there are three options on how you can handle the case and be represented. First, you may choose to represent yourself in court. Second, if you meet the financial qualifications, you may have a public defender appointed to represent you. And third, you may hire a private attorney to handle your DUI case.court.jpg

Although a defendant has a right to represent himself or herself, it is not advisable to do so. The prosecutor and the judge will not help you through the process and they will not give you legal advice. They are interested in getting people into court to plead guilty, and to get the greatest penalty allowed under the law for the crime they believe was committed. Their caseload is full every day and they work to push the cases through the system as quickly and efficiently as possible. Meaning, they want you to plead guilty at your first appearance in court.

When you plead guilty to a DUI charge this early in the process, the prosecutor often does not turn over all the discovery to you. So, you do not know if the government can even prove their case against you.

No one should represent themselves in court!! You want a defense attorney who looks out for your interests. Someone who makes sure you are pleading guilty when and if the prosecutor’s case is strong, the offer is fair, and there are no defenses in your case that can lead to reduced charges or even a dismissal. A criminal defense lawyer that will file motions, argue on your behalf, negotiate for the best deal, and stand ready to take your drunk driving case to trial if needed.

So if you financially qualify for a lawyer who works for the San Diego Public Defender’s Office, should you still hire your own private lawyer? First off, you have to decide if you have the means to pay for legal counsel. If you do not, the Public Defender is a great option for you. They take on all criminal cases, including drunken driving cases, and it will cost you very little, if anything, for their help.

Because these criminal defense attorneys take every case the court appoints to them, they are extremely busy. They also have incentive to push the calendar and settle cases as quickly and as early as possible. In addition, they usually have little time to focus on any one case and their day is filled with several clients needing several matters handled, leaving little time to fully discuss your case and explain the court process to you, request and review all discovery, and fully assess the case.

By hiring The Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman, an accessible, aggressive, exclusively DUI defense firm, you get an experienced drunk driving lawyer. Driving under the influence cases are fact specific and each one is complex and different. This firm limits the amount of cases it takes on so that every client’s case is handled with the time and attention it needs and you deserve.

The above blog article is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. For information about a specific case, speak to a drunk driving attorney in your area.

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budget cuts.pngThe San Diego County courts are suffering from the biggest financial cuts in history. State funding dropped from $190 million to $157 million and a larger shortfall is expected next year. To bridge the gap in the funding, many changes are happening within the courthouse.

Many courtrooms are being closed including six criminal courtrooms and one civil courtroom in the Downtown San Diego Superior Court. In addition, the San Diego’s North County Probate Division no longer exists and all of those matters are being transferred to the Central Division Probate Court in Downtown San Diego. Also, juvenile dependency lost a courtroom in Vista and all Ramona cases will now be heard in the East County Courthouse in El Cajon.

Thirty court reporters have been laid off and another eleven accepted early retirement.
Civil matters will no longer be heard with a court reporter present in the courtroom taking a verbatim record of the court proceedings unless the litigants want to pay for their own reporter. Court clerks now have the added responsibility of making notes on the judge’s rulings.

In order to give the busy clerks time to catch up on the backlogged work, all of the San Diego Superior Court Business Offices now close on Fridays at noon.
With fewer courtrooms and court staff, criminal defendants, including those charged with driving under the influence, can expect a longer wait time to get into a courtroom for hearings and trials. If you already have a court date with an assigned department, when you get to court, you may find that your courtroom is closed and your matter has been transferred elsewhere.

One huge benefit of hiring a DUI lawyer to assist you with your misdemeanor drunk driving case is most defendant’s do not have to appear in court. Your attorney can appear on your behalf. With these new budget cuts, that can save you many long hours waiting in the courthouse for your matter to be addressed. In addition, an experiened attorney, who works in the San Diego County Courthouses, is familiar with these procedures and navigating this new system and can assist you with handling your case with ease.

For the most up-to-date information about the court cutbacks, refer to the San Diego Court’s website.

Articles Cited:

San Diego courts change hours due to budget cuts
San Diego courts to cut more than 40 jobs
County court budget cuts kick in; the impact

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San Diego law enforcement conducted another DUI checkpoint in the East Village area of downtown San Diego on Saturday from 10:35 p.m. until Sunday morning at 3:05 a.m., according to Of the 2,519 drivers that went through the roadblock, 820 were contacted by the cops, 55 were pulled over to secondary for further evaluation, and 18 people were arrested for drunk driving.

Even though it’s after the height of the summer months and after the Labor Day holiday weekend, San Diego Police are continuing their efforts to stop people who are driving under the influence. You can expect with football season starting and the holiday season kicking off soon, sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols will continue around San Diego, especially on the weekend.

If you are arrested for a DUI, usually there is an administrative process through the DMV involving your driving privilege. In addition, there is a court or criminal process involving punishment for breaking the law.

If you have been arrested for drunk driving, do not just ignore the DMV action or plead guilty. Even if your blood-alcohol content, BAC, was over a .08, there may be defenses in your case that can lead to your driving privilege being reinstated, reduced charges, or even a dismissal!! You owe it to yourself to hire a lawyer who exclusively deals with drunk driving matters to review the specific facts and evidence in your case and mitigate your penalties.

An added benefit of hiring legal counsel, if your matter is charged as a misdemeanor, in most cases, you will not have to appear at the DMV hearing or for any court proceedings. Your attorney can make all appearances on your behalf.

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labor day.jpgNumerous San Diego law enforcement agencies announced they will be out in full force over the Labor Day weekend conducting drunk driving roadblocks and saturation patrols, according to

Chula Vista Police will conduct a DUI checkpoint on Friday, August 31st, from 6:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. They will also have roadblocks on Saturday and Sunday, but the exact locations and times have not been announced.

California Highway Patrol (CHP) will set up a drunken driving checkpoint in Rancho San Diego from 7:00 p.m. Saturday through 1:30 a.m. Sunday. The precise location has not been announced. Also, CHP will be in a maximum enforcement period Friday at 6:00 p.m. through Monday at 11:59 p.m., actively looking for drunk drivers, speeders, and other violators.

Oceanside Police Department will conduct a roadblock looking for impaired drivers on Friday starting at 8:00 p.m. and ending at 3:00 a.m. The exact location of this checkpoint has not been released.

The San Diego Sheriff’s Department will conduct a DUI checkpoint at an undisclosed location in Imperial Beach from 8:00 p.m. Saturday through 2:30 a.m. Sunday with additional saturation patrols on Saturday.

San Diego Police Department plans to conduct a DUI roadblock starting at 9:00 p.m. Friday and continuing into early Saturday morning. In addition, another checkpoint will be held on Monday starting at 4:00 p.m. The locations for these two have not been disclosed.

Encinitas, Santee, Poway, and Imperial Beach will add additional San Diego Sheriff patrols specifically looking for impaired drivers. They also plan on setting up sobriety checkpoints in Encinitas, Santee, and Poway on Friday night, Imperial Beach on Saturday evening, and Santee on Sunday. The times and locations for these DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols were not released.

As you can see, local law enforcement is actively looking for drunk drivers this Labor Day weekend. Do not be a statistic; plan ahead before you go out to celebrate your three day weekend. Pack a bag and plan on staying at the home of the party host. Designate a driver to remain sober and be responsible to drive you home. Save a San Diego taxi company’s telephone number in your phone and use it. Use public transportation or call a sober friend or family member for a ride.

However, If you are unfortunate and you do get arrested for driving under the influence, you owe it to yourself to hire an exclusively DUI defense firm.

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newsflash.jpgSan Diego Sheriffs and San Diego Police have been busy arresting drivers for DUI within the past week. The San Diego Sheriff’s Department conducted drunk driving checkpoints this past weekend in Imperial Beach, Poway, San Marcos, Vista, and Santee, according to the In addition, they set up a checkpoint in the Vista Courthouse parking lot on Wednesday and conducted a DUI warrant sweep in the East County on Saturday.

The sobriety checkpoints, in which 7,647 drivers were contacted, resulted in 27 people doing field sobriety tests (FST’s) and 13 arrested for allegedly driving while impaired. The Vista Courthouse sting resulted in 300 drivers being contacted and 22 people arrested for various violations including driving on a suspended license.

San Diego Police conducted two DUI checkpoints this past weekend, according to One was held on Friday night on College Avenue near SDSU. Of the 1,367 cars that went through the roadblock, 962 drivers were contacted and 11 arrests were made for suspicion of driving under the influence.

The second DUI roadblock was set up in Pacific Beach at the 2600 block of Ingraham Street on Saturday night. In this checkpoint, 1,448 cars passed through, resulting in 16 arrested for alleged drunk driving offenses.

In Spring Valley, at Campo and Jamacha Road, an alleged drunk driver hit a sheriff’s patrol car Saturday night. reported that the San Diego Sheriff was not seriously injured but was taken to the hospital for observation. The alleged drunk driver was arrested but the person’s name was not released

Driving under the influence charges are pending against the San Francisco Archbishop, Reverend Salvatore Cordileone. The reported that the Archbishop was arrested on College Avenue near Montezuma Road in the collage area on Saturday after midnight.

As the summer comes to a close and with the Labor Day Weekend coming up this weekend, you can expect San Diego law enforcement will remain vigilant in drunk driving enforcement. Do not be a statistic. Plan ahead before you go out to celebrate your three day weekend. Pack a bag and plan on staying at the home of the party host. Designate a driver to remain sober and be responsible to drive you home. Save a San Diego taxi company’s telephone number in your phone and use it. Use public transportation or call a sober friend or family member for a ride.

But if you do get arrested and are charged with drunk driving, you owe it to yourself to hire an exclusively DUI defense firm.

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