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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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As part of San Diego County’s “Avoid the 14” Summer Holiday Anti-DUI crackdown, a driver’s safety checkpoint was conducted by the San Diego Sheriff’s Department in the Vista Courthouse parking lot on August 22nd, from 3:30 until 5:30pm. During this operation, 300 drivers were screened and 22 people were cited. The citations included driving without a license, driving on a suspended license, and allowing an unlicensed driver to drive.

The San Diego Sheriffs and other local law enforcement will continue their efforts to arrest drunk drivers in connection with the nationwide “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. This campaign will continue through the end of summer and the Labor Day holiday, August 17th through September 3rd.

If you are arrested for drunk driving, your driver’s license is automatically suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles, DMV, 30 days after the arrest unless you request an Administrative Per Se Hearing, challenging the suspension, within 10 days of the arrest. In addition, once you plead guilty or you are convicted after a trial, the court will usually order your driver’s license suspended. (Note, the amount of time of the suspension depends on a variety of factors.)

If you choose to drive while your license is suspended and you are subsequently contacted by law enforcement, you will likely be arrested and charged with driving on a suspended license when the driving privilege was suspended for driving under the influence. The first conviction of such a charge carries a mandatory minimum 10 days in jail!!

Be aware, law enforcement often sets up these sting operations at the courthouses especially around the time of the MADD, Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, panel class, which is a required class for many people who are on probation for drunk driving. Therefore, if you are going to the MADD panel class, heading to court for your SAAU, Substance Abuse Assessment Unit, meeting, paying your fine, or doing any other business at the courthouse, you should not drive if your license is suspended.

Because of the mandatory minimum jail time, you will not want to put yourself at risk by driving until you are able to either get your driving privileges back in full or you obtain a restricted license. The restricted license will allow you to drive to, from, and during the course of your employment and to and from any court ordered DUI programs.

The Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman is an exclusively DUI defense firm; however, we also assist people with DUI related matters such as driving on a suspended license.

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After a person is arrested for drunk driving, the police write up a police report which is forwarded onto the prosecuting agency. It is this agency, either the City Attorney or District Attorney’s Office, that will decide if charges will officially be filed against you in court. The prosecutor will review the police report and determine if, on an initial review of the facts, they believe they can prove the case against you. confidential envelope.jpg
If they do not believe they can prove their case, they may choose not to file charges. Even if the case is never filed, records that you were arrested are still active within local, state, and federal databases. To prevent these records from being used against you in the future, you should do what you can to try to clean up your record.

To have your criminal records sealed and destroyed when charges have not been filed against you, you must first petition the agency that arrested you requesting they destroy your arrest records. That petition must also be served on the prosecuting agency with jurisdiction over your matter.

The police agency may or may not respond to your petition. If they deny your request or fail to respond by the dates set by California Penal Code Section 851.8, you may petition the court to order the arresting agency to seal your arrest records and then destroy them three years from the date of your arrest. The petition to the court must be served on the law enforcement agency that arrested you and the prosecuting agency with jurisdiction. The court then calendars a hearing to decide your petition.

If driving under the influence charges were filed against you but were subsequently dismissed or you were acquitted of the charges, you can directly file your Petition for Sealing and Destruction of Arrest Records with the court without first petitioning the law enforcement agency that arrested you.

Defendants/Petitioners must be aware that there is a 2 year statute of limitations on filing the petition. This means the petition must be filed with the court no later than 2 years from the date of the arrest or the filing of the complaint, whichever is later, unless there is good cause and without prejudice to any other party.

If you suffered a DUI arrest and the prosecutor never filed against you or your case was ultimately dismissed, clean up your record! You never know when your arrest may be used against you if a record of it remains on the books. For assistance with the sealing and destruction of your drunk driving arrest records, contact The Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman.

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money bag.jpgOnce a DUI defendant pleads guilty or is convicted of drunk driving after a jury trial, the judge will pronounce sentence. If there was a victim who suffered any loss or damages as a result of defendant’s driving under the influence, the sentence will include court ordered restitution. The victim’s right to collect restitution is found in the Declaration of Rights of the California Constitution, Article I, Section 28.

Section (b) specifically states: “In order to preserve and protect a victim’s rights to justice and due process, a victim shall be entitled to the following rights…(13) To restitution.” Because it is the victim that holds this right, neither the court nor the prosecuting authority can use their discretion in negotiating the restitution amount during the plea bargaining stage. However, the court “shall order full restitution unless it finds compelling and extraordinary reasons for not doing so, and states them on the record.” (See California Penal Code Section 1202.4(g).)

The California Constitution, Article I, Section 28(e), defines a victim to be “a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime or delinquent act. The term “victim” also includes the person’s spouse, parents, children, siblings, or guardian, and includes a lawful representative of a crime victim who is deceased, a minor, or physically or psychologically incapacitated.” This section also states that a victim is not “a person in custody for an offense, the accused, or a person whom the court finds would not act in the best interests of a minor victim.”
The amount of restitution that is ordered is governed by California Penal Code Section 1202.4, which states … “the court shall require that the defendant make restitution to the victim or victims in an amount established by court order, based on the amount of loss claimed by the victim or victims or any other showing to the court.”

Often, at sentencing, the amount of losses/damages to the victim or victims are not known. So, the judge will set a Restitution Hearing. At that hearing the victim presents their damages/losses to the court, usually in the form of documentary evidence or testimony. Under California Penal Code Section 1203.1d(d), the court shall not exclude “documentary evidence such as bills, receipts, repair estimates, insurance payment statements, payroll stubs, business records, and similar documents relevant to the value of the …damaged property, medical expenses, and wages and profits lost” as hearsay.

The defendant has a right to dispute the amount of the restitution under Penal Code Section 1202.4(f)(1).

Payment of the restitution is often a term of probation; however, if the defendant’s drunk driving probation is terminated and the restitution has not been paid in full, the judge will turn that Restitution Order into a Civil Judgment. This allows the victim or victims to use any legal means available under California law to collect on the judgment.

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hearing.jpgA driver is arrested in San Diego County and is charged with drunk driving. Two processes begin: 1.) The criminal process involving the courts; and, 2.) The administrative action involving the California Department of Motor Vehicles, (DMV).

The San Diego criminal action is either not filed or the matter is filed but later it is dismissed by the prosecutor. How does this affect the administrative process and the driver’s license suspension?

Once arrested for driving under the influence, the driver has 10 days from the date of receiving the Administrative Per Se Suspension/Revocation Order and Temporary Driver License to request a DMV APS Hearing to challenge the automatic suspension of the driver’s license. If the DMV finds for the driver and reinstates their full driving privileges, there is nothing that the driver needs to do after finding out charges will not be filed or if the criminal case is dismissed.

However, if the DMV finds against the driver and subsequently suspends the licensee’s privilege to drive, but later the prosecutor decides not to file charges or dismisses the pending DUI charges due to lack of or insufficiency of the evidence, the DMV may grant a renewed right to request an administrative hearing under California Vehicle Code Section 13353.2(e).

In order to request this rehearing, the driver, (or his/her DUI defense attorney), must request from the DMV form DS 702, the Administrative Per Se Notice of Failure to File or Dismissal of Criminal Charges. The prosecutor must agree to fill out the form, indicating why the matter was dismissed or not filed. That form is then sent to the Sacramento DMV Office. This must be done within one year of the date of arrest.

The DMV has discretion in deciding to reopen the matter. If approved, the file is sent back to the local Drivers Safety Office for a rehearing. This is basically a new hearing, where all documents and testimony must be re-entered into evidence and any new evidence must be presented to the hearing officer.

Most often, the hearing office does not render a decision at the hearing. Instead, the Notice of Findings and Decision are sent in the mail.

If you have been arrested for drunk driving in San Diego County, you owe it to yourself to hire an exclusively, DUI defense firm that can advise you on your specific case. The above blog entry is not legal advice and may not pertain to your driving under the influence matter.

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