Articles Posted in DUI Enforcement

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Before January 1st, 2014, California law enforcement agencies were using California Vehicle Code (VC) Sections 23152(a) and (b) to prosecute cases involving alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs.

VC 23152(a) stated, “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.” VC 23152(b) read, “It is unlawful for any person who has a 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.”

As of January 1st, 2014, the State of California added two more driving under the influence code sections, 23152(e) and 23152(f), thus separating out the alcohol and drug cases.

VC 23152(a) has been updated to read, “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.” Section 23152(b) has been changed to, “It is unlawful for a person who has a 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.”

The new VC 23152(e) provides, “It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” And, under VC Section 23152(f), “It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.”

After the first quarter of the year, it is unclear how the court will handle the new version of this vehicle code section. Still, the 2014 California Jury Instructions uses only the (a) and (b) sections as they were used before, (see CALCRIM No. 2110 and 2111).

As for the administrative portion of a drunk driving matter, the DMV Driver Safety Office does not address drug impairment at the APS Hearing. The hearing only focuses on alcohol and BAC. However, you can speculate that with the push for more legislation on DUI’s, such as the proposed AB 2500, drug DUI enforcement and penalties may become stricter in the future.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence due to alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, you owe it to yourself to seek help from a criminal defense attorney who exclusively deals with DUI matters.

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In San Diego County and throughout California, driving under the influence penalties are getting harsher. In most cases, alleged DUI incidents are charged with two penal code violations:

  1. Driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both; and,
  2. Driving with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) at or above .08 percent.

Along with these (or other possible) charges, the prosecuting agency may also add penalty enhancements to the complaint. Just as it sounds, if alleged, these can increase the penalty imposed if a person pleads guilty or is found guilty of the enhancement.

Typical enhancements include prior convictions within the past 10 years, high BAC, refusals, speeding, child endangerment, and accidents/injuries.

If a person was convicted or pleaded guilty to a DUI or a wet reckless within 10 years of the current offense, the sentence for the new drunk driving matter will be increased in the criminal court proceeding. Also, the DMV will suspend the driving privileges for a longer period and the driver will have to attend a longer DUI program. Each prior offense will increase the penalties. If the person has 3 prior DUI offenses on their record, the 4th could be charged as a felony, thus exposing him or her to a prison sentence. This is true even if none of the drunk driving offenses involved an accident or any injuries.

If a person’s blood-alcohol content is proven to be .15% or more or .20 or more, additional penalties may be imposed. On a first DUI with a .20 BAC, the 9-month alcohol program will be ordered instead of the 3-month program. In addition, the judge may also impose additional terms such as mandatory AA meetings, public work service, or an ignition interlock device.

If the driver refused to do a chemical test after a lawful arrest, additional administrative penalties are imposed through the DMV. For instance, on a first DUI with a refusal, the DMV will suspend the driving privileges for one year, instead of the usual 4 months. Plus the court will use this to enhance the sentence, including 2 days of mandatory jail time.

If a person was driving 20+ mph over the speed limit on surface streets or 30+ mph over the speed limit on the highway, the enhancement is called reckless driving. Under California Vehicle Code Section 23582, the judge will order a mandatory 60 days in custody in addition to all the other penalties imposed for the DUI.

If the DUI driver had a minor under the age of 14 in the car when the offense occurred, they will likely be charged with the child endangerment enhancement. The court may enhance the drunk driving sentence by adding an additional 10 days of jail time.

If an accident was involved and there was property damage, the court will order restitution. If a person was injured in the accident, the charges will often be felony DUI or a misdemeanor DUI with injuries, both will include enhanced penalties.

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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bigstock-Man.Don-t-Drinking-and-Driving-42276163.jpgIn most drunk driving cases, something initially happens that draws the police officer’s attention to the car. There are rare instances when the officer does not witness driving; for instance, when the officer responds to an accident. In those cases, driving is determined by inferences, circumstantial evidence, and statements made by witnesses and the defendant.

If the officer observes a moving violation, the driver will be pulled over. If the contact ends up with an arrest for DUI, the initial observations, including the driving pattern, is documented by the officer in the police report. That report is forwarded to the prosecutor, either the San Diego City Attorney’s Office or the District Attorney’s Office, depending on where the case is filed, to be reviewed to determine if official charges will be filed in the San Diego Superior Court.

If the case is litigated through motions or a trial, or a plea deal is being negotiated, the officer’s initial observations of the defendant’s driving pattern become very important. A moving violation gives law enforcement probable cause to pull the driver over and cite them. It can also provide reasonable suspicion that a crime is or is about to be committed, making the initial contact to investigate constitutionally legal.

In driving under the influence cases, officers and prosecutors look to the driving pattern as one of the factors in evaluating the case. Speeding, being unable to maintain a steady speed, weaving, crossing over the painted lines, not using headlights when appropriate, stopping beyond a limit line, failing to stop at a stop sign or stop light, driving on the curb or off the road, and failing to respond to the police car’s emergency lights and sirens, among others, will be viewed as evidence of the defendant’s inability to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances, (see California Jury Instructions, CALCRIM 2100).

It is the defense attorney’s job to explain to the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury that the driving pattern is not indicative of intoxication, but as ordinary and reasonable driving mistakes.

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iStock_000012855950Large.jpgAn alleged driving while intoxicated accident killed six people after a “girls night out” in eastern Los Angeles County, California, on February 9th, 2014. Horrific events such as this strikes up the debate about whether owners and/or bartenders of bars and restaurants should be held liable when their patrons consume alcoholic beverages, drive, and then injure or kill someone.

Olivia Carolee Culbreath, a 21-year-old Californian, was charged with six counts of murder, (felony drunk driving and felony manslaughter), but has yet to be arraigned. At 4:45 a.m., she was driving a red, Chevrolet Camaro the wrong way on westbound 60, the Pomona Freeway, in Diamond Bar, when she hit a Ford Explorer, killing all four in the Explorer. In addition, two of Culbreath’s passengers, her sister and a friend, both died. The defendant remains hospitalized but held on $6 million bail. As though this case is not sad enough, she is a mother of a new born and is now facing life in prison.

Culbreath had a prior DUI conviction when she was just 17, and her driving privilege restrictions from that incident were lifted just days before this catastrophic incident.

So can the owners and/or bartenders of the bars or restaurants where Culbreath was served be financially or criminally liable for this accident? The answer is found in the “dram shop laws,” which in California are found in the Civil Code Section 1714.

This law actually protects bar owners and bartenders from civil liability if their patron drives while intoxicated and injures or kills someone. The code specifically states, “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person…the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injures resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.” Section (c) extends this provision to a social host.

The exception is found in Section (d), which states an adult who furnishes alcohol to a person that s/he knows or should have known is under 21, may be found to be the proximate cause of any resulting injuries or death.

However, the bartender can be charged with a misdemeanor under California Business and Professions Code Section 25602(a), which states, “Every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any habitual or common drunkard or to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

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SD police officer, Amanda Estrada, was cited in November 2013, for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. She was driving on Rancho Bernardo Road, east of I-15, when California Highway Patrol (CHP) pulled her over on suspicion of drunk driving. She was taken to the CHP San Diego office where she took the required test to measure her blood-alcohol content (BAC).

The delayed test allegedly showed that Estrada was under the .08 blood-alcohol content standard. She was just cited and released from the CHP office to a designated driver, with a date to appear in court on December 2nd. That date has been continued and Estrada remains on administrative duties while her case is pending.

This is the second San Diego officer to be charged with driving while intoxicated after a delayed test within the past year. Detective Jeffery Blackford was involved in an accident after drinking, so he reached out to other San Diego officers to assist him. His BAC test was also delayed and he eventually plead guilty to drunk driving and was sentenced to probation and community service.

Do the citizens of San Diego have different standards than San Diego cops when it comes to DUI laws? Based on these two cases, I would say YES! If you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving and the officer smells alcohol on your breath, you more than likely will be arrested and charged with drunk driving, and you will be taken to jail, as the CHP states in its ad campaigns. You will not be allowed to call a designated driver to take you home, with a simple citation and promise to appear in court.

Further, the officers will take whatever steps they can to ensure they test your breath or blood post arrest as close to the time of driving as possible, in an attempt to get the BAC reading within the 3-hour presumption. [Note: Within the vehicle code there is a rebuttable presumption. If the driver took a chemical test within three hours of driving, and the result of that test is a .08 percent or more, it is presumed the person had a BAC at or above a .08 at the time of driving.]
The community should be outraged by the double standards and complaints should be filed with the San Diego Police Department and CHP.

The above blog article is not legal advice. For information about a specific case, speak to a drunk driving attorney in your area.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for xmas ball.jpgSo, here it is again…the wonderful fall and winter holiday season. For many of us, this time of the year means shopping, wrapping, gift giving, baking, traveling, and lots and lots of parties. Although festive, this time of year is also the number time for drunk driving, DUI arrests, and targeted patrols and sobriety checkpoints by law enforcement. So how do you prepare for the season? Plan ahead and know your rights.

Before heading out to take part in some holiday cheer, make sure you think about how you will get home or to the second, (or maybe even third!), event of the evening without picking up a DUI or worse, hurting yourself or someone else. Keep in mind that alcohol affects the part of your brain that deals with impulse control and euphoria. Often, you think you are sober and can drive safely, when in fact, you are more intoxicated that you realize. And, if you are pulled over, you will probably be arrested for DUI.

San Diego offers many options for getting around town. Have you checked out Uber or Lyft yet? These are awesome car services that can pick you up and drop you off by using an app on your smartphone. You can also text a cab or you can take Car2Go to your function and then use an alternative form of transportation on the way back. You can plan out your night using the bus and/or trolley schedule on the MTS website. Or, if you are headed to a house party, ask to spend the night. You can also designate a driver, but make sure that person is not going to use the “I’ll be sober enough to drive later” approach.

Keep in mind that San Diego law enforcement will be doing saturation patrols and drunk driving roadblocks. If you are pulled over after having an alcoholic beverage, exercise your right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. If the officer asks you if you know why you were pulled over, do not answer. Simply ask the question back. If the cop asks if you had anything to drink, again, do not answer. You can simply tell the officer you are exercising your right to remain silent. You may be asked to complete field sobriety tests (FST’s). Again, state that you do not wish to do them. Lastly, as part of the FST’s, you may be asked to blow into a hand-held breath machine or preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test. Unless you are under 21 or on DUI probation, do not take this test either.

Everything you do and say will be written in the police report and will be used against you in court and at the DMV Administrative Per Se Hearing. Do not help the officers build their case against you!!! If the officer believes you are driving while under the influence, s/he will arrest you. You only must submit to a blood or breath test after you are arrested or your license will be suspended.

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 confession to drunk driving that was posted online and subsequently went viral ended with a guilty plea and a prison sentence on October 23, 2013.

Matthew Cordle, a 22-year old Ohio man, plead guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and drunken driving after driving the wrong way on a highway on June 22nd, and killing Vincent Canzani, 61. Cordle blamed drinking on anxiety and depression and said he often drove while under the influence. On this occasion, his blood was tested with a result of a .19% blood-alcohol content.

After the accident, he consulted with DUI lawyers. According to Cordle, the criminal defense lawyers told him they were able to get other defendants with similar circumstances off or they were able to negotiate lesser sentences or charges by lying. Cordle said he did not want to lie. Instead, he believed he made a big mistake and decided to take full responsibility for the crash by confessing to the world online. The video was posted on YouTube on September 3rd, and as the date of this blog, has been viewed 2 1/2 million times!

At the drunk driving sentencing, criminal defense attorneys argued for a lighter sentence due to Cordle’s willingness to take responsibility for his actions. Regardless of the remorse, admission, and the public service announcement not to drink and drive, the judge still sentenced this DUI defendant to 6 1/2 years in prison. (The maximum sentence allowed would have been 8 1/2 years.)

The Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman does not encourage or suggest that a defendant should lie about the facts of their case at the time of the incident or after. In fact, if you do lie to police, you can be charged with additional crimes such as obstruction of justice or providing a false statement. However, every person is guaranteed a constitutional right against self-incrimination and EVERY person suspected of a crime should invoke that right!!! Whether you are under investigation or have been arrested and charged, statements that you make will be used against you. So say nothing and demand to speak to a lawyer!

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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The arraignment is often the first court hearing in any criminal case, including drunk driving cases in San Diego. During the arraignment, the court advises you of your constitutional rights. They include the right to have an attorney represent you, the right against self-incrimination, the right to a jury trial, and the right to confront the witnesses against you and produce your own witnesses and evidence in your defense. The judge then reads the complaint which is the official charges pending against you.

You are then given an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no content and bail issues may be addressed. In addition, if you do not enter a guilty plea, another future court date is usually set. If your case is charged as a felony, the next court date is the preliminary hearing. If the case is filed as a misdemeanor, the second court date is the pretrial or readiness hearing.

If you are in custody, you must be arraigned within 48 hours of the arrest. This does not include weekends and holidays. Therefore, the worst day to be arrested on is the Friday night of a court holiday weekend. If you are unable to post bail, the prosecutor does not have to file charges and do the arraignment until Wednesday, the second court day after the arrest.

If you are cited and released, released on your own recognizance, or bailed out, the arraignment will be “without unnecessary delay,” which can be weeks after the arrest. When released, the defendant is given a notice to appear on a specific date, time and location. That first appearance is the arraignment.

As of the date of this blog, out of custody drunk driving defendants are being arraigned approximately 30-45 days after their arrest. With budget cuts effecting the court’s ability to push the cases, readiness hearings are being scheduled 30-45 days after the arraignment.

Felony cases require the defendant to be present at the arraignment and at all other proceedings, unless the judge accepts your waiver of appearance. In misdemeanor cases, you will have to appear unless you have retained an attorney to represent you and you waive your presence. Retained lawyers can appear on your behalf unless the case involves domestic violence, violations of a protective order, and certain driving under the influence cases, (usually where bodily injury is involved).

The above blog 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 criminal defense attorney in your area.

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Recently, a young San Diego man was arrested after an intoxicated pedestrian stepped into oncoming traffic and was struck by his car, according to 10news.com. The pedestrian suffered a broken leg and arm and the driver was later arrested for felony hit and run because he left the scene. What if the driver had consumed an alcoholic beverage before this incident? He may have also been charged with DUI causing injury in addition to his current charges.

In San Diego and throughout California, if a person drives while under the influence of alcohol and/or a drug, and while driving either broke a law (other than DUI) or acted in a negligent manner, and that unlawful act or negligence injures another person, the prosecutor can bring charges under California Vehicle Code Section 23153. This statute is called a “wobbler” because it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Under CA Vehicle Code Section 23153, the driver is under the influence, if as a result of drinking 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 with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances, (see California Jury Instructions, CALCRIM 2100).

So, if the prosecutor can prove that the driver would have been able to avoid hitting the drunk man who fell off the curb right into his driving path if he did not consume an alcoholic beverage or drugs, the driver could be charged with DUI causing injury.

The penalty for a misdemeanor DUI causing injury could include: Up to five years of informal, summary probation; Five days to a year in jail; $390-$5,000 in fines; A court-approved DUI program for three, nine, eighteen, or thirty months; One to three years suspension of your California driver’s license; And, restitution to the injured parties.

The penalty for a felony DUI causing injury could include: State prison sentence of two, three, or four years; Additional and consecutive three to six year prison sentence if any victim suffers great bodily injury; Additional and consecutive one year sentence for each additional person that suffers any injury (three year maximum); A “strike” on your record if anyone other than the driver suffers great bodily injury; $1,015-$5,000 in fines; A court-approved DUI program for eighteen or thirty months; Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) status for three years; And, five year revocation of your California driver’s license.

The consequences for a DUI causing injury is severe. If you, or someone you know, has been arrested for violating California VC Section 23153, contact a drunk driving attorney in your area. Protect yourself and get help immediately!

The above blog 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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The walk-and-turn test (WAT) is one of the three tests in the battery of field sobriety tests (FST’s) that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends law enforcement use to evaluate a suspect to determine if they are under the influence, thus establishing probable cause to arrest for drunk driving.

Both the WAT and the one-leg stand tests are considered “divided attention” tests, where a person’s attention is on both mental and physical tasks. The third test in the battery is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN), which tests the subject’s jerking or bouncing of the eye.

The walk-and-turn test if often referred to as the “walk the line” test. The officer first instructs the subject on how to do the test and then the test is performed. The officer is to explain to the suspect that s/he is to walk nine steps, heal to toe, with their arms at their sides, without stopping, while watching their feet the entire time, counting the steps out loud. Then the person is to turn on one foot and face back in the direction where s/he was before, and then walk another nine steps, heal to toe back to the original location.

While this is being done, the officer is looking for eight clues of impairment: 1.) The subject cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions; 2.) Begins the test before the instructions are done being given; 3.) Once the walking begins, the subject stops to regain balance; 4.) Does not touch heal-to-toe; 5.) Steps off the line; 6.) Uses arms to balance; 7.) Makes an improper turn; and, 8.) Takes an incorrect number of steps.

If the person is unable to stay on the line and steps off three or more times, or they are in danger of falling, the test is stopped, and the person fails this test.

Each clue is graded as one point even if the same clue is observed more than once. According to Stuster & Burns, the 1998 NHTSA study, if two clues are found, there is a .79% chance the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or higher. This still means that 2 out of every 10 people who were determined to be impaired using this test did not actually have a BAC of .08% or greater.

There are many factors that can make this test unreliable and invalid. It must be done on a level, hard, non-slip surface. The person should not be elderly, obese, frail, or suffering from a physical or mental disability. If the subject’s shoes have a 2″ or greater heal, they should be given the option to remove their shoes. In addition, there should not be any other distractions such as passing cars and the officer conducting the test should be still after giving the instructions.

If you have been arrested and charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence, you owe it to yourself to hire an exclusively DUI defense firm to vigorously defend your case. Each case is fact specific, and there may be defenses in your case that can lead to reduced charges with less punishment or even a dismissal!

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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