Susan L. Hartman is licensed to practice law in California and Massachusetts

Sometimes drunk driving leads to someone’s death. In that case, you may face multiple charges on top of any DUI charges that apply. In a recent California appellate decision, the defendant appealed a conviction for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and challenged the lower court’s denial of probation, among other things.

The prosecutor filed a three county felony complaint charging the defendant with a gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under section 191.5(a), DUI causing injury under Vehicle Code section 23153(a), and driving with a measurable blood alcohol concentration (BAC) triggering injury under Vehicle Code section 23153(b). With regard to these two other counts, it was alleged the defendant personally caused great bodily injury, that his BAC was at least 0.15% or greater, and proximately caused bodily injury or death to more than one person.

The defendant pled guilty and admitted the truth of the enhancement allegations. The factual grounds for the plea was that he had knowingly and unlawfully killed someone without malice aforethought while drunk driving and the killing was the result of an illegal act that was not a felony, which resulted in death. He also admitted his blood alcohol was .15 or greater.

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The California Criminal Jury Instruction N. 875 provides that to prove a defendant is guilty of assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, the prosecutor needs to prove; (1) the defendant acted with a deadly weapon besides a firearm that due to its nature would directly, probably apply force to someone, (2) the defendant’s actions were willful, (3) when the defendant acted, she was aware of facts that would cause a reasonable person to realize the nature of her act was such it would directly, probably cause force to be applied to someone, and (4) when the defendant acted, she had the ability to apply force with a deadly weapon other than a firearm to someone. A defendant’s awareness of facts that would trigger her realization that her act would probably and directly result in application of force can be affected by prior California DUI convictions, warnings from the court, and a prior court order that she install an ignition interlock device on her car.

In a California appellate decision, a jury convicted the defendant of two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. The defendant was drunk on Memorial Day weekend when she drove a car through the fence and into her neighbor’s backyard during a get-together. The car jumped onto the porch, which was around 15-17 feet from the fence, before it temporarily stopped with wheels spinning in the gravel and then crashed into the master bedroom wall. The neighbor’s friend was almost hit and so was the neighbor’s eight-year-old son.

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In a recent California appellate decision, the defendant pled guilty in two cases to driving under the influence (DUI) with a blood alcohol content that was greater than .08. In both of those California DUI cases, he admitted he had three prior convictions for driving under the influence and the court granted him probation.

The first case arose when the defendant was pulled over for driving under the influence. He didn’t have proof of insurance, or a driver’s license, and his BAC was .19 or .20. He was charged with five crimes, including driving with a BAC higher than .08 with three prior convictions. He didn’t come to his arraignment and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He pled guilty to the DUI with a BAC of .19 or .20, and admitted his three priors. In exchange for his plea, the other counts were dismissed. He was put on probation for five years, and one condition was that he install an ignition interlock device on his car for five years.

The second case arose when he was again stopped for a DUI. He gave the police a driver’s license with someone else’s name on it, and would later claim he used the name Gabriel Sanchez. His BAC was .12 or .10. Three days after the defendant’s plea was taken, the prosecutor filed a new complaint and it charged the defendant with three new crimes that came out of the traffic stop, and among these was DUI with three prior convictions for DUI.

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Under section 23575 of the Vehicle Code, a judge can require somebody convicted of a first California DUI to install a working, certified ignition interlock device on any vehicle that person operates, and stop that person from driving except where a functioning certified ignition interlock device has been installed.

A recent California appellate decision arose when the defendant ran a stop sign while extremely intoxicated and traveling at high speeds, and crashed into another vehicle causing the other car to roll over several times. The collision caused the other driver injuries. Two hours after this collision, her BAC was .259.

She pled no contest to several DUI crimes, including a DUI causing injury and driving with a BAC .08 or higher causing injury. She also admitted two prior convictions for DUIs within 10 years, and admitted allegations related to enhancement. The lower court declined to impose the probation department’s recommendation she get probation. She was sentenced to three years in state prison on the first count, and the court stayed a two year sentence on count 2 under Penal Code section 654. Penal Code section 654 prohibits two or more punishments for the same crime.

California Vehicle Code Section (VC) 14601.3 states: “It is unlawful for a person whose driving privilege has been suspended or revoked to accumulate a driving record history which results from driving during the period of suspension or revocation. A person who violates this subdivision is designated a habitual offender.”

Once the person has been deemed a habitual offender, any subsequent driving offenses are subject to more severe penalties, including jail time. Upon a first conviction under this statute, the person shall be sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $1000 fine. A second or subsequent conviction within seven years of a prior conviction will result in 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine.  Under 14601.3(e)(3), any habitual offender who is convicted of driving on a suspended license and the suspension is due to a DUI, the penalty is 180 days in jail, to be served consecutive to any other jail time imposed for violating any other law, plus a $2000 fine.

To convict someone under this statute, the prosecutor must prove: Continue reading ›

Typically, when you are sentenced, and your sentence includes probation, one of the things you are ordered to do is not violate the law. If you are arrested, the arrest itself is not a probation violation. However, what ends up happening, is you will have a new open case and the probation violation trailing behind it, waiting to see what happens on your new case.handcuffs

If you plead guilty to the new charge or are found guilty after a trial, the judge will then address the probation violation in a probation violation hearing. Typically that is done in front of the sentencing judge who put you on probation on the first case. However, the judge on your new case, if s/he has jurisdiction over the first matter, may address probation with the new case, in what is often called packaging or bundling both together.

The probation violation hearing has a lower standard of proof, meaning a judge only has to find that you violated the terms of probation “by a preponderance of the evidence” not “beyond a reasonable doubt” as required in criminal cases.

At the hearing, both the prosecutor and the probationer will be able to present evidence. If the judge finds that it is more likely than not that the probation terms were violated, Continue reading ›

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 ›

My criminal defense practice is almost exclusively in the area of drunk driving. However, I have had a few DUI cases were my client was able to prevail at the DMV APS Hearing, just to receive another notice of suspension from the DMV because of a medical issue such as diabetes, seizures, loss of consciousness or memory issues. My clients have then retained me to also defend them at the P & M Hearing in hopes of maintaining their driving privileges. Since I handle these hearings for my clients, I am now getting retained by people just to handle these DMV matters.grandmadriving-300x200

What triggers this action by the DMV is either: 1.) The “Confidential Morbidity Report” which is filled out by a treating physician; or, 2.) A “Request for Driver Reexamination” which can be filed by any person who knows of a reason why someone is unable to drive safely.

Under Health & Safety Code Section 103900, a doctor is required by law to Continue reading ›

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 ›

The time has changed and the weather feels a lot like summer is just around the corner! Excited for Sunday Funday’s, cold beers and margaritas, BBQ’s, parties and beach time? Know the law and plan ahead so your fun does not end with criminal charges.

If you head out to bike your way around town after consuming an alcoholic beverage, be aware that you can be arrested.

If your bike can be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway, such as a motor bike, you can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. All the penalties of a standard drunk driving offense involving an automobile would apply. However, if your bike is self-propelled, you will not be subjected to the DUI statutes. Instead, you can be charged with BUI or CUI, biking or cycling under the influence, under California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5.

This code section specifically states: “…it is unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug. Continue reading ›

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