Is a New .05% Law Coming to Your State?

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on June 27th, 2017

On January 15th of last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Board (NHTSA) issued the following news release:


Feds Want to Lower the Legal Limit to One Drink

Washington, DC. Jan. 15 – The National Transportation Safety Board wants to decrease the legal driving limit to one drink, lowering the legal limit on blood-alcohol content to 0.05 “or even lower.”…

The agency issued the recommendation while admitting that “the amount consumed and crash risk is not well understood.”

“We need more and better data to understand the scope of the problem and the effectiveness of countermeasures,” they said….

A 0.05 BAC level would reduce the number of drinks an average-weight man of 180 pounds could have to two, according to Blood Alcohol Calculator. Women could only have one drink before they exceeded the limit. A 100-pound woman reaches .05 BAC with just one drink, but two drinks would put any woman under 220 pounds at or above the government’s desired limit.

Under the current level of 0.08, an average weight man can have four drinks until reaching the limit.


On the next day, I posted the following on this blog:


To give all of this some context, let me offer a history of this focus on the lowering of blood-alcohol limits rather than on the more important issue of alcohol-caused impairment….

The original drunk driving laws were simple and fair: Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Then, many years ago, law enforcement came up with crude devices to measure alcohol on the breath of drunk driving suspects. But what did, say, a .13% blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) mean? They turned to the American Medical Association which, in 1938, created a "Committee to Study Problems of Motor Vehicle Accidents". At the same time, the National Safety Council set up a "Committee on Tests for Intoxication".

After some study, these two groups came up with their findings: a driver with .15% BAC or higher could be presumed to be "under the influence"; those under .15% could not. That’s right: .15%. And that recommendation lasted for 22 years. But prosecutors and certain groups of "concerned mothers" were not happy with the low DUI arrest and conviction rates.

Under increasing political pressure, the committees "revisited" the question in 1960 and agreed to lower the presumed level of intoxication to .10%. Had the human body changed in 22 years? Had the AMA been negligent in their earlier studies? Or were politics and law once again trumping scientific truth?

Well, the arrest and conviction rates shot up, but there were still too many people escaping the DUI net. Then MADD was formed. Soon after, legislation began appearing in many states that created a second crime, in addition to driving under the influence: driving with a BAC of .10% or higher.

This new crime did not require the driver to be affected by alcohol: even if sober, he would be guilty if his blood-alcohol was .10%. In effect, it completely ignored the questions of intoxication, driving impairment and individual tolerance to alcohol. And, despite questions of double jeopardy, the individual could be charged and even convicted of both the traditional DUI and the new .10% crimes! This gave police and prosecutors a powerful new weapon, and drunk driving arrests/convictions jumped once again.

This was not good enough. Under increasing pressure from an ever more powerful MADD, in 1990 four states lowered the blood-alcohol level in DUI cases to .08%; others soon followed and, ten years later, federal politicians (with one eye on MADD) passed an appropriations bill in effect coercing all states into adopting the new .08% BAC standard.


Since I wrote this, three months ago Utah enacted a new law lowering the blood-alcohol level drunk driving to .05%. See Jon Ibanez’ DUIblog post Utah Lawmakers Vote to Lower State’s BAC Limit to 0.05%.

Interestingly, on June 17th — shortly after the new .05% law was enacted — the Salt Lake City Tribune published the following comments from the original founder of MADD, Candy Lightner:


Founder of MADD Says Utah’s New Drunk Driving Law is an Unhealthy Distraction

Salt Lake City, Ut.  June 17 – While drunk driving remains a serious concern, other threats are mounting on our roadways. According to a recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, 43 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for some sort of drug, legal or illegal. And with the rise of smartphones and other gadgets, people are distracted more than ever while driving.

As the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) I can attest that there is a new kind of madness on the roads. And new approaches are needed to save lives.

Unfortunately, the necessary debate on how to solve these new challenges isn’t happening in earnest. The traffic safety community is distracted by an issue that will do little to save lives: lowering the drunk driving arrest threshold from .08 to .05.

Back in the early years at MADD we focused on getting serious drunk drivers off the road…In the more than 35 years since MADD’s founding, we have fought drunk driving ferociously and saved countless lives in the process.

But today, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction — with government agencies pushing states to arrest people for having little to drink before driving instead of pursuing strategies to tackle serious distraction and impairment. Anyone who works in traffic safety knows that most highway deaths are not caused by drivers with low blood alcohol content levels, but are the result of drivers with substance abuse disorders. Focusing finite resources on casual drinkers instead of drug and alcohol abusers is a miscalculation with deadly consequences…

 
Maybe it’s time for the decades-old "War on Drunk Driving" to redirect its fixation away from alcohol and towards the real problem today:  drugs and distracted driving….  
 

Orange County Man Sentenced to 4 Years for 10th California DUI

Posted by Jon Ibanez on June 23rd, 2017

53-year-old Derek Stacy Haskayne from Placentia was sentenced to four years in a California state prison for this 10th, that’s right 10th, DUI since 2011.

This past Tuesday, Haskayne pleaded guilty to driving with a blood alcohol content above 0.08 percent and driving under the influence, both as felonies. His blood alcohol content was 0.11 percent. It would be his 10th DUI conviction.

Haskayne was arrested for his first California DUI back in October of 2011. For that offense, he was sentenced to the standard for a first time DUI; three years of informal probation and a first-time DUI offender program.

Less than a year later, Haskayne had tallied up five more DUI arrests.

According to his attorney, Marlon Stapleton, Haskayne would post bail and pick up a new DUI arrest before the previous cases could resolve. At one point, five different cases were pending at the same time.

“He went through some really bad times when he picked up most of them,” said Stapleton.

Around the same time of his first DUI, Haskayne’s wife of 20 years had left him and records show that she later filed a restraining order against him stating that he was a “severe alcoholic” and that she feared for the safety of their young son.

The first six cases were eventually resolved when the District Attorney’s Office consolidated them and charged him with multiple felonies. In 2013, Haskayne pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail with five years of formal probation.

During this first jail stint, Haskayne was allowed to enroll in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s community work program allowing him to do work for the county during the day and spend nights at home.

However, less than four months after his guilty plea, Haskayne was picked up on his seventh DUI arrest while he was still technically serving his jail sentence. For that, he was sentenced to two years in prison and was released in October of 2014.

In June of the following year, a Laguna Beach Police officer spotted Haskayne lane straddling who then failed to yield when the officer tried pulling him over. Haskayne kept going for about half a mile before he crashed into a cement light pole. Officers found a prescription bottle containing GHB. At the time, Haskayne was in a rehab facility, but was not being tested for GHB.

“Despite any success the offender has demonstrated under supervision, he has shown by his recent arrest that he has substituted his alcohol addiction with another substance that is not detected by standard drug screening,” according to a probation report. “It is unknown if he had a relapse or has been going through the motions finding alternative methods to numb his pain, which he has been open about.”

Haskayne was sentenced to three years in prison for the June 2015 case, but was given 280 days credit for time served while he was in custody pending the outcome.

In 2016, Haskayne crashed in Placentia, California and was arrested on his ninth DUI.

And that brings us to Haskayne’s to the current (and hopefully his last) case which makes number ten. On June 20th, Haskayne accepted a plea deal from Orange County Superior Court Judge Roger Robbins, over the district attorney’s objection, and was sentenced to four years in prison with credit for 286 days. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $15,272.54.

Two DUI’s in Less than Three Hours

Posted by Jon Ibanez on June 15th, 2017

A Wisconsin man was arrested twice in about two and a half hours for driving under the influence according to Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin Public Safety. What’s more, he’s only 18 years old.

18-year-old Preston Bierhals was on his way home from a graduation party last week when he lost control of his vehicle and struck a light pole. Bierhals told responding officers that he was trying to make a phone call when he lost control of his car.

His blood alcohol content was later determined to be 0.157 percent.

At the time, Bierhals’s license was suspended.

“The legal limit for him is zero, but he was still above the 0.08, he was over 0.10 actually both times,” said Capt. Jody Crocker.

Bierhals was booked for “operating while intoxicated” (OWI), which is the Wisconsin equivalent of California’s “driving under the influence” (DUI).

Instead of keeping Bierhals to sober up, officers released him to someone who signed a Responsibility Agreement not to allow him to drive a vehicle.

“They signed an affidavit that says to us that they will take that responsibility in lieu of this person sitting in jail for the next 12 hours. Here of course, that didn’t work,” said Capt. Crocker.

Why didn’t it work? Well, because less than three hours later, an officer working traffic detail for a triathlon that morning spotted Bierhals driving and recognized him from the arrest just hours prior.

The officer stopped Bierhals once again and administered field sobriety tests to which Bierhals failed again. And again he was arrested on suspicion of OWI.

This time, Bierhals’s blood alcohol content was a 0.121. This is consistent with the average rate of alcohol metabolism (burn-off) of 0.015 percent per hour, assuming no more alcohol was consumed since the first arrest.

In Wisconsin, prosecutors cannot file charges for a second drunk driving offense until the citation Bierhals received for the first OWI is resolved.

According to Capt. Crocker, law enforcement is looking into whether charges should be filed against the person whom Bierhals was released to.

Some of you may be thinking, “What could happen to someone like that?”

Well, here in California a minor who is caught driving with alcohol in their system can face several charges and penalties.

California Vehicle Code section 23136 makes it illegal for a minor to have a blood alcohol content of 0.01 percent or greater while driving. This is knowns as California’s “Zero Tolerance” law for underage drivers. Under this law, a minor faces a one-year suspension of their driver’s license.

California Vehicle Code section 23140 makes it illegal for a minor to have a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent or greater while driving. Unlike section 23136, this section is an infraction which can result in fines of up to $100 and a one-year suspension of their driver’s license.

However, in Bierhals’s case, had it occurred here in California, prosecutors would have likely charged him with the standard adult DUI under California Vehicle Code section 23152 (driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or greater). A violation of section 23152 is a misdemeanor which carries a three to nine month DUI program, three years of summary probation, up to $1000 in fines, up to six months in jail, and a six-month suspension of driving privileges.

Of course, Bierhals is facing the penalties for a second-time DUI as well. A second time DUI, here in California will also be charged as a misdemeanor, but this time, he’s facing between 96 hours and one year in jail, an 18-month DUI program, and two-year suspension of driving privileges.

Can Police Go Off of an Anonymous DUI Tip?

Posted by Jon Ibanez on June 8th, 2017

I am currently representing a person for a California DUI who was arrested after an anonymous tipster informed law enforcement that a possible drunk driver was on the road. Such a situation often raises the question, “Can law enforcement arrest someone based on an anonymous tip when the officers themselves have not witnessed any conduct that would lead them to believe a driver was driving under the influence?”

Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court recently held that law enforcement can go off of an anonymous tip of a potential drunk driver in the case of Navarette v. California _____ U.S. _____ (Docket No. 12-9490)(2014).

In August 2008, a California Highway Patrol dispatcher received a call from a motorist who had been run off the Highway 1 near Fort Bragg by someone driving a pickup truck. The anonymous caller provided the license plate number of the pickup. A short time later, CHP spotted the pickup and pulled it over. As the CHP officers approached, they smelled marijuana and discovered four bags of it in the bed of the pickup.

The occupants of the pickup were identified as brothers, Lorenzo and Jose Navarette. The brothers plead guilty to transporting marijuana after they unsuccessfully attempted to challenge the constitutionality of the search. Both were sentenced to 90 days in jail.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco relied on the 2006 California Supreme Court ruling of People v. Wells (2006) 38 Cal.App.4th 1078,  in upholding the conviction. The Court in that case said that “the grave risks posed by an intoxicated highway driver” justifies a brief investigatory stop. It found that there are certain dangers alleged in anonymous tips that are so great, such as a person carrying a bomb, which would justify a search even without a showing of reliability. The court went on to say that a “drunk driver is not at all unlike a bomb, and a mobile one at that.”

In its 3-0 ruling, the appellate court said, “The report that the [Navarettes’] vehicle had run someone off the road sufficiently demonstrated an ongoing danger to other motorists to justify the stop without direct corroboration of the vehicle’s illegal activity.”

The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court which held that an anonymous tip can give law enforcement the authority to pull someone over on suspicion of driving under the influence.

The Court held that “under appropriate circumstances, an anonymous tip can demonstrate ‘sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make [an] investigatory stop,’” quoting Alabama v. White (1990) 496 U.S. 325, 327.

In finding “sufficient indicia of reliability,” the court relied on 1.) the fact that the caller claimed eyewitness knowledge of dangerous driving, 2.) the fact that the tip was made contemporaneously with the incident, and 3.) the fact that the caller used 911 to make the tip likely knowing that the call could be traced.

According to the court, if the tip bears “sufficient indicia of reliability,” officers need not observe driving which would give rise to suspicion that a person was driving under the influence or even that the driver committed a traffic violation. They only need the unverified and unsupported anonymous tip.  

Do I have to Take a Breath Test?

Posted by Jon Ibanez on June 1st, 2017

You heard me say a couple of weeks ago that breathalyzers are inaccurate and, as a result, lawyers can challenge the results of a particular breathalyzer. Lawyers, however, cannot challenge breathalyzers generally even though they are inaccurate.

This begs the question: Do you have to take a breathalyzer test?

Like many things in law, the answer is that it depends. In California, there are two different “breathalyzer” tests. One test is required by law, while the other is not.

According to California Vehicle Code section 23612(h), the PAS test “indicates the presence or concentration of alcohol based on a breath sample in order to establish reasonable cause to believe the person was driving [under the influence]…[it] is a field sobriety test and may be used by an officer as a further investigative tool.”

The California Vehicle Code is referring to the roadside breathalyzer, called a preliminary alcohol screening test (PAS test), that officers use to obtain the evidence they need to make a DUI arrest. As an officer makes a stop, whether the officer suspects a DUI or not, they don’t have the evidence needed to arrest the driver on suspicion of a DUI. To obtain that evidence, the officer may ask the driver questions, the officer may have the driver perform field sobriety tests, and the officer may ask the driver to submit to a PAS test. In fact, the PAS test is considered a field sobriety test.

Like the field sobriety tests, the PAS test is optional. Also like the field sobriety tests, a driver should not submit to the PAS test.

In fact, the investigating officer must advise the driver that the PAS test is, in fact, optional. California Vehicle Code section 23612(i) states that “If the officer decides to use a [PAS], the officer shall advise the person that he or she is requesting that person to take a [PAS] test to assist the officer in determining if that person is under the influence. The person’s obligation to submit to a [chemical test under California’s Implied Consent Law] is not satisfied by the person submitting to a [PAS] test. The officer shall advise the person of that fact and of the person’s right to refuse to take the [PAS] test.”

If a driver tells the officer they consumed alcohol or the driver performs and fail the field sobriety tests or the driver provides a PAS sample that shows the presence of alcohol, the driver will likely be arrested on suspicion of a California DUI.

Once the driver is arrested, the California Vehicle Code requires that the driver submit to a “chemical test,” which can either be a breathalyzer test or a blood test. This is called California’s “implied consent law.”

California Vehicle Code section 23612(a)(1)(A) states, “A person who drives a motor vehicle is deemed to have given his or her consent to chemical testing of his or her blood or breath for the purpose of determining the alcohol content of his or her blood, if lawfully arrested for an offense allegedly committed in violation of [California’s DUI laws].”

In other words, if you can legally drive in California, you have impliedly consented to a chemical test if you are lawfully arrested on suspicion of a DUI.

Unlike the PAS test, if you are arrested for a DUI and you do not want to provide a blood sample, the chemical breath test is not optional.  

In fact, refusing the chemical test can lead to increased penalties such as a longer DUI school, a longer license suspension, and even jail time.

To sum up, the pre-arrest PAS test is optional and you should always politely decline this test. A post-arrest chemical breath test is required provided the suspect opts not to provide a blood sample.