Author Archives: Lawrence Taylor
What Happens if I Can’t Afford to Hire a California DUI Attorney?
Many people believe they cannot afford to hire a private lawyer when arrested for driving under the influence in California. However, before you give up the idea of having a private lawyer represent you in a DUI case, schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.
Most DUI lawyers offer free case evaluations. Therefore, your starting point should be seeking legal advice from a qualified criminal defense attorney who handles DUI cases by asking for a free consultation. You might be surprised at how affordable it can be to hire a DUI lawyer in California.
If I Can’t Afford a DUI Lawyer, How Do I Follow the Arraignment Paperwork Stating I Need to Bring an Attorney?
The arraignment is one of the first steps in the criminal process. At the arraignment, the judge formally states the criminal charges against you. Then, they will inform you of your rights, including the right to be represented by legal counsel. The judge will also tell you that if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the court can appoint an attorney for you.
Unfortunately, that second statement can be misleading. First, you must meet the qualifications to have the court appoint a public defender to handle your DUI case. We discuss those qualifications in another section of this article.
Lastly, the judge asks you to enter a plea. You have three choices. You can plead guilty to the DUI charges. If so, the judge may sentence you or set a sentencing hearing. If you plead not guilty, your case is placed on the trial docket. Your third option is a plea of “no contest.” That means you do not admit to driving under the influence, but you are not fighting the DUI charges. Again, the judge could sentence you then or set a sentencing hearing.
If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer or find a private attorney before the arraignment, you can plead not guilty. Pleading not guilty gives you time to seek legal advice to learn about your options for fighting drunk driving charges. You can also enter a guilty plea at a later time if you determine that is your best option for resolving the DUI case.
Getting a Lawyer’s Opinion About Your Case
The punishments for driving under the influence in California can be severe. If you face felony California DUI charges, your prison sentence could be more than 10 years, depending on the facts of your case. Even if you are facing misdemeanor California DUI charges, you could spend up to a year in jail, pay high fines, and have your driver’s license suspended.
Therefore, getting the opinion of an experienced California DUI lawyer is crucial. Most DUI attorneys offer free consultations for individuals facing drunk driving charges. Even if you must pay a small fee for the initial consultation, the legal advice you receive could significantly affect how you handle your case. At the very least, you may receive answers to legal questions that can help you decide how to proceed.
When Do You Need a Lawyer for a DUI/DWI Charge in Criminal Court?
It is always wise to have legal representation whenever you face criminal charges, including DUI offenses. Prosecutors have training, experience, and resources that you do not possess. Therefore, you are disadvantaged if you try to negotiate a DUI plea agreement on your own or represent yourself in court.
Prosecutors want guilty verdicts. Therefore, most of them have standard DUI plea deals they offer first-time misdemeanor DUI offenders with no aggravating factors and a clean criminal record. A standard offer is likely to be the same whether you have legal counsel or represent yourself.
However, the prosecution might not consider any mitigating factors or weaknesses in the case that could result in a lower sentence for you.
Experienced DUI defense attorneys investigate the circumstances of your DUI arrest. They analyze the reason the police officers made the traffic stop to determine if there could have been a violation of your Constitutional rights. Officers must have reasonable suspicion or belief that you committed a crime or are committing a crime to pull you over. Otherwise, it could result in an unlawful arrest.
Likewise, your lawyer analyzes whether the arresting officer had probate cause for a DUI arrest. If not, the evidence against you could be inadmissible in court.
DUI attorneys also review all evidence the prosecution has against you to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the case. Then, based on the attorney’s evaluation of the evidence and the case against you, the lawyer advises you whether accepting a standard plea deal is advisable in your situation.
A skilled DUI lawyer might be able to use the evidence in the case to negotiate a better plea deal. Likewise, if you have one or more viable DUI defenses, it might not be wise to accept a plea bargain. Therefore, contacting a lawyer to discuss misdemeanor DUI charges and DUI felony offenses is in your best interest before you make any decisions regarding your case.
How Much Does a Private Attorney Charge for a DUI?
Most DUI private attorneys charge an hourly rate for their time. They generally ask for a retainer fee when you hire them, which could be anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000. A few attorneys might charge a flat fee for a simple misdemeanor DUI case.
The fee depends on many factors, including the charges against you, the attorney’s legal experience, and whether the attorney specializes in DUI cases. The more time the attorney works on the case, the higher the fee. Also, the attorneys’ fees increase if the case goes to trial.
How Much Does a DUI Lawyer Cost in California?
How much you’ll spend on a California DUI attorney will vary depending on several things. Factors that determine the cost of hiring a DUI lawyer in California include:
- The complexity of the case;
- Whether the case is a felony or misdemeanor charge;
- Your criminal history (i.e., Is this offense a first-time DUI, or do you have multiple DUI convictions?);
- Whether the attorney has experience handling DUI cases or the attorney just starting to practice law and has minimal experience;
- The DUI attorney’s current caseload;
- The location of the DUI case;
- The lawyer’s experience and reputation;
- Whether the case is expected to go to trial; and
- Whether the primary attorney or an associate attorney handles does most of the work.
As discussed above, the cost of a DUI lawyer can range from $500 to a few thousand dollars. It all depends on the specific issues relevant to your case. Fees vary widely for a DUI attorney because each case is unique. The key is to take advantage of the free consultation offered by DUI lawyers to obtain basic legal advice to help you decide what you need to do about your case.
What Is Meant When Someone Says “Low-Cost” DUI Attorney?
Beware of “low-cost” DUI attorneys. These attorneys generally do not have very much experience. Therefore, they take cases for lower fees to gain experience. In other words, they will use your case as part of their learning curve.
Another problem with low-cost attorneys is that you generally receive poorer quality of legal services. For example, the lawyers may not work as hard on your case to develop a solid DUI defense that could win the case or result in a better plea deal.
Deciding Whether to Represent Yourself, Go with the Public Defender, or Retain a Private Attorney in a DUI Case
It can be challenging and frustrating to decide whether to hire a private DUI lawyer, get a public defender, or represent yourself. Any reputable attorney will advise you that you should always seek legal counsel for a DUI arrest. A reputable DUI lawyer will tell you if you do not need a lawyer for your case. Therefore, taking advantage of the free case evaluation or low-cost consultation with a highly respected and experienced DUI attorney with an excellent track record is generally the best first step.
However, if you cannot afford an attorney or to pay for a consultation, there are other options.
How to Get Legal Help if You Can’t Afford a Lawyer
If you can’t afford a lawyer, you may qualify to have a public defender handle your case, or you might be able to apply for legal aid or find a pro-bono attorney.
How Can I Get a Private Attorney for Free?
Some individuals might qualify for legal aid. Legal aid provides an attorney at a significantly reduced price or free of charge. Attorneys who offer their services free of charge are called pro-bono lawyers. You can contact The State Bar of California for a list of pro bono groups and court pro bono programs.
Do You Have Too Much Money to Get Legal Aid?
If you do not qualify for legal aid or a pro bono attorney, contact the court about having a public defender appointed to your case. You might be required to pay an application fee to request a public defender, but the court does not charge attorneys’ fees for their services.
What Is a Public Defender?
A public defender is an attorney who works for the state. Their job is to represent individuals who have been judged “legally indigent.” If you are labeled as legally indigent, it simply means you cannot afford to hire a lawyer to represent you in a criminal case.
It is important to note that public defenders are licensed attorneys who only handle criminal matters. However, many public defenders do not have a great deal of experience in DUI specific matters and have high caseloads. They also do not have the resources private lawyers have to investigate and pursue evidence that could help win your DUI case.
However, ask the court to appoint a public defender if you cannot afford an attorney. Having a public defender is better than having no legal advice.
Is There a Fixed Amount of Income for Public Defenders?
You must meet specific financial requirements to qualify for a public defender. Contact the public defender’s office in the county of your DUI case. Generally, the office provides the financial forms and applications you must complete to begin the process of qualifying for a public defender.
Talk to a DUI Defense Attorney in California
Regardless of your situation, if the police arrest you for DUI, you need to talk with a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Waiting to talk with a lawyer could result in driver’s license suspension and other penalties that could have been avoided had you been represented by a lawyer. Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.
Interested in this topic or want to learn more about DUIs in California? Check out our blog, which is updated regularly!
Paul Pelosi’s DUI: Truth, Consequences, and Political Privilege
It’s been all over the news lately: Paul Pelosi, husband of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, was arrested and charged with a DUI. This arrest has led to a lot of discussion about political privilege and how it can be abused. But what does the truth really look like in this situation? Here, we’ll take a closer look at the facts and consequences of Mr. Pelosi’s arrest.
What Happened the Night Paul Pelosi Crashed His Porsche?
The story of Paul Pelosi’s May 28, 2022, DUI arrest has been widely reported. We are told that Mr. Pelosi had been at an upscale dinner party in Napa County, where presumably, he had been drinking.
He got into his Porsche 911 to drive back to his Napa Valley country home sometime around 10 P.M., according to a police report. After traveling for under a mile, he collided with another car, which hit his car as he made a left turn.
Police arrived at the scene and arrested Mr. Pelosi on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a .08+ blood alcohol content (“BAC”) level. They allegedly smelled alcohol on his breath and observed him moving in an impaired manner. The other driver was not arrested.
Subsequently, authorities revealed that a blood test just after midnight showed Mr. Pelosi had a .082% blood alcohol content. This is a violation of California law, as the legal limit within the state is .08%.
What Charges Were Brought Against Paul Pelosi?
On June 23, 2022, the Napa County District Attorney issued a press release stating it would issue a criminal complaint and file charges against Paul Pelosi. They charged him with driving with a .08% blood alcohol level or higher, causing injury, and driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury. They explained the charges could be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony. However, at their discretion, only misdemeanor charges were filed due to the minor injuries to the other driver.
Mr. Pelosi’s court date was set for August 3, 2022, and he was released on $5,000 bail, promising to appear for an arraignment in the Napa County Superior Court on that date.
Were the DUI Charges Against Pelosi Dropped?
The District Attorney did not drop the DUI charges against Mr. Pelosi, and the court proceeded as planned to hold the August 3, 2022 court date. Mr. Pelosi initially pleaded not guilty to the charges against him through his attorney. Because he was charged with a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, California law allows him to appear by counsel instead of in person.
On August 23, 2022, he changed his plea to guilty, although he did not personally appear in court. Per another press release, the presiding judge sentenced Mr. Pelosi to five days in jail and three years of probation. However, he received credit for the two days he had spent in jail for the crime previously, as well as credit for 2 days based on good conduct. For the remaining day of jail time, Mr. Pelosi will be allowed to substitute 8 hours of service through the court’s work program. In addition, Mr. Pelosi must attend three months of DUI school, put an ignition interlock device on his car and pay about $7,000 in fines.
Many people feel Mr. Pelosi received excessively light consequences due to his political or other privileges. Although Mr. Pelosi may have arguably been treated more favorably than others, this is likely due to having an experienced legal professional help navigate the judicial process. Once again, this is why it is so important to have a good DUI lawyer if you are charged with a DUI in California.
What Are the Typical Penalties for the Type of Charges Pelosi Faced?
California law imposes penalties for first-time DUI misdemeanor charges, which can include a maximum of five years of probation, a minimum of five days and a maximum of six months in county jail, installation of an ignition interlock device, fines and penalties, DUI school, and other terms to be set by a judge. The decision of which penalties to be implied varies per case.
In addition, you will face consequences related to your license that can start immediately upon your arrest. There may be a court-mandated six-month license suspension upon conviction plus a DMV administrative license suspension which generally begins immediately unless you fight it. Therefore it is essential to hire a DUI attorney as soon as possible if you are arrested or charged with a DUI.
What Types of Defenses Might Have Been Available for Pelosi?
Although Pelosi pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charges against him and received a punishment on the lighter side, not all people in a similar situation may do so well. However, many DUI defenses may convince a prosecutor to reduce charges or even dismiss charges in your case.
Inaccurate Breath Test
Believe it or not, law enforcement frequently mishandles DUI investigations. One of the most common issues is errors related to the use and application of DUI breath tests, leading to an erroneously high BAC reading.
These tests are not perfect, frequently malfunction, are not always correctly administered, and can be affected by environmental and other factors. As such, these tests are arguably inaccurate. You may have a defense that a breath test does not show you were driving under the influence or above the legal limit.
Medical Conditions Affected Result of DUI Test
Another defense may be that a person’s medical issues caused a breath test to read inaccurately. For example, many people suffer from acid reflux, heartburn a hiatal hernia. These medical conditions can create mouth alcohol which a breath test can capture and misread as impairment. As a result, if you suffer from one of these conditions, you may have a defense to DUI charges.
Rising Blood Alcohol Content
A person may also have a defense to DUI criminal charges related to rising blood alcohol. The idea is that because alcohol takes time to be absorbed by your system, a blood or chemical test after an arrest may not accurately portray the BAC you actually had when driving. You may be able to argue that you were not above the limit and/or that the test is inaccurate.
Given the timing of the chemical test given to Mr. Pelosi several hours after the incident, this may have arguably been one of his better defenses.
Errors in Chemical Tests
There are also arguments related to errors in blood tests or standard protocol that can serve as a potential DUI defense. If the blood sample was improperly stored, there was any contamination or blood fermentation, the test could potentially be inaccurate. If this is the case, the test may be excluded from the evidence that may exist against you.
No Probable Cause
Another prevalent defense is that a police officer did not have probable cause to pull you over. Probable cause means that before law enforcement can stop your car, detain you for purposes of a DUI investigation or arrest you for DUI, they must have a reasonable suspicion that you were violating the law.
Suppose law enforcement doesn’t have probable cause before conducting a DUI investigation. In that case, any evidence obtained from the investigation can be suppressed. This means that a prosecutor cannot use this against a person to prove the DUI case. As a result, this can lead to a dismissal or reduction of charges.
Miranda Rights Failure
Although Miranda rights are not required in every situation, they are mandatory when (1) a person is being arrested, and (2) an officer is asking questions designed to solicit incriminating responses after their arrest. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
“Miranda rights” refer to the following statement that must be read to a person being arrested: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” Although this phrasing is the most common and well known due to pop culture, it does not need to be an exact match of what is listed above. So long as the essential elements of the above statement are included and conveyed to those taken into police custody, courts will find that sufficient Miranda rights have been provided.
If an officer does not advise a person of their Miranda rights, any statements they give may be excluded from evidence. Depending on what is being excluded, a prosecutor may have to dismiss or consider reducing charges.
Errors in A Field Sobriety Test
Field sobriety tests are not always the most accurate indicators of impairment. They must be very precisely administered and scored; unfortunately, this is not the case in many situations. In addition, factors that have nothing to do with the test subject can affect their results.
For example, very common issues such as officer behavior during a test, poor weather or lighting, uneven surfaces where a test is conducted or even what the test subject is wearing, can all cause a person to “fail” a field sobriety test.
Because of this, many of these tests can be discredited in court, and a prosecutor who doesn’t have much else against you may have to dismiss or reduce charges.
There are many more potential DUI defenses you may be able to exercise. Many defenses can lead to charges being dismissed against you or being reduced to a less severe and less costly offense, such as a “wet” or “dry” reckless charge.
Is It Better To Plead Guilty to DUI Charges In California?
Not necessarily. Though it may have been better in this specific case, the reasons why Mr. Pelosi changed his plea from not guilty to guilty are private and subject to his attorney-client privilege. However, one can imagine there was probably significant public relations pressure on him which may have influenced his decision. It may not have looked good for the wealthy spouse of a prominent politician to display his vast resources and fight his case, which could have kept the story in the public eye for an extended period.
However, for most people who are first-time offenders or similar, pleading guilty is not the best option as it can have very negative consequences. While a dismissal of charges may not always be possible, downgraded charges are common. Possibilities include reduced charges known as a “wet” reckless or “dry” reckless.
A “wet” reckless charge is where a person is charged with driving recklessly while alcohol is involved. It will count as a prior drunk driving offense should you ever be arrested for DUI again. However, the consequences are generally less severe regarding jail time, DUI school, probation, and financial costs.
A “dry” reckless charge is where a person facing DUI criminal charges agrees to accept a reckless driving charge, where no alcohol is involved. This will result in the most minor negative consequences of all. These include less jail time, no DUI school, less probation, less costly fines, and it will not count as a prior drunk driving offense.
You should never go it alone when dealing with DUI charges. An experienced attorney can help you achieve far more positive consequences than are likely if you do not have the advice of legal counsel. If you’d like to learn more, you can speak a DUI Defense attorney today by reaching out to us at this link.
Can You Be Charged with a DUI Months Later?
Getting arrested for driving under the influence (a “DUI”) in California is a stressful and frightening experience.
When police officers pull you over for a suspected DUI, you expect the officers to arrest you on the spot. However, what happens if the police officers do not arrest you? The officers collect evidence at the traffic stop, finish the DUI investigation, and then let you go. What happens next? Contact one of our California DUI Attorneys
DUI Charge the Next Day or Days After the Fact
DUI arrests don’t always take place immediately. If you are pulled over for a DUI, you can be arrested in the days or months following your DUI stop. Sometimes, it could be years before a prosecutor issues criminal charges against you. The amount of time the state has to pursue DUI charges depends on the details of the case and the charges you face.
If officers stopped you for a DUI but did not arrest you, should you call an experienced DUI lawyer? Absolutely! It is in your best interest to obtain legal advice from a skilled California DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. The steps you take now could improve your chances of beating DUI charges if you are arrested at a later date.
How Do After-the-Fact DUI Arrests Happen?
Law enforcement officers might not believe they have probable cause for an arrest at the traffic stop. Probable cause is the reasonable basis for believing a crime may have been committed. Therefore, police officers might not arrest you immediately if they believe they need additional evidence to prove probable cause.
Therefore, do not assume a DUI arrest after the fact might not occur. If the police officers continue investigating the drunk driving stop, they could find evidence to support probable cause. If so, they could take the evidence to a judge to ask for an arrest warrant. They could also turn the evidence over to the prosecutor, who might seek an indictment for your arrest.
DUI Charges and the California Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a deadline for filing civil or criminal charges. In criminal cases, if the prosecution does not file charges before the deadline in the statute of limitations, the state cannot arrest you and they cannot pursue legal action against you.
The deadline for filing DUI charges depends on the type of charge. In some cases, the statute of limitations depends on the punishment you could receive if you are convicted of drunk driving. Let’s look at some examples of California’s statute of limitations for DUI charges.
How Long Do the Police Have to File Charges of DUI in California?
The general statute of limitations to file DUI charges is one year for misdemeanor DUI offenses that are not punishable by life in prison or imprisonment in state prison.
The general statute of limitations to file felony DUI offenses is three years for charges punishable by incarceration in state prison. However, there are exceptions to these general rules.
California Penal Code §799 states that offenses punishable by death or life in prison have no statute of limitations. Furthermore, California Penal Code §800 places a six year limitation on criminal offenses punishable by eight years or longer in state prison.
Some DUI offenses could result in lengthy prison sentences and/or life in prison. For example, the potential state prison sentence for felony charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is 10 years. Some DUI offenses can carry up to 20 or more years in prison, including life in prison.
Can I Be Charged with a DUI After an Accident in California?
California Vehicle Code §23153 makes it a crime to drive a motor vehicle under the influence and cause an accident that injures another person. Therefore, if the police officers believe you were drinking and driving when you caused the accident, they could arrest you for DUI causing injury.
As a wobbler offense, DUI causing injury is a misdemeanor or felony. The circumstances of the case and the severity of the injuries can impact the prosecutor’s decision whether to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor charge.
A misdemeanor conviction for DUI causing injury in the state of California is punishable by up to one year in jail. Felony DUI causing injury convictions can carry a state prison sentence of up to four years.
However, in addition to incarceration, you also face other penalties, including probation, fines, assessments, driver’s license suspension or revocation, DUI school, and other punishments.
Furthermore, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated if you kill someone in a DUI accident. Other charges related to DUI with injury offenses are child endangerment and felony hit and run involving injury or death.
How Long After an Accident Can I Be Charged With a DUI?
As discussed above, it would depend on whether you were charged with a misdemeanor or a felony offense. For example, if you caused minor injuries with no aggravating factors and a clean criminal record, you might be charged with a misdemeanor offense, which would have a one-year deadline to file charges.
However, if you caused severe injuries or a wrongful death, the deadline to file felony charges could be three years. The deadline could be longer if your offense carries a longer prison sentence.
How Long Is DUI Case Open and Continued in California?
It depends on the facts of the case and the specific DUI charges. Once the police arrest you for DUI, your case begins moving through the court system. If you plead innocent, your case is placed on the docket for a trial. A DUI trial could take months or more than a year to begin. Again, it depends on the case and the court’s schedule.
If you plead guilty, your case is scheduled for a hearing with the judge for sentencing. That could take just a few weeks to occur. On the other hand, if you hire a criminal defense lawyer and negotiate a plea deal, it could take a few months to be sentenced for DUI. It depends on how long your lawyer takes to complete their investigation and negotiate a fair plea agreement with the prosecutor.
In any of the above situations, hiring a California DUI attorney gives you the best chance of resolving your drunk driving charges in the best way possible and as quickly as possible. Conversely, handling the charges on your own could negatively impact the timeline to resolve the case and the outcome you receive.
Reasons Why the Prosecution May Wait to file Criminal Charges for a Charge of DUI
Why does it take some prosecutors longer to decide to file DUI charges? In most cases, the prosecutors must wait until law enforcement officers and the prosecutor’s investigators complete the DUI investigation. Then, they must gather evidence to determine whether they have sufficient evidence to prove the legal elements of a DUI charge.
In some cases, the prosecutor must wait for the results of the BAC tests from your blood test or urine test. Completing chemical tests could take time, depending on the lab’s workload and schedule. If the lab is backed up, it could take several weeks for the results to be available.
Get Legal Help Handling Delayed DUI Charges and a DUI Arrest in California
The prosecution can wait until the last day before the statute of limitations expires to file criminal charges against you. However, that does not mean you should wait to get help handling delayed DUI charges in California.
First, you need a DUI attorney to quickly help you with the California Department of Motor Vehicle’s administrative license suspension hearing. You have just 10 days to request an ALS hearing. An experienced California DUI lawyer can help you prepare for the hearing to fight losing your driving privileges.
Also, hiring a California DUI attorney sooner rather than later gives your lawyer more time to investigate the potential DUI charges against you while the evidence is still fresh. The longer you wait to begin an investigation and gather evidence, the more chance there is that critical pieces of evidence that could win a DUI case could be lost or destroyed.
What Are the Elements of a DUI Offense?
California Vehicle Code §23152 is the primary DUI law in California. The code states that it is unlawful for anyone to operate a motor vehicle when:
- They are under the influence of any alcoholic beverage;
- Their blood alcohol content is above the legal limit;
- They are under the influence of any drug;
- They are addicted to the use of any drug; or
- They are under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
It is important to note other DUI laws in California have lower legal limits for underage drivers and individuals currently serving probation.
To prove you were guilty of drunk driving, the prosecution must demonstrate that you were operating a vehicle with a BAC above the legal limit or that your driving abilities were impaired by the amount of alcohol and/or drugs in your system.
Your California DUI criminal defense lawyer has several defenses they can raise to challenge each of the legal elements.
What Are Some Defenses to an After-the-Fact DUI Charge a DUI Lawyer May Use?
Some of the potential DUI defenses your lawyer might use include:
- You were not driving the motor vehicle;
- The police lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion;
- Inaccuracy of field sobriety tests;
- Rising alcohol levels;
- Violations of Title 17 regulations for collecting, storing, and testing samples;
- Improperly conducted blood tests, breath tests, and urine tests;
- Violations of your Constitutional rights; or
- Medical reasons or environmental reasons for falsely high BAC levels.
There could be additional DUI defenses your attorney may use. Contact a DUI lawyer now for a free consultation.
What Are the Potential DUI Penalties for a DUI Conviction?
The potential punishments you could receive for a DUI conviction include:
- Jail or prison time;
- Fines and assessments;
- Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender;
- A strike on the Three Strikes Law;
- Installation of ignition interlock system (“IID”);
- DUI school;
- Restitution; or
- Revocation or suspension of your driver’s license.
There could be other punishments depending on the charges. Additionally, the punishments increase in severity based on your prior DUIs, criminal history, and aggravating factors. Again, this is why it is in your best interest to obtain legal advice from a skilled California DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you may be charged or arrested for a DUI. The steps you take now could improve your chances of beating DUI charges if you are arrested at a later date. Reach out to one of our experienced California DUI Attorneys today here.
Interested in this topic or want to learn more about DUIs in California? Check out our blog, which is updated regularly!
Is Driving While Texting More Dangerous Than Driving Under the Influence?
Driving While Texting (“DWT”) has become a significant concern for law enforcement officials across the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calculates nearly 2 million drivers are involved in crashes yearly while texting or emailing while driving. As a result of these incidents, 3,142 people were killed in 2020. Some wonder if it is becoming as dangerous as driving under the influence.
What Does “DWT” Stand For?
“DWT” stands for “Driving While Texting.” DWT is part of a more significant problem in today’s world, referred to as distracted driving. Any activity that takes away from your ability to focus on driving safely is dangerous. This includes talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, and fiddling with your car’s knobs, features, or panels.
However, texting is the most dangerous distraction, regardless of how you text. Sending or viewing a text can impede your reaction time. The consequences can be life changing if you lose focus for even a few seconds.
DWT: Driving While Texting Is the New DUI
In some ways, driving while texting can be considered “the new drunk driving.” DWT affects hundreds of drivers in California each day, if not more. Although a person may not be intoxicated when texting, their mind is not in the same state it would be if they were not focused on cell phone usage. According to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nine people are killed in the U.S. per day in collisions that involve a distracted driver.
However, none of this is meant to diminish the seriousness of the drunk driving epidemic, which is far from over in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that each day, around 32 people die in drunk-driving crashes in the U.S.
Deaths caused by distracted or drunk drivers are preventable. All these deaths are a tragedy.
Texting And Driving May Be More Dangerous Than Drunk Driving
Distracted driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, and perhaps even more so. If people shouldn’t drink and drive, they also shouldn’t text and drive. What does distracted driving mean to California motorists?
Drivers between 15-20 years have the highest rates of distraction-related crashes. Drivers between the ages of 25-34 have the highest fatal crashes. However, although age appears to be a factor, this is not just an age issue. Everyone on the road is at risk and can benefit from distraction-free driving.
In a 2019 survey conducted by the CDC, 39% of high school students emailed or texted while driving in the last month. There was no significant relationship between students’ grades and their likelihood of engaging in dangerous driving. In fact, these students were less likely to wear a seatbelt, more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking, and more likely to drive under the influence of alcohol.
The majority of people surveyed know their behavior is wrong or dangerous. But they fear missing out on something or believe the texting will only take a moment.
To put things in perspective, consider a study conducted by Car and Driver, which measured how drivers’ reaction times were impacted by texting and driving versus drunk driving. The publication used a car fitted with a windshield light to simulate a car’s brake lights. A driver was supposed to hit the brakes when the light went on.
The study considered the baseline reaction times of two people when they both had a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content and when they were both sober but texting. For one of the test subjects, while driving at 35 mph, he traveled an extra 21 feet before breaking while reading a text, and it took another 16 feet to brake while he was texting. The results were even worse at 70 mph. The numbers were not much different compared to delayed reaction times while driving drunk.
The second individual was even worse at 35 mph; whether reading or typing a text, his average baseline reaction time about tripled. This caused him to travel an extra 40+ feet before braking. His reaction time after drinking was in a similar range. The results at 70 mph were similarly poor.
One of the biggest realizations from the study was that there was no significant difference in the effect on a person’s reaction time, whether they were under the influence of alcohol or texting.
Texting And Driving Is Illegal In California
California has recognized the enormous risk posed by texting while driving and makes it illegal to drive using a cell phone or electronic communication device in your hand. A person may only use their device in a hands-free manner, and any driver under 18 is not permitted to use a mobile phone for any reason, even if hands-free.
There are some exceptions. For example, California law does not prohibit someone using a their phone for emergency purposes, such as calling the police, 911, calling for medical professionals, fire department, or other emergency services. California Vehicle Code Sections 23123 to 23125 are the applicable statutes that apply to driving and using wireless devices.
California law also allows a handheld wireless device to be operated by a driver’s hand if the device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield. Alternatively, it may be in a vehicle’s dashboard or center console if it allows the driver to see the road.
Consequences of a DWT
Assuming no one is injured due to a person’s DWT, the consequences are usually the imposition of a fine. A first offense is $20, and subsequent offenses are $50 each. While these may not seem significant, court costs can triple those fines.
But, you may face more than a few hundred dollars of fines in certain circumstances. A district attorney or prosecutor may try to charge you with reckless driving. Under California Vehicle Code [CVC] §23103(a), it is illegal to drive a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for people’s or property’s safety. The consequences can include ninety days in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. With court costs, this will likely be much more.
To be guilty of reckless driving, a person must be driving on a highway or off-street parking facility and be driving with a wanton disregard for safety. In some circumstances where a person has been texting while driving or has a history of violations, a prosecutor may try to push to convict them of this additional crime. Exacerbating factors are where a person is speeding, may have been drinking, injured someone or property, or had a person under age 14 in the car.
Finally, you may find yourself involved in a personal injury lawsuit due to a DWT. In California, negligence is defined as failing to use reasonable care to prevent harm to yourself or someone else. If another person’s injury is the result of a car accident caused by you while you were engaging in negligent behavior, you may find yourself liable for damages.
If you guilty of violating one of California’s laws mentioned above, this may be considered negligence per se, and you can be presumed negligent. This is an avoidable consequence of a DWT, and you can take steps today to avoid being one of the many distracted drivers out on the road.
Wait to Send That Text
Life may feel busy, and you may be in a hurry to send a message. But life can also change in an instant. Texting takes your focus away from the road for around five seconds. This is enough time to miss seeing a driver ahead that hit their brakes, not see someone who has stepped out onto the road or veer out of your lane.
Sending a text is not as important as someone’s life. The solution is simple — make distraction-free driving a priority and wait to send that text.
Some Easy Safety Tips
There are simple things you can practice to avoid a DWT:
- Don’t hold your cell phone while driving
- Mount any GPS to your dashboard in a manner that doesn’t block your view
- Take advantage of the “do not disturb” feature on your phone while driving
- Don’t use any apps while driving
- Pull over to send a text
- Avoid calling others if you know they’re driving
- Keep your phone out of reach in the car
- Don’t use your phone to make videos or take photos while driving- dash cams are an alternative
Following just a few of these tips can prevent serious injury to others or yourself.
Drinking and Driving Is Illegal In California
It is important not to lose sight of the fact that drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs is still illegal in California. A DUI can impact your life immensely and lead to a misdemeanor or even a felony on your record. Alcohol or drug-related convictions can make accomplishing your professional and personal goals challenging. You can also seriously hurt others.
California Vehicle Code Section 23152 is the statute that makes driving illegal under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is applicable to bother commercial and passenger vehicles. A person should never drive:
- When they are under the influence of an alcoholic beverage
- If their blood-alcohol content is .08% or greater while operating a passenger vehicle
- If they are addicted to using any drug, except where they are participating in an approved narcotic treatment program
- If their blood-alcohol concentration is .04% or more while operating a commercial vehicle
- If they are under the influence of any drug
- If they are under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs
You should avoid getting in any vehicle if you have had any alcohol or consumed drugs.
Consequences of a DUI
The consequences of a DUI can be severe. For a first offense misdemeanor, you could get up to 6 months jail time, 3-5 years of probation, a suspended or restricted drivers license, have to pay fines and penalties, be required to carry special insurance, attend DUI school and install an ignition interlock device on your car.
Between legal fees, fines, and court penalties, you could spend upwards of $10,000 on dealing with a DUI. The consequences only worsen with each subsequent offense or if you are charged with a felony DUI.
Get Solid Advice From An Experienced California DUI Attorney
If you have been involved in a DWI or a DUI, you should speak with an experienced California DUI attorney. You may have defenses to the charges you are facing or may be able to get them reduced to less impactful charges. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and discuss your options with you. Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.
When you go out for a night of fun with your friends, you never expect that someone will spike your drink and put you in danger of getting a DUI. But unfortunately, this happens more often than you might think. If you are ever in this situation, it is important to know what steps to take to protect yourself. Keep reading for more information on how to deal with being drugged and the potential consequences you could face.
Can You Be Arrested for DUI When Someone Drugs Your Drink?
Although you can get arrested for DUI if someone drugs your drink, there are ways to challenge the charge and fight the case. It does not make the news very often, because the victim might not be able to prove who spiked the drink, but date rape drugs are used more often than you might realize. It is bad enough when someone spikes your drink and possibly attempts a sexual assault. You should not also have to face criminal charges when you were the victim of a crime.
If someone slips a drug into your drink, your criminal defense attorney can fight the charges. Your lawyer will need to perform a thorough investigation and gather evidence to support your claim of the introduction of an illegal substance into your beverage.
“Someone Spiked My Drinks.” Is This a Good DUI Defense?
When someone spikes your drinks without your knowledge, you might become involuntarily intoxicated. This is a rare defense, but if you do not have previous alcohol-related arrests or convictions and you can find strong evidence to support your position that you did not intend to consume the quantity of alcohol that you did, it might be worthwhile to raise involuntary intoxication as a DUI defense.
Even if the charges do not get dismissed, your California DUI attorney could use the argument to negotiate with the prosecutor. An example of spiking a drink with alcohol is when a person orders a drink, consumes some of it, and when they are not looking, someone else pours more alcohol into the beverage. If they use the same type of alcohol or a flavorless alcohol like vodka or grain alcohol, there might not be a noticeable change in the taste of the drink.
After consuming the beverage, the victim might think they are safe to drive home, not realizing that they consumed significantly more alcohol than they intended or realized. The additional alcohol could cause the person’s blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) to be much higher than expected, and take them over the legal limit, resulting in DUI criminal charges.
Can You Use Involuntary Intoxication as a Defense to a DUI?
Involuntary intoxication refers to a situation in which a person does not choose or intend to consume alcohol or drugs, but they are forced or tricked into doing so. A college student might get held down while others pour alcohol down his throat as a part of a hazing event. Another person might consume desserts that they do not realize contain alcohol.
When a person does not intentionally become intoxicated, they might argue the lack of knowingly or willingly consuming alcohol as a DUI defense. These cases are extremely difficult to win, but if your facts and evidence support this defense, an experienced California DUI attorney could argue this defense on your behalf.
Some examples of evidence that could be useful in an involuntary intoxication defense to DUI charges include:
- Testimony from other individuals that the person who introduced the intoxicating substance did so as a prank, a hazing practice, or for some other reason;
- Video evidence that clearly shows a substance being introduced into the DUI defendant’s drink; and
- Eyewitness testimony of someone who saw the drink getting spiked.
Depending on the fact pattern of your situation, there might be additional evidence that could be helpful in the successful use of a defense of involuntary intoxication.
Voluntary & Involuntary Intoxication as a Defense Under Criminal Law
As already stated, when someone consumes a drink or other item and does not realize that it contains alcohol, they might have the defense of involuntary intoxication. Whether you are facing DUI charges or some other criminal charges, a credible situation of involuntary intoxication can be a complete defense.
Also, when someone uses trickery or force to get you to consume an intoxicating substance, whether you are aware of the alcohol or drugs or not, the lack of knowingly or willingly using the substance can be a complete defense.
The vast majority of DUI cases involve people who knowingly or intentionally ingest intoxicating substances. Voluntary intoxication is not a defense in a DUI case, but it can be a defense in other types of crime which require specific intent. For specific intent crimes, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant intended to actually do the illegal act they are charged for. Driving under the influence is a general intent crime, which means that the defendant did not have to intend to engage in drunk driving.
Involuntary Intoxication and DUI
You might be able to raise the defense of involuntary intoxication when charged with a DUI if you can show that you did not knowingly or willingly consume drugs or alcohol. You cannot escape DUI charges on an argument that you did not intend to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The involuntary intoxication defense is not successful on a general intent crime like DUIs if you voluntarily and knowingly drank alcohol.
The involuntary intoxication defense tends to be more successful in cases where the defendant can prove that they could not detect the additional alcohol due to its lack of odor and taste or the fact that someone added more of the same kind of alcohol that was already in the drink. Still, alcohol-related charges are difficult to beat with the involuntary intoxication defense. This defense tends to be more successful in cases in which someone slipped a drug, like a date rape drug, into another person’s beverage. However, each person’s case will vary, which is why it is important to speak with an experienced DUI attorney about your case.
Date Rape Drugs and Driving
So many people are using date rape drugs to perpetrate sexual assaults that West Hollywood, California, has approved a plan to buy and give away testing kits for people to use to check their drinks for date rape drugs. The West Hollywood City Council wants to lower the number of sexual assaults by giving people test strips that can detect ketamine and GHB, two of the common date rape drugs.
This news story shows the prevalence of individuals spiking other peoples’ alcoholic beverages with date rape drugs. After a person drinks a beverage that has been spiked with date rape drugs, the victim might appear to be intoxicated, leading to a DUI arrest. Although the person might have a low BAC rating on a breathalyzer test, chemical testing of a blood sample could reveal the presence of a date rape drug.
Involuntary Intoxication Is a Rarely Used Defense in DUI Cases
Because involuntary intoxication presents so many challenging evidentiary problems, people rarely use it as a defense in DUI cases. Often, the arrested individual is surprised by their BAC reading being much higher than they expected, but it does not occur to them that someone might have spiked their drink with additional drugs or alcohol.
Also, people are not always aware that someone slipped something into their beverage. They might feel a little woozy but suspect that it was from drinking on an empty stomach or some other reason. Thus, people in these situations might not explore the possibility of involuntary intoxication as a defense to their DUI charges.
When Can Involuntary Intoxication Work as a Defense?
When it comes to having your drink spiked with additional alcohol or a non-alcoholic drink spiked with alcohol, it takes some unusual circumstances to win on the defense of involuntary intoxication. If you can obtain video footage of the individual spiking your drink, your criminal defense attorney might be successful in fighting DUI charges.
Arguing that one is involuntarily intoxicated is more successful when the substance the person used to spike the other individual’s drink was an intoxicating drug. It would be extremely unlikely for anyone to spike their own drink with a date rape drug. Thus, the mere presence of ketamine or GHB in a person’s drink that they consumed would support an argument of involuntary intoxication by their criminal defense counsel.
How Do Prosecutors Determine BAC at the Time of Driving?
A person’s blood alcohol content will change over time. Whether you use a breathalyzer or test the person’s blood sample or urine sample, the results will be very different with samples collected just a few hours apart. Eventually, the presence of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream will dissipate entirely.
Sometimes, a prosecutor will have a toxicologist testify about a driver’s BAC at the time of driving. This strategy can also be useful for the defense, who can use testimony from a toxicologist.
Logistically speaking, a person’s BAC does not get tested while they are driving. Chemical testing of the blood, breath, or urine always happens after the suspect stops driving. Sometimes, a prosecutor might attempt to extrapolate in reverse to try to show that a driver had an illegal blood alcohol concentration level at the time of driving.
California Law on Driving Under the Influence
Under California Vehicle Code 23152, a person can get charged with a DUI offense for:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, meaning that you cannot drive as well as a sober person because the quantity of alcohol has impaired your mental or physical abilities;
- Having a BAC of 0.08% or higher;
- Driving under the influence of any legal, illegal, or prescription drugs, controlled substance, over-the-counter drug, or any other substance; and
- Driving under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs.
Someone who drives a motor vehicle after their drink gets spiked with alcohol or other drugs by someone else could get arrested and charged with a DUI under the California Penal Code. Beating the criminal charges in these cases is extraordinarily difficult.
Don’t Attempt a Criminal Defense on Your Own
The consequences of getting a DUI conviction could haunt you for the rest of your life. You could face jail time, a criminal record, and other negative consequences if found guilty of a DUI charge. You will want to talk to a California criminal defense lawyer to mount an aggressive defense to the charges. Talk to one of our highly qualified California DUI attorneys to discuss your defense strategy by reaching out to us here.