Supporter of Anti-Drunk Driving Law Charged with DUI with Children in Car

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Stephen Miller, 40, of Pennsylvania was arrested and charged early last month with two counts of driving under the influence, two counts of endangering the welfare of children and various traffic citations. Miller championed Pennsylvania’s “Kevin’s Law,” the name of which honored his son who was killed by a hit-and-run driver suspected of drunk driving. The law increased the penalties for hit-and-run drivers in fatal accidents.

Miller’s son, Kevin, was killed in 2012 after being hit by a driver who fled the scene. It was suspected that the driver, Thomas W. Letteer Jr., 26, was driving under the influence at the time, however never faced charges of DUI because he was not caught until much later.

On June 12th, Miller was stopped because law enforcement spotted his vehicle traveling at night without headlights and unlit tail lights. At the time of the stop, Miller had this two other children in the vehicle, one of which was Kevin’s twin. It was later determined that Miller’s blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit at 0.27 percent.

Miller is set to appear on August 17th.

In addition to the penalties for the DUI, Miller is facing 100 hours of mandatory community service and a fine of at least $1,000 under Pennsylvania law.

California, on the other hand, is not as forgiving.

In California, if you are charged with a DUI under California Vehicle Code section 23152 and at the time of driving, you have a minor under the age of 14, you also face an enhancement to the DUI charge under California Vehicle Code section 23572.

In addition to any penalties given for a DUI conviction, if the enhancement is found to be true, the person faces an additional and consecutive 48 hours in a county jail for a first DUI conviction, 10 days for a second DUI conviction, 30 days for a third DUI conviction, or 90 days for a fourth or subsequent misdemeanor DUI conviction.

For other reasons, I’ve said that it is extremely important to hire an experienced California DUI when facing criminal charges. The same absolutely holds true for a California DUI charge with a child endangerment enhancement.

If an experienced California DUI attorney can successfully defend against the underlying DUI charge, the child endangerment enhancement cannot stick nor can a person be punished under it. This is true if the underlying California DUI charge is found to be untrue by a jury after a trial, the charges dismissed, or if the charge is reduced to what is known as a “California wet reckless.”

It should also be noted that drunk drivers who have children in the vehicle at the time of driving can also be charged under California Penal Code section 273(a), otherwise known as California’s child endangerment law. Child endangerment can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor when a person places a child under the age of 18 in a situation where his or her heath or welfare can be endangered. If charged with child endangerment, a person faces up to a year in county jail for a misdemeanor and up to six years in a California state prison for a felony.

If a person is convicted of a DUI and child endangerment under California Penal Code section 273(a), they, however, cannot face the DUI enhancement under California Vehicle Code section 23572.

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California’s DUI Education Programs

Monday, July 18th, 2016

When a person is convicted of a California DUI, they face a number of penalties one of which is to attend a court-approved DUI program. The most common of inquiries regarding the programs have to do with their duration. The length of the required program depends on the individual facts and circumstances of the case.

I would be remiss if I first did not explain that the names of each program relate to the legislative bill that created the program.

When a person under the age of 18 is convicted of a California DUI, they may be required to attend AB-803. AB-803 is a 12-hour program that is attended over the course of six weeks.

A “wet reckless” conviction is a reduction from an original DUI charge. As such, it may allow for only a 12-hour program called SB-1176 which taken over six weeks. It should be noted that a reduction to a wet reckless will not automatically call for the SB-1176 program. It may be that a longer program will be required by the court. Furthermore, the California DMV will also require at least a three month program before it will reinstate driving privileges following a DUI suspension.

A three-month, 30-hour program called AB-541 is typically required for a first-time DUI or wet reckless reduction assuming that the facts are not particularly aggravating. However, if the DUI case involves a crash or a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent to 0.14 percent.

If, however, a first time California DUI involves a blood alcohol content between 0.15 percent and 0.19 percent, a person could be required to attend AB-762. AB-762 is a six month program usually to be attended once a week for two hours.

When a first-time California DUI involves particularly aggravating circumstances such as a vehicle collision or a blood alcohol of 0.20 percent or more, the court may require a nine-month DUI program called AB-1353. AB-1353 usually consists of 60 hours of class time.

If a person is convicted of a second or more DUI or wet reckless within a ten-year period, they face a multiple-offender program called SB-38. SB-38 is an 18-month program. Since SB-38 is a rather lengthy course, the court will likely require several progress reports throughout the 18-month period.

Although highly unusual, the court can impose the longest of the California DUI programs. SB1365 is a 30-month program and is usually required when a person suffers two or more California DUI related convictions within ten years or when the case involves extremely aggravating facts such as an extremely high BAC level. SB1365 is only offered in Los Angeles County and Stanislaus County.

It is important to note that there is no hard and fast rule to know exactly which California DUI program will be required. It really will depend on the circumstances and facts surrounding the case, the discretion of the court, and the ability of your DUI attorney. This is why it is extremely important to hire a competent DUI attorney to fight for the shortest program, possibly even no program.

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Law Requiring Ignition Interlock Devices for California DUI Passes Senate

Monday, June 6th, 2016

On Tuesday of last week, the California Senate passed a new bill that would require all people convicted of a California DUI to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle. Senate Bill 1046 will now be sent to the California Assembly for consideration.

Under a current pilot program here in California, only four counties require the installation of an ignition interlock device following a DUI conviction; Alameda, Los Angeles, Tulare, and Sacramento. A first-time DUI requires installation for five months upon eligibility to drive either with a restricted license or a full reinstatement of driving privileges. The pilot program also requires an IID for 12 months for a second-time DUI, 24 months for a third DUI, and 36 months for a fourth or subsequent DUI.

If you don’t already know, an ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer that is installed into the dashboard of a person’s vehicle. The device must be blown into before the engine can be started, but only if the breathalyzer does not detect alcohol on the breath sample. Once the vehicle is started, the breathalyzer must be blown into at random times throughout the drive.

The proposed law was introduced by Senator Jeremy Hill and, not surprisingly was overwhelmingly praised by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

“MADD is grateful to the Senate for moving this life-saving bill forward," said MADD’s National President, Colleen Sheehey-Church. "In the coming weeks, MADD will be visiting Assembly members and calling on them to quickly pass SB 1046 to protect residents and visitors from this 100 percent preventable crime."

MADD released its “Ignition Interlock Report” compiled from data collected during the pilot program which has been running since 2010. According to the report, ignition interlock devices have prevented more than one million drunk driving attempts in California with about 125, 000 of those attempts involving a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more.

However, the California DMV is also compiling a report on the effectiveness the ignition interlock devices have had on preventing drunk driving.

In fact, the California DMV previously found that such a law would not prevent people without ignition interlock devices from driving drunk. Additionally, there are ways to circumvent the requirement of providing a clean breath sample before starting a vehicle.

The cost of the interlock device can run approximately $75 to $100 for installation, about $75 per month, and often additional fees for maintenance and calibration. This is on top of the cost already associated with a California DUI conviction which can run upwards of $10,000.

If passed, first time offenders would be required to install the devices for six months, a year for a second offense, two years for a third offense and three years for a fourth or subsequent offenses.

The will be heard by several Assembly committees, including the Committee on Public Safety, and must be approved by the Assembly before it can be considered by California Governor Jerry Brown.

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Entrapment as a Defense to a California DUI?

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Many of my clients, especially those who have been arrested at a DUI checkpoint, often ask whether entrapment can be a defense to a California drunk driving charge. Another scenario where the defense of entrapment is inquired about is when an officer parks his vehicle outside of some alcohol-serving establishment and waits for an unsuspecting patron to hop behind the wheel after having one too many drinks.

Unfortunately in both scenarios entrapment cannot be used as a defense.

According to People v. West, (1956) 139 Cal.App.2d Supp. 923, 924, “Entrapment is the conception and planning of an offense by an officer and his procurement of its commission by one who would not have perpetrated it except for the trickery, persuasion, or fraud of the officer. Persuasion or allurement must be used to entrap.”

People v. Barraza, (1979) 23 Cal.3d 675, 689, simplified the definition of entrapment when it concluded, “[T]he proper test of entrapment in California is the following: was the conduct of the law enforcement agent likely to induce a normally law-abiding person to commit the offense?”

In other words, for purposes of a California DUI charge, law enforcement must compel a person to drink and/or compel them to drive when that person would not have otherwise done either.

An example of this would be when an officer finds an intoxicated person in a vehicle who does not plan on driving and the officer then forces them to drive. Since the person would not have driven but for the officer’s demand, an entrapment has occurred. Although unlikely, it has happened.

While DUI checkpoints may be viewed upon as a “trap,” it does not fall within the definition set forth above. People who drive drunk are already driving drunk when they happen upon a DUI checkpoint. Law enforcement is not compelling the drunk driver to drink nor drive.

Furthermore, DUI checkpoints time and time again have been held by numerous courts to be constitutional. In fact, in California, one of the requirements a DUI checkpoint must adhere to in order to be constitutional is that drivers must be allowed to lawfully turn away from the checkpoint. Yes, that’s right. Drivers cannot be forced to go through a DUI checkpoint.

Often times, officers will park themselves outside of a bar or other alcohol-serving establishment and wait until they see a patron drive away. This is when the officer pulls the person over.

If the person voluntarily drives away from the establishment drunk, the officer has not forced the person to neither drink nor drive. The officer is merely observing the illegal acts of a person from a public place where he or she has a right to be.

Now, the officer must have probable cause to believe that a person is driving drunk before an arrest can be made. The mere leaving a bar does not give the officer probable cause that a person is driving drunk, although the officer may suspect the person is driving drunk. If, however, an officer observes a person commit a traffic violation after leaving a bar, they can be pulled over. The traffic violation stop can be used as a pretext to investigate for a DUI.

Unfortunately, while both California DUI checkpoints and law enforcement bar stakeouts are intended to “trap” drunk drivers, neither give rise to the entrapment defense.

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California Senate Committee Passes IID Law

Monday, April 4th, 2016

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about whether a person who has been convicted of a California DUI will be required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device. 

Currently, ignition interlock devices are only required by the DMV for people convicted of a California DUI in four counties as part of a pilot program: Alameda, Los Angeles, Tulare and Sacramento. Otherwise, the requirement that a person install an ignition interlock device is dependent upon whether a judge orders it as a condition of probation.

Last year, Senate Bill 61 extended the pilot program, which was set to end January 1, 2016, to July 1, 2017.

July 1, 2017, however, was too long for Senator Jerry Hill.

Hill authored Senate Bill 1046 which, if passed, would require people convicted of a DUI to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle throughout California.

The bill took a big step into becoming law this past week when the California Senate Public Safety Committee voted 7-0 in favor of passing the bill. Now that the California Senate Committee has unanimously voted for the bill, it will be sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Not surprisingly Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) fully backed the proposed bill.

“Senator Hill has shown extraordinary leadership on drunk driving prevention, and we are extremely grateful to the committee for agreeing that ignition interlocks do save lives,” said Mary Klotzbach, a MADD National Board member and whose 22-year-old son, Matt, was killed by a drunk driver.

This past February, MADD released its own Ignition Interlock Report, which reportedly showed the deterrent effect that ignition interlock devices had on repeat drunk driving. According to their report, ignition interlock devices prevented 1.77 million drunk driving attempts where the would-be driver’s blood alcohol content was 0.08 percent or more. The report also alleges that ignition interlock devices prevented more than 124,000 drunk driving attempts.

“Today, the Senate Public Safety Committee voted to protect all Californians from the completely preventable, violent crime of drunk driving,” said Klotzbach. When I buried Matt, I buried a piece of my heart. Now I want make sure no other parent, child, brother, or sister ever has to endure this kind of heartache.”

The mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices will add to an already long list of mandatory conditions that a person convicted of a California DUI must complete. What’s more, in addition to the other thousands of dollars associated with a California DUI conviction, people required to install the ignition interlock device will have to pay between $50 and $100 per month to have the device installed and maintained.

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