Category Archives: DUI

Do I Need an Attorney on My Misdemeanor Case?

It is becoming much more common that people who are charged with a misdemeanor simply go to court and plead guilty at their arraignment, without ever speaking to an attorney.  The judge will sometimes convey the prosecutor’s offer, or will tell the defendant what the sentence will be if they plead guilty, and the defendant will simply accept the consequences. Any attorney will strongly discourage this practice because ANY criminal conviction can have extraordinary consequences that may not be immediately known without further information.  While pleading guilty may seem easier and more convenient than hiring an attorney, it can later lead to extreme inconvenience and loss of a professional license or a job.

Consider this example – a resident alien is driving under the influence of both alcohol and Vicodin.  A plea to driving under the influence of drugs has severe immigration consequences, whereas a plea to driving under the influence of alcohol does not.  The defense attorney will structure the plea to avoid immigration consequences.  The direct penalties will be the same, but the defendant will not be deported later.  Another example is vandalism – a charge of vandalism will result in a driver’s license suspension if the defendant is under age 25. This is only the beginning of a non-exhaustive list of possible “collateral consequences” of misdemeanor convictions: loss of professional license, loss of driver’s license, bar to military service, loss of right to own or possess guns, deportation, or a bar to receiving student loans.

Good attorneys will be able to talk to you about your job, your background, and your life plans in order to figure out the best result in your case.

Some people go to court and plead guilty because they feel they did the crime and it is best to just face the consequences.  A person should read the charges carefully and at least consult with an attorney (usually office or phone consultations are free) before simply accepting guilt.  Many prosecutors will file cases alleging the most serious possible charges even where there is only a slight possibility that the defendant would be found guilty of the most serious charge.  Take this simple example, a person may be charged with battery where they are only factually guilty of fighting in public.  The person who goes to court and pleads guilty to battery, failing to ask for the lesser charge, will lose the right to own guns.  Another common issue is the per se driving under the influence violations, also known as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.  Most non-lawyers will not know how to evaluate evidence that they had .08 blood-alcohol content and that this level could (and should) be challenged at trial. To know how to properly evaluate evidence and the science behind the evidence, the accused needs to have experience reviewing results and familiarity with the (in)accuracy of the science behind it to understand when the results will be upheld as valid.

The issues raised above are simply the most common evidentiary issues that are overlooked by individuals who do not have an attorney.  This list does not include legal errors where accused individuals plead guilty, but otherwise would had charges dismissed because, for example, their speedy trial right or 4th Amendment rights were violated.  When you or someone you love is facing what seem like insignificant charges, consult with an attorney before making a decision that can have extraordinary collateral consequences for you in the future.

Recent DUI Checkpoint News

There have been a lot of recent articles in the local media about the massive “Avoid the 30” anti-DUI campaign in Riverside County.  Much of the stepped-up enforcement has taken the form of DUI checkpoints.  Check out these stats published in a recent Press-Enterprise article:

At a Temecula checkpoint:  1,220 cars stopped by armed government agents, 2 drivers arrested on suspicion of DUI

At a San Jacinto checkpoint: 468 cars stopped by armed government agents, 3 drivers arrested on suspicion of DUI

At a Chino Hills checkpoint: 1396 cars stopped by armed government agents, 1 person arrested for DUI

That makes for a total of 3,084 cars stopped by police, and in none of those stops did police have probable cause to think that the drivers were doing anything wrong.  Total DUI arrests amounted to 5.  The article does not mention how many cases were filed by prosecutors as a result of those arrests.

None of the articles about Operation Avoid the 30 mention the cost of the operation, or any single DUI checkpoint.  What was the cost to the taxpayers of netting that one DUI arrest in Chino Hills?

700 DUI Arrests in Riverside County Over Last Two Weeks!

Operation “Avoid the 30” netted 700 arrests just over the past two weeks.  “The 30” refers to the number of participating agencies.  This was a pretty large operation:

The end-of-summer Riverside County Avoid the 30 campaign — named for the number of police agencies involved — got under way on Aug. 16 and went through Labor Day.

Saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints were deployed in a number of locations, including Banning, Beaumont, Corona, La Quinta, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Norco, Palm Springs, Perris, Rancho Mirage, Riverside and Temecula.

The above-cited article article clearly touts this as a success, but there is no mention of how many DUI cases were actually filed or how this two-week period compares to a “normal” two-week summer stretch without all the extra law enforcement.

What do I do if I am Pulled Over for DUI?

It depends.  If you have not been drinking or only had one or two drinks, just do everything the officer says and be on your way.  The more problematic situation arises when you know you have had a bit too much or are not sure.  If you do what is described below you may anger the officer, but stick to this if you want to beat a potential case – if the officer is getting frustrated it is only because you are lawfully hampering his efforts to collect evidence that will be used to prosecute and convict you.

1) Do not look at the officer any more than necessary.  DUI drivers are inevitably described as having “red and watery eyes”.  If it is daytime, keep sunglasses on.  Do not take them off it the officer asks you to remove them – just tell the officer “no”.

2) Only crack your window slightly when speaking with the officer.  They will attempt to smell your breath.  Do not give them the chance.

3) Refuse to perform field sobriety tests (FSTs).  If chemical test results later show sufficient BAC, the officer will ALWAYS write that you failed the tests.  You are under no obligation to do FSTs, simply refuse.  This may anger the officer, but only because he is trying to get evidence to prosecute and convict you, it is perfectly legal to refuse to do these tests.

4) Do not make any statements to the officer.  Only give your name.  In response to questioning, tell the officer you do not wish to make statements or you do not wish to speak with him.  Do not talk about how much you have had to drink, where you are going, or make any small talk.  The officer will write in his report that you had slurred speech.  Only talk the absolute minimum necessary so he cannot make that observation.

5) Refuse PAS test.  The officer will ask you to blow into a machine during the stop.  You have no obligation to blow into this device.  Simply refuse to do this test.  (Note, you MUST complete the later chemical test after arrest – the blow machine or blood test at the police station).

6) Make the right choice about chemical testing.  If you do not take a chemical test after arrest, you will lose your driver’s license.  However, you do get to choose between breath and blood tests.  If you choose blood, the test time may be delayed somewhat as the police must call a phlebotomist (person who draws blood) to the police station.  This may result in a lower blood alcohol level at the time of the draw.  However, there is a serious drawback – if there are any other substances other than alcohol, the blood test will reveal them (marijuana, Vicodin, etc.) – this will make the DUI much worse.  Breath testing only tests alcohol.

Follow the above rules and you will have an excellent chance at beating your DUI!