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Holiday Season DUI Enforcement Just Around the Corner in Orange County

It seems that as holiday approach, there is more and more news that law enforcement throughout Orange County is preparing DUI enforcement efforts.

Some might see that as a bad strategy because what happens the rest of the year? And why should people driving near a holiday be subjected to more police presence than any other time?
Regardless of the debate, it's going to happen. As our Santa Ana DUI defense lawyers predicted in November, law enforcement would step up its patrols for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and it did. More than 1,350 people were arrested for DUI in Santa Ana and statewide during only a five-day period.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the number is actually 69 fewer than the number of people charged with DUI last year. There were also six more traffic deaths during the time period this year compared to last, the California Highway Patrol reports. It's unclear if any were alcohol-related.

If statistics from the California Office of Traffic Safety are any indication, Orange County drivers should be careful from mid-December until the beginning of the new year. Last year, there were 743 DUI arrests from Dec. 17 to Jan. 1 in the county alone.

In 2009, numbers were down considerably, but the office only reported arrests from Jan. 1 to 3. Even in that short period, there were 110 DUI arrests.

DUI is not a charge that should be taken lightly. Lawmakers have made it so even a first-time offender, a person with no prior alcohol-related offenses and who likely had one drink too many, could end up facing jail time, probation, fines and fees, a driver's license suspension and other court-ordered sanctions.

While a Department of Motor Vehicles administrative hearing can be requested within 10 days of an arrest to fight the suspension of a driver's license, this is separate from the criminal case.

In the criminal case, many aspects of the state's evidence can be challenged. This includes faulty breathalyzers, which have caused many cases to be dropped after authorities found them to be poorly manufactured or not calibrated correctly.

Field sobriety testing -- when officers ask a driver to walk, heel-to-toe, stand and touch their nose or follow a light from left to right -- can be challenged if the officer isn't properly trained to conduct the tests or makes poor observations.

A couple tips to be aware of this time of the year, given that law enforcement will be out on the streets in larger numbers:

  • Police can pull you over for any minor traffic violation and then start a DUI investigation, so drive carefully.

  • Anything you say to an officer can be used against you in court.

  • Aggressive or loud behavior can lead to additional charges.

  • Remain calm, stay silent and call a Santa Ana DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

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Expect Orange County DUI Patrols Starting Around Thanksgiving

As the holidays approach, people may try their best to wind down and enjoy some quiet time with family members. For others, the hustle and bustle of the shopping season along with the craze of a large family gathering can be stressful.

Either way, police will be stepping up their patrols. For law enforcement, this is one of the busiest times of the years as they go out of their way to conduct roadside sobriety stops, stepped-up patrols that can lead to people being charged with DUI in Santa Ana.
Orange County DUI defense lawyers will bet that you will begin to see television and newspaper advertisements that warn people of the dangers of DUI. And we have all seen or heard of incidents stemming from drunken driving crashes.

In fact, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, police in Orange County made 743 DUI arrests and worked five fatal accidents last year between December 17 and January 2.

But what isn't said in those statistics is how many of those arrests turned into convictions. Not every person who is arrested for a crime is convicted and many times it was poor police work or overzealous police officers who make arrests without enough evidence to support the charges.

An aggressive defense lawyer can help this holiday season.

One reminder that police do make mistakes comes out of Santa Barbara. In a recent case there, a newspaper reporter was charged with DUI, yet later had the charges dropped.

In that case, according to the Santa Barbara Independent, the journalist was pulled over after an officer reported that he spent three to five seconds stopped at a green light. The officer swung around next to him and shone his light inside the vehicle. The driver looked up at him, looked back down and then continued.

The officer pulled him over and the man was charged with DUI after allegedly blowing a 0.09 during a breath test. But his lawyer was able to cite several out-of-state cases where judges dropped DUI charges after a person waited as long as 60 seconds at a green light and that was enough to convince this man's judge to drop his charge.

Muddying the case a bit more is that the journalist had written several in-depth newspaper articles about his arresting officer, including about her criminal history, her credit, marriage and her work with the police department. The article stated that the officer's "relationship" with the newspaperman didn't influence the case.

While there will no doubt be arrests made as we approach the holiday season, there are ways to beat these charges. The penalties can be severe and the personal repercussions can also be difficult, but aggressively fighting the charges can lead to less-serious charges and penalties or a clean slate altogether.

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Orange County Defense Attorneys Defending Labor Day Weekend DUI Arrests

Imagine if it was your job to sit along the roadside in a vehicle and watch other vehicles drive by. And imagine doing that for eight hours, plus likely overtime, for several days straight.

You could understand if by the end of the shift you might get tired and perhaps a little sloppy in your attention to detail. And yet over the Labor Day weekend, 262 DUI arrests in Orange County were made, a 40-percent hike from 2010 numbers.
One can't possibly think that 40 percent more drunk drivers were on the roads this year compared to last. So that means either Orange County law enforcement dedicated more time to DUI investigations or they were so overzealous that some people's rights were trampled en route to them setting record arrest numbers.

It requires a certain amount of skepticism to reveal the real truth sometimes. And that comes in handy when defending drivers who have been arrested for DUI in Orange County. As an experienced Santa Ana DUI Defense Attorney for decades, I have seen it all from law enforcement and prosecutors. And it's that experience I bring to each individual case. Trust experience when you are fighting for your rights.

According to The Orange County Register, sheriff's deputies made 262 DUI arrests, which was up from 187 arrests last year. Through a joint effort of state and local law enforcement agencies, officers arrested 856 people from August 19 to September 5. During the same time period last year, 665 arrests were made. Sheriff's officials said one DUI-related fatality was reported in Anaheim, when a 25-year-old San Dimas man died after he lost control of his vehicle and landed in a flood-control channel. Agencies received a grant to conduct the stepped-up patrols, the newspaper reports.

Most people understand DUI to mean driving under the influence and that can mean drugs or alcohol. "Under the influence" means the driver has a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher. A person with a blood-alcohol content below .08 is not considered legally drunk.

But while the charge is easily the most common that Americans face, in California, the penalties are severe. It may be classified as a misdemeanor, but the possible penalties rival many felony charges as politicians have sought to impede on individuals' rights in order to boost their own campaigns.

In California, the penalties are as follows:

• Imprisonment in a county jail for at least 96 hours, with at least 48 straight hours, and
up to 6 months
• Driver license suspension for six months
• A fine of up to $1,000
• Completion of a DUI school
• Possible installation and costs associated with an ignition interlock device

Again, while only a misdemeanor, a person must be sent to jail, which is not a pleasant place, have their driver license suspended, and make payments for DUI school, fines and fees. Additionally, there are costs associated with having an ignition interlock device installed on the person's vehicle. The interlock device won't let the vehicle start unless the driver blows and registers a blood-alcohol level below .08.

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Disneyland Area Fatal DUI Accident May Lead to Additional Charges

An accident recently near Disneyland resulted in three people being hurt and one being killed, The Orange County Register reports.

A charge of DUI in Orange County comes with it a stigma unlike many other crimes. A person charged with DUI often makes the newspaper or television newscast and can suffer damage to reputation, job loss and problems with family. And while some people believe that a person arrested for DUI has no defense, that's simply not true. An experienced Santa Ana DUI Defense Attorney will be able to assess all the facts of the case and determine which pieces of state evidence can be challenged. This is never more critical than when a serious or fatal accident occurs.
According to the news article, the accident happened in the early hours on the southbound I-5 freeway near Disneyland Drive in Anaheim. According to California Highway Patrol, a pickup truck was driving in the third lane "at a high rate of speed" when the 28-year-old female driver switched to the fourth lane and struck the left rear corner of a sedan.

The truck continued west, where it skidded off the main lanes and onto a steep dirt embankment. The driver then allegedly struck part of a bridge and rotated back across several southbound lanes, where it came to rest, according to the CHP.

The male passenger in the truck, also 28, died about three and a half hours after the accident at UCI Medical Center in Orange. The female driver of the truck was charged with suspicion of felony driving under the influence.

The passengers of the sedan were treated for moderate and minor injuries at Western Medical Center.

Cases of serious or fatal accidents can result in years behind bars. An experienced defense lawyer must build a two-prong defense. First by challenging the allegation that the driver was under the influence and then by contesting the assertion that he or she was responsible for causing the accident. If either can be disproven, a defendant will not be convicted of the most serious charges associated with a DUI accident.

In situations where a driver is suspected of a crime after a crash and they are being treated at a hospital, it's sometimes easier for law enforcement to obtain blood testing, which can prove that a person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.

But these tests can be dismissed if police didn't follow proper procedures. Same goes for field sobriety testing and breath testing. Any piece of evidence is subject to examination by the defense and can be tossed out with the help of an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney.

In this case, because there was a death, prosecutors may attempt to charge the driver of the truck with vehicular manslaughter. According to the California Penal Code 191.5, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. If gross negligence isn't proven, vehicular manslaughter is punishable by up to 4 years.

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Fourth of July DUI Arrests Must Be Defended in Orange County

More law enforcement officers will be out this Fourth of July looking for speeders and seat belt violators, but they will also be putting heavy emphasis on DUI arrests.

The Orange County Register reports that while traffic is expected to be up throughout Southern California this Fourth of July holiday weekend, so, too, will be law enforcement presence. Officers will be looking for drunk drivers or suspected drunk drivers all weekend long.
That's why if you are arrested and charged with drunk driving, call our Orange County DUI Defense Lawyers immediately. Be polite to the officer, but don't make any statements. DUI in Santa Ana and throughout California is a serious charge that can cost you your job, your freedom and your rights to drive.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, there were 108 DUI arrests during the Fourth of July weekend in Orange County alone in 2010. There were 162 in Riverside County and 844 in Los Angeles County as well.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles reports that in 2007, there were 203,866 DUI arrests, most of which were misdemeanor DUI arrests. But there were also 6,264 felony DUI arrests that year.

California Vehicle Code 23152 defines drunk driving, which most people understand is driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol at or above the state's .08 limit for a person's blood-alcohol content.

But many people may not be aware of the penalties, even for a first-time offender who has one drink too many at a cookout this weekend:

  • Imprisonment in a county jail for at least 96 hours, with at least 48 straight hours, and up to 6 months
  • Driver's license suspension for six months
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Completion of a DUI school
  • Possible installation and costs associated with an ignition interlock device

But don't think that DUI charges can't be beat. An experienced Orange County DUI Lawyer will study your case and look at all of the officer's actions leading up to, during and after the arrest to see if procedures weren't followed.

We will challenge the results of a breathalyzer test because these devices are very unreliable. As the news media has reported in California and nationwide, prosecutors are having problems with the reliability of breathalyzers based on poor manufacturing as well as officers not properly calibrating them. These devices merely provide an estimation of a person's blood-alcohol level, not the actual reading.

Our lawyers will also look at whether field sobriety tests were properly conducted and whether the officer was trained in how to conduct them. Also, a defendant's physical limitations can be a factor in whether these tests are accurate.

Continue reading "Fourth of July DUI Arrests Must Be Defended in Orange County" »

Orange County Man Arrested in DUI Crash That Killed 14-Year-Old Cheerleader

A 26-year-old man is being held on $1 million bond on charges of murder and DUI causing great bodily injury in the recent death of a freshman cheerleader at Irvine's Northwood High School, the Orange County Register reports.

There's no doubt that DUI in Orange County can be a devastating and potentially fatal crime. But in many DUI cases where driver's re-offend, the initial charges can be very important. Hiring an experienced Santa Ana DUI Lawyer is vital in such cases. Too often, when a driver involved in a serious or fatal accident is accused of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she is faulted for the crash with little or no investigation. An experienced law firm will take a look at the facts and may even consult with accident reconstruction experts. It's vital that an aggressive defense be prepared against both the DUI charge and the allegation that you were responsible for the accident. If either can be disproven, you will not be convicted of the most serious charges associated with a serious or fatal drunk driving crash.
In the Irvine case according to news reports, the 26-year-old was drinking with his girlfriend the evening before the crash and took a cab to a friend's house. There, he got the truck he had left at the house and drove his girlfriend to get food.

According to prosecutors, he made an illegal left turn against a red arrow at Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard, hitting the driver's side of a sedan carrying four girls and a parent. The 14-year-old was killed and a friend critically injured.

Prosecutors say the man appeared disoriented, smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and had trouble keeping balance. the District Attorney's Office said his blood-alcohol level was .20, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

And because he had previously pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and other charges, he was aware that killing someone while driving under the influence can result in a murder charge. Because the man has several previous alcohol-related charges and convictions on his record, it's possible prosecutors have sought the most serious charge in our criminal justice system. he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, the newspaper reports.

This shows why fighting a DUI charge for a first-time offender is critical. Breathalyzer results are inherently unreliable and in many places, including Southern California, charges are being dropped because the results come out incorrect. And those results should always be vigorously challenged by a qualified DUI attorney. Field sobriety testing is almost always done in DUI investigations and sometimes officers aren't property trained in how to perform these tests.

There are many aspects of a DUI case than can be challenged and exploited, but it requires the experienced skills of a seasoned attorney to determine which areas can be challenged and how best to go about doing it. And a DUI conviction can mean loss of driving privileges, which can bring great hardship on a person who drives for a living or must drive to get to work. Fighting these charges is imperative.

Continue reading "Orange County Man Arrested in DUI Crash That Killed 14-Year-Old Cheerleader" »

OC Driver Charged in Fatal DUI Accident in February

An Orange County man faces charges of murder and DUI, charges that can put him in jail for 21 years to life based partly on his prior convictions, The Los Angeles Times reports.

This tragic story shows how important defending a first-time DUI offense is in California. Santa Ana DUI Lawyers have seen countless cases where a prior conviction, even many years earlier, leads to increased penalties in the future. Aggressively defending the first case can lead to a better resolution in the future.
In February, a Placentia man allegedly crashed his SUV into a Toyota after driving through a red light in Laguna Niguel. According to authorities, the man lost control of the vehicle and drove it onto a sidewalk, where it struck and killed a woman and her dog. Two people in the Toyota were injured.

According to the news report, the man had two previous DUI convictions, from October 2007 and May 2008, and was on probation at the time of the crash. Police believe the man was under the influence of more than a dozen drugs at the time of the crash. The article states that the man pleaded guilty to both of the prior charges and had to complete a 180-day drug and alcohol program and an 18-month multiple offender alcohol program.

"He was aware of the consequences," said a district attorney's office spokeswoman. "He had just received education that what he did could result in murder."

Obviously, the case is a tragedy. But it's possible that the driver might have avoided such a serious charge had he not pleaded guilty to the previous DUI charges. Had one of those charges been beaten at trial or had a successful plea deal been made to reduce the charge to reckless driving or another less-serious charge, it may have saved him decades in prison, which he now faces.

DUI in Orange County is a serious charge and should be defended aggressively. Dealing with a criminal charge may be frightening, but the charges can be beaten. You should also note that you only have 10 days from an arrest to request a hearing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to contest your driver's license suspension.

California DUI laws are strict and can require thousands of dollars in fines and fees, DUI school, ignition interlock devices and even jail or prison time. Be smart and fight the charges. Trust experience.

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Being Convicted of a Crime in Santa Ana can have Long-Term Consequences

A recent article in The New York Times highlights the struggle of those looking to seal or expunge a criminal record in Santa Ana. Drug charges, theft crimes and other misdemeanor and felony offenses can make it difficult or impossible to obtain certain jobs or hold certain occupational licenses.

Some charges can't be expunged. And even traffic violations, like DUI, can make it difficult to obtain certain jobs. Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers understand the long-term ramifications of having a criminal record and we encourage you to fight criminal charges. The short-term cost of the fight often pales in comparison to the long-term cost of a serious criminal conviction.
The Times tells the story of a 38-year-old woman who has trained in medical administration and completed a degree in psychology at the University of California, Berkley in the 14 years since she was convicted of robbing a video store in 1997. Still, that old conviction has cost her more than a dozen job opportunities since graduating from college last year.

And the Internet is making it cheaper and easier than ever before for an employer to conduct a criminal background check; almost 90 percent of employers in a recent survey said they conducted criminal background checks on some or all applicants.

The problem is not going away; some 65 million Americans (about 1 in 5) have a criminal record, according to a recent report by the National Employment Law Project. And each year about 700,000 are released from state and federal prisons.

Advocates say it's a form of discrimination. But employers are under no obligation to abide by the same rules that protect women, minorities and the disabled. Being a convicted criminal is not a protect class in today's workforce.

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Cell phone Apps Reveal Location of Drunk Driving Checkpoints in Santa Ana

Democrat senators are trying to stop cell phone apps from giving drivers the location of DUI checkpoints. Applications, such as "PhantomAlert", are available on various cell phones, including the iPhone, the Android and the Blackberry. Government officials are not happy as law enforcement continues to emphasize making DUI arrests in Orange County and elsewhere in the United States.
Our Santa Ana DUI lawyers urge you to contact an experienced attorney immediately if you're facing DUI charges as a result of a drunk driving checkpoint stop. Such traffic stops are strictly regulated. Consequently, more grounds exist upon which to challenge charges stemming from a checkpoint stop.

Four senators wrote the cell phone providers letters asking that they remove and discontinue the applications that reveal the locations of DUI checkpoints, according to The New York Times. Their letter included their belief that the application will just detour drunk drivers, "putting innocent families and children at risk,."

"These applications are nothing more than a how-to guide in avoiding law enforcement and they provide drunk drivers with the tools they need to go undetected," argued Senator Schumer of New York.

"PhantomAlert", one of the most popular of the of the checkpoint apps, possesses approximately 500,000 locations in its database. The database is added to every time a driver sends in real-time alert. Based on GPS data, the next smart phone that is running the app receives a warning. The application, that alerts drivers of speed traps as well, costs a mere $9.99 a month.

"With a person dying every 50 minutes in a drunk-driving crash, this technology should not be promoted to your customers," the letter continued. "In fact, it shouldn't even be available."

The companies argue that they're actually helping out drivers and other motorists; that knowing law enforcement is conducting sobriety checkpoints can discourage a driver from getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink.

After all, law enforcement has long claimed the sobriety checkpoints act as a deterrent.

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Santa Ana Drunk Driving Charges a St. Patrick's Day Weekend Risk

Santa Ana DUI Defense Lawyer Vincent J. LaBarbera Jr. and the staff at our law offices wish each of you a safe and enjoyable St. Patrick's Day weekend. Please celebrate responsibly and call if you need legal help.

New Santa Ana reports a host of activities that begin today and last through the weekend. Whether it's live music, food or drink, St. Patrick's Day has plenty to offer and many will continue the annual celebration right on into the weekend.
While St. Patrick's Day began as a religious holiday, and is a national holiday in Ireland, the United States has claimed it as its own for more than two centuries. It is among the busiest days of the year for restaurants and bars and is one of the nation's leading days for beer consumption.

Authorities plan sobriety checkpoints and roving patrols. Both increase the risk of questionable arrests, infringe upon a motorist's rights to be free from unlawful search and seizure, and result in stops and drunk driving charges in Santa Ana that involve questionable probable cause. Consequently, such charges can and should be vigorously contested. The penalties for drunk driving are quite literally becoming more severe by the day -- especially those for a repeat violations. A first offense is often the most beatable; failure to contest the charge will result in a drunk driving conviction on your record, will expose you to more severe penalties in the future (as if the penalties for first-time offenders are not severe enough) and could increase the likelihood that you will be stopped by law enforcement and cited again.

Just this week the Sacramento Bee reported on a new law requiring motorists convicted of drunk driving in California to install an ignition interlock device. The device prohibits a car from starting if it detects alcohol on a driver's breath. The newspaper laments the fact that the devices are being installed in the car of just one out of every 10 offenders as the program gets under way.

We lament the fact that they are being installed at all; the law is a perfect illustration of the increasing penalties and embarrassment that accompany a DUI conviction in Santa Ana or elsewhere in the state. In the past 8 months more than 13,000 motorists have been convicted of drunk driving in just four counties -- Sacramento, Los Angeles, Alameda and Tulare.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported earlier this year that the government is working to develop a breathalyzer machine that could be made standard equipment in automobiles -- or permanently installed in the vehicle's of offenders.

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