Sunday, August 31, 2014

Long Beach Expected To Ramp Up DUI Checkpoints This Labor Day

Law enforcement agencies in Long Beach announced their intent to increase the number of sobriety checkpoints over the holiday weekend according to officials.  The city has always taken an active approach in curbing drunk driving through aggressive enforcement of drunk driving laws within its municipal boundaries.

The city is part of the avoid the 100 campaign that enlists the services of over one hundred police departments to encourage officers on patrol to keep a careful lookout for impaired drivers.  According to NHTSA, more people are killed by inebriated drivers than any other cause.  The police will seek to use this final holiday of the summer to deter partygoers from drinking and then driving.

The area has always had the most targeted enforcement of DWI motorists, says one Long Beach DUI Lawyer.  The officers that participate in this campaign will receive special training in spotting the signs of tipsy drivers such as weaving, lane straddling and other vehicle code infractions that are notorious signs of impaired drivers.  The limit for alcohol in California is .08 and that level will be checked by anyone suspected of driving under the influence.

We can also expect to see an increased number of people filling up the jails in Long Beach and that will carry over into a higher number of Court filings for Vehicle Code 23152, according to the attorney.  The punishment for a first offense DUI is up to 6 months in jail, a fine of upwards of  $2000 and completion of an alcohol education program.  In addition to the penalties in criminal court, the DMV can take a drivers license for up to one year and require the installation of an ignition interlock device on any car they drive.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Torrance Attorney, Matthew Ruff Presented With Coveted "Client Distinction Award" For Second Year In A Row

The nation's largest attorney rating site AVVO, has again awarded Torrance DUI Attorney Matthew Ruff with its annual client distinction award based on the number of positive client reviews and favorable feedback regarding his representation of their case.  The award is based on a number of criteria such as knowledge of the law, communication ability, how well the attorney kept his clients informed and level of experience.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Miranda Rule Not Applicable When Questioning Is Minimal

There are a litany of cases interpreting the application of the Miranda rule in criminal cases.  For example, in DUI cases the courts have ruled that questioning about intoxication prior to conducting field sobriety tests does not trigger the advisement of rights required by Miranda.  In this recent case the appeals court extends that logic to cases where the questioning is limited to two questions of a handcuffed suspect.

The facts are as follows : Castillo and two others were handcuffed prior to the execution of a search warrant. One officer informed Castillo and the others that they were not under arrest, that they were being detained for the purpose of serving a search warrant, and asked who was responsible for the residence so the warrant could be served. After Castillo responded that he was responsible for the apartment, the officer asked if Castillo was responsible for all the property in the residence and Castillo said yes. The search was conducted, contraband was found, and Castillo was arrested. On appeal, Castillo contended that the officer's questions were intended to elicit incriminating statements and should have been suppressed because they were asked prior to Miranda warnings. Under the totality of the circumstances, Castillo was not in custody for purposes of Miranda. When police execute a search warrant on a residence, they may detain the occupants to prevent flight, minimize the risk of harm to the officers, facilitate orderly completion of the search, and determine the relationship of an individual to the premises. 

The justices opined that It is not unreasonable to detain an occupant in handcuffs for the duration of the search of the residence. Based on well established case law, the police properly detained Castillo during the search and he was not in custody when the officer questioned him. The trial court's finding that Castillo was not interrogated was supported by the evidence. Any error was harmless because other evidence found during the search established Castillo's dominion and control over the residence. 

These scenarios play out quite regularly when the police investigate criminal activity.  Many legal scholars have criticized how far Courts have gone to distiguish cases where Miranda does not apply.  One Long Beach Criminal Attorney comments that the police are given way too much freedom to interrogate suspects without advising them of their legal rights.  Notwithstanding that sentiment, the law will contiually be interpreted based on the changing times.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Federal Court Upholds Detention Citing Recent DUI Case

In United States v. Edwards the federal court for the ninth circuit has upheld a criminal case citing the recent DUI decision of Navarette.   In the opinion, the Justices ruled that a 911 caller provided officers reasonable suspicion to stop defendant; the stop did not become an arrest when officers drew guns on defendant and handcuffed him.

Here are the relevant facts.   Police received a 911 call from an unidentified man reporting that a "young black male" was shooting at passing cars, including the caller's. Officers responded to the area and stopped defendant and another man. Defendant was searched and a gun was found. After his motion to suppress was denied, he pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a gun. He appealed the conviction arguing that his fourth amendment rights were violated by the police and, although this was not a dui case, the court followed the reasoning of a US Supreme Court drunk driving decision in ruling against the defendant. 

The appeals court upheld the conviction.  Saying : "The totality of the circumstances determines whether and when an investigatory stop becomes an arrest." Two components of the detention are examined: (1) the intrusiveness of the stop (i.e., how aggressive were the officers; how much was defendant's liberty restricted), which is considered from the perspective of the person stopped; and (2) the justification for the officers' actions, which is determined from the officers' perspective. Here, the officers actions were intrusive—they drew their guns, forced the defendant to kneel, and handcuffed him. But this does not automatically convert an investigatory stop into an arrest that requires probable cause. The officers' conduct was reasonable because defendant was the only person in the vicinity of the shooter's reported location who fairly matched the 911 caller's description and the 911 caller provided specific facts regarding the shooter's clothing, height, and age. The officers had reason to believe defendant could be armed and dangerous, having possibly just committed a violent crime. Their concern for their safety justified the tactics they used to stabilize the situation before investigating further. 

According to Bakersfield DUI Attorney Bruce Blythe, this case is one of a stream of decisions that curtails the liberty we all enjoy on the roads of america.  The decision seems to follow the same reasoning in allowing law enforcement to stop citizens on nothing more than an anonymous tip that a crime is occurring and that is indeed troubling to many criminal lawyers who see a slippery slope if this case is followed says Blythe.

The landmark case on anonymous stops, California v. Navarette, decided earlier in the year continues to have deep and wide spreading impact on the way traffic stops are conducted.  Indeed, the Court held that brief investigatory stops are permissible when officers have a particularized and objective basis to suspect a person of criminal activity. When evaluating investigatory stops resulting from telephone tips it must be determined whether the tips "exhibited sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop." In Navarette v. California (2014) 134 S.Ct. 1683, the Court held an anonymous call provided reasonable suspicion for a stop of a suspected DUI driver because: (1) the caller claimed to be an eyewitness to dangerous activity; (2) the caller reported the event soon after it occurred; (3) the caller used the 911 system, which can be traced to origin, guarding against false reports; and (4) the caller created reasonable suspicion of an ongoing and dangerous crime—drunk driving. Similar to Navarette, here the caller used the 911 system, gave specific details regarding the shooter, had eyewitness knowledge of the shooting, and reported an ongoing emergency situation. This provided officers with reasonable suspicion to stop defendant. 

Although the case is not binding on California, its reasoning and logic can have persuasive power on judges in similar cases. Special thanks to CCAP for its analysis.