Sunday, September 27, 2015

Torrance DUI Lawyer Discusses Under 21 Drinking and Driving

The problem of drinking and driving for underage drivers has hit a record this year.  The state of California has considered changing the way it deals with and punishes the offenders.   Here is a brief overview of the problem from the perspective of a recent AAA study:
  1. The drunk driving control system treats drivers under the age of 21 differently from those over 21 in several respects. Under minimum drinking age laws, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to drink, while under zero tolerance laws it is illegal for anyone under 21 to drive after drinking any alcohol. Many drivers under 21, and most under the age of 18, attend high school or college. These settings provide opportunities for education and information and for policies regarding alcohol use.

    In 1999, only 13% of drinking drivers in fatal crashes were under the age of 21. However, young drivers may be the most important target for drunk driving preven- tion and control measures. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s adults. Habits formed today carry over to tomorrow: safe driving, drinking practices, respect or disrespect for the law. Numerous studies show that young people have adopted the ideas of not drinking and driving far more than have their elders. Nevertheless, young people continue to drink, in large numbers in defiance of the minimum drinking age.

    The laws, programs, and educational efforts directed at young people clearly have had an effect, but they must be continued. Each year brings a new cohort of beginning drivers who must decide for themselves whether or not to drink and drive.

    Zero tolerance laws provide a special opportunity. The typical punishment for violating a zero tolerance law is suspension or revocation of the driver’s license. The driver’s license is a precious symbol of independence and mobility for young people, therefore a punishment of license confiscation should play an important role is any consequence.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What Should I Be Doing Prior To My DMV Hearing?

In any DUI case a DMV hearing will be scheduled to challenge the suspension of your drivers license.  In the days leading up to the hearing these are the things you should know:

1.  Your drivers license will remain valid pending an outcome at the hearing.  You may receive a new temporary license but do not panic if that does not come right away.  If a hearing date is set you will get a stay of the suspension therefore nothing will happen to your license pending a decision. If you are stopped by the police they will see your license is valid in the computer.

2.  You may want to go to the DMV and get a photo ID unless you have a passport or other government identification.

3.  Be sure to contact any potential witnesses, including anyone that was with you the night you were arrested, let them know they may be needed to testify at the hearing and to keep that date and time open just in case.

4.  You will be notified whether you will need to appear in person or by phone.  This decision will be made once the discovery has been recieved from the DMV.  For more information read the the article: what happens at a DMV hearing.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Preparing For The Upcoming DMV Hearing In Your DUI Case

Anyone facing a DMV hearing for DUI needs to understand that there is always a substantial risk the Department will "rubber stamp" the conclusions made by the arresting officer.  Sometimes, even though the attorney may raise legitimate legal defenses and objections to the evidence the DMV may ignore those assertions and uphold the suspension based on the alleged blood alcohol level as reported by the breath machine or blood test. The good news is that we may be able to avoid an actual suspension and allow you to keep your license, at least for work, school, etc. The following is what you must do immediately to prepare for this outcome:

1. Obtain proof of insurance by way of an SR-22 that must be filed with the DMV.
This is done electronically directly from the company to the DMV. For help with
this contact your own insurance agent or call one of the companies that my past clients have used, see the attachments provided. One school of thought is that it is better to avoid getting the SR-22 from your primary insurer.  Here is what one insurance professional has to say about the subject: 

 "An SR22 is a certificate of insurance that the state of California requires all DUI offenders to obtain if convicted of a DUI. One of the biggest mistakes a DUI victim can make is calling their insurance provider to obtain an SR22. When you call your insurance company and ask them for an SR22, they automatically run your driving record. It is at this point that they discover about your DUI causing your rates to automatically sky rocket. An insurance company knows exactly why you need and SR22 filing and they are eager to use it against you."

  For help with obtaining an SR22, call an insurance professional or one of the experts below, let them know I represented you and they can explain the process in greater detail. It is best to do this prior to the hearing

I encourage my clients to compare prices with various providers for the best price.

Edgar Ruelas
Los Angeles Sales Manager Silver Coast Insurance Services 

Cliff Jones
Fresh Start Insurance Services, Inc.
Anaheim, Calif. 92807
Office-(844) 44-FRESH (37374)
Direct- (657) 220-9317
Mobile-(310) 529-1049

2. Start the enrollment process for the AB 541 alcohol education program. Understand that you may be required to complete a longer program depending upon the outcome in Court, however, the AB541 is the minimum required class and discuss the possibility of a longer program with the provider up front, such as a 9 month class in cases where your BAC was above a .15.
A complete list of first offender programs can be found at this site: California DUI Schools.

The program will file the enrollment with the DMV, confirm with them that they have done so. Let them know you want to "self enroll" in the AB541 for DMV purposes, that there is no Court disposition and you do not have any paperwork from the Court.

If you have additional questions feel free to contact Torrance DUI Attorney Matthew Ruff.

Monday, September 14, 2015

California Supreme Court Rules a Detention Occurs When Police Pull Behind Parked Car With Lights Flashing

In many DUI cases a person is parked when the police arrive and arrest the subject.  Here, the Supreme Court defines a detention to occur when the police pull in behind a car an turn on emergency lights.

Here are the facts in People vs. Brown, A deputy sheriff investigating an emergency call reporting a fight in progress pulled his car behind Brown's parked vehicle and activated his emergency lights. The officer found Brown to be intoxicated and he was charged with felony driving under the influence. Brown moved to suppress evidence of his intoxication as the fruit of an unlawful detention. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Brown had not been detained until the deputy observed that he was intoxicated and, at that point, the deputy had a reasonable suspicion that Brown had been driving under the influence. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The California Supreme Court granted review. 

Held: Affirmed. An officer seizes a person when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen. In situations involving a show of authority, a person is seized if, in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave, or otherwise terminate the encounter, and if the person actually submits to the show of authority. (Brendlin v. California (2007) 551 U.S. 249, 255.) Without adopting a bright-line rule, the court concluded that a reasonable person in Brown's position would not have felt free to leave, and Brown demonstrated submission to police authority by staying in his car. Under the totality of the circumstances, Brown was detained. 

However, the Court declined to dismiss the DUI because the detention was supported by reasonable suspicion and was justified because there was a reliable citizen's report of a violent fight potentially involving a firearm and the officer found Brown near the scene of the fight in an otherwise vacant alley only minutes later. (CCAP).  As a Torrance DUI Lawyer I have seen this scenario in many cases.  Usually the client is sleeping in the car when contacted.  This case can be used in those situations when the police gave no reason to detain, such as when the car is legally parked.

Why Is My Court Date Being Changed?

All DUI cases start out with a police report, blood test or breath test results and if the case involves an accident, a collision investigation report detailing the specifics of the incident.  Once these documents are prepared they are submitted to the local prosecutor for evaluation and determination of possible criminal charges.  The District Attorney will file what is called a formal " complaint" with the local Court that alleges the crimes charged and what they intend to prove.  Sometimes, however, the complaint is not filed before the date given to appear in Court.  When this occurs the person will be sent a new Court date.

Why does this happen?  Usually the arresting agency will not have submitted the necessary paperwork to the DA in order to file the case.  This paperwork may include the results of a blood test or other chemical test given.  In many cases there is a backlog at the local crime lab that does the analysis, sometimes the test is complete but the arresting agency is backlogged and simple hasn't submitted the final reports to the District Attorney. In some situations the DA has all of the reports but needs additional time to evaluate the evidence.  Sometimes, the file is sent back to the arresting agency for more information or the DA may require some additional investigation to finalize their decision on what charges, if any, to file. For example, a witness may need to be re-interviewed or some additional evidence may need to be tested.  In any case, the DA will usually notify the accused by way of a letter once the case is finally submitted and a new Court date will be issued.

It is important to remember that California Law gives the prosecutor one year to file a misdemeanor DUI and three years to file a felony charge.  If the prosecuting agency fails to file charges within this period of time then they will be barred by the statute of limitations.

During the period of time between the investigation and the formal filing of charges the DA is under no obligation to release any information or reports.  All official reports will be turned over to the defense attorney only once the complaint is filed with the Court.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Two Test Requirement In Breath Testing

Many folks stopped for DUI will be asked to submit to so roadside breath test prior to arrest.  These roadside preliminary breath tests are a commonly used tool by law enforcement in a Torrance and many other cities in Los Angeles.

Problems arise however when the officer only obtains one sample of breath.  All scientific studies reveal that duplicate sample are necessary to achieve a reliable result.  For example, The recommended guidelines for the use of breath testing results in law reinforcement: two breaths, taken two to ten minutes apart after observation / alcohol-deprivation period of fifteen minutes [Dubowski, K.M., National Safety Council Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs, October 1986.  Duplicate Breath- Alcohol Testing, Am J Forensic Med Pathol., 1988, Sep; 9(3): 272.]

 "The human variables on the accuracy of breath testing make duplicate testing mandatory.  It is well known that "with only one subject sample, it is not possible to know, with a reasonable degree of certainty that a random error did not occur in the subject test.  The rationale of requiring replicate analysis for any quantitative procedure is universally accepted." [Jones A.W., Precision, Accuracy and Relevance of Breath Alcohol Measurements, Modern Problems of Pharmacopsychiatry, Vol. 11, S. Krager, Basel, Switzerland 1976 pp  69-78].  The use of a breath test that only uses one sample should therefore be viewed with caution in a legal setting.

 If your DUI case only involves one breath blow contact an attorney to discuss strategies to throw out the test completely.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Judge George Bird, Getting Things Done In Torrance Court

For years Torrance Court has done without an EDP Court for misdemeanors.  What this meant was many cases languished for long periods of time before resolving and the dispositions between the various cities were inconsistent.  That all changed when Judge George Bird was appointed to the Torrance Bench last month.  Now, cases are settling faster than before and the calendar is being cleared on a much more expedited basis.

Many attorneys are applauding the change because it creates an environment where sentences are handed down on a much more even handed consistent level with little variation between the city prosecutors.  For example, a couple months ago if a person got arrested in Manhattan Beach for drunk in public the offer was quite different from a  person arrested in Redondo or Hermosa Beach.  This was unfair and confusing to the general public.  As a local DUI attorney in Torrance I can say there has been a marked improvement of efficiency with the new EDP Court and Judge Bird at the helm in Division 3.

Many attorneys have also commented on the fact that Judge Bird has no problem disagreeing with a prosecutor when the offer they are making is unfair under the specific circumstances of the case.  Overall his appointment has been well received by the local bar.

DUI cases in Torrance are processed differently than in other Courts.  The following is a summary of how cases are assigned:

Initially all cases are heard in Division 3 on the second floor of the Courthouse.  This Courtroom does all misdemeanor arraignments from all cities, including Redondo Beach, Hermosa, Gardena, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Peninsula and of course the city of Torrance.  If a not guilty plea is entered the case is "sent out" to another division for all purposes including trial.  The division breakdown is as follows:

Division 2, Judge Sandra Thompson:  Redondo and Hermosa
Division P, Judge Nicole Bershon:  Gardena, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Manhattan Beach
Division 5, Judge Gary Tanaka:  City of Torrance

All felony DUI cases start in Div 4, Judge Thomas Sokolov.