Friday, January 24, 2014

7 New DMV Laws for 2014

1. Clean Air Vehicle Decals/"HOV Stickers" (AB 266, SB 286):Cars with Clean Air Vehicle decals that use carpool lanes without having to meet minimum occupancy requirements will be allowed to continue doing so until January 1, 2019.

2. Commercial Driver's License (AB 1047): Drive a bus or commercial truck? This new law changes the requirements for the Class B and Class C license (commercial) and changes requirements for out-of-state license holders.

3. DMV Vehicle Registration Pilot Program (SB 806): This law allows for the DMV to look into alternatives to registration stickers, paper registration cards, and electronic license plates. Another law would need to be passed to implement any findings or recommendations about modernizing the car registration process.

4. Registration and Vehicle Transfers Between Family Members (AB 443): Want to transfer ownership of a vehicle to a relative or living trust? Pay your parking and toll violation fines and penalties first.

5. Teen Drivers (SB 194): This law will "prohibit a person who is under 18 years of age from using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication while driving, even if it is equipped with a hands-free device." Because duh.

6. Veterans License Plates (AB 244): The California Department of Veterans Affairs will sponsor a special interest license plate if it meets minimum requirements and pre-sells 7,500 plates.

7. Bicycles: Passing Distance (AB 1371): Taking effect on September 16, 2014, AB 1371, also known as the Three Feet for Safety Act, this law requires drivers passing a bicycle in the same direction to pass with "no less than 3 feet between any part of the vehicle and any part of the bicycle or driver." If that distance can't be maintained, then the driver must slow down to a "reasonable and prudent speed."  Drivers who fail to do this can incur a fine, even if no accident or collision takes place.

Source: California Department of Motor Vehicles

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Justin Bieber Arrested on Suspicion of DUI, Drugs and Resisting Arrest

Justin Bieber was arrested for a DUI, resisting arrest, and driving without a license after he was stopped by Miami Beach police officers for street racing his yellow Lamborghini. Shortly after 4:00 am, Bieber was booked in a Miami jail when he failed field sobriety test (FST) and "made some statements that he had consumed some alcohol, and that he had been smoking marijuana and consumed some prescription medication," according to Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez.

This is yet another arrest, in a series of recent legal problems for Bieber. In California, a comparable arrest would've gotten his Lamborghini impounded for 30 days, if his license was in fact suspended. Also, the street racing would potentially be a separate charge for reckless driving, and the legal BAC level for Bieber would've been 0.00%.

Bieber supposedly made several admissions to police officers, which were very incriminating statements. Although it's important to always be courteous to any police officer you come into contact with, you are not obligated to answer their questions. You should be especially weary answering any questions if you're being investigated for a DUI.

Since Bieber has never had a prior conviction for DUI, and there was no traffic collision while driving, it appears that he's going to likely escape this brush with a slap on the wrist and no jail. The prosecutor knows that this case already has a lot of publicity, so they can't be too light on him. On the other hand, Bieber is still a young impressionable adolescent that has achieved extraordinary notoriety from his talent in entertainment. 

Although this type of behavior is obviously dangerous to human lives, we live in a society that still reinforces it because Bieber is now demonstrating the bad boy image that has promoted many celebrities in the past. Let's just hope he doesn't go over the edge.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How Can I Clear My DUI Record?

The only way to clear a DUI from your criminal record is by petitioning the court for an expungement of the conviction.  Anyone convicted of a Misdemeanor DUI, or Felony DUI where state prison wasn’t imposed and the conviction didn’t carry a strike, is eligible for an expungement pursuant to California Penal Code §1203.4.  This law permits a Judge to technically withdraw your plea of guilty, enter a plea of not guilty, and “dismiss” your case.  This is the only way to get a conviction off of your criminal record.

An expungement petition for a DUI, requires the petitioner to show the Judge that it is “in the interest of justice” to grant the petition.   The problem is that it’s very ambiguous as to what is considered to be in the interest of justice.  It leaves a lot of discretion in the Judge’s hands, to decide whether or not to grant the petition.  It is important to hire an experienced DUI attorney, who knows exactly what types of things the court is looking for to grant the petition.

It is important to take immediate steps to increase the chances of getting the petition granted, and a good DUI attorney knows how to properly advise a client what additional things should be included in the petition.  A simple petition just requires a filled out judicial form and blank court order, but it is usually insufficient for most Judges, if that is all you submit.  You must file the petition with the court and serve the prosecutor’s office.  There is also a filing fee for the petition, which varies by county.

Remember, an expungement does not clear your record in regard to priorability.  This means that if you are arrested for suspicion of DUI, within 10 years from the date you were arrested for your prior DUI (not date you were convicted), even if the matter was expunged, you can be charged with a second offense DUI.  Aside from that, you would still be required to explain a conviction/expungement, if applying for any California State license or governmental position.

On a good note, when applying for any private jobs, you would be legally permitted to deny ever being convicted of a Misdemeanor, once expunged.  A good expungement attorney can greatly increase your chances of getting the petition granted, and can answer your questions about an expungement.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What is the Safest Way to Exit a DUI Checkpoint?

Upon entering a DUI checkpoint in California, you should notice several posted signs indicating that there is a checkpoint ahead. Once you see this notification, you should look to the left and to the right for a road to turn off on. If there is no road to turn off on, you should look for a driveway to enter so that you can make a legal u-turn. Officers are instructed not to stop anyone solely for the reason of avoiding a checkpoint. You may legally avoid a checkpoint, but don’t break the law in order to avoid the checkpoint.

DUI checkpoints are one of the few circumstances where law enforcement officers are permitted to stop you, even if they have no reasonable suspicion to do so.  Although this appears to be a serious violation of an individual’s 4th Amendment Constitutional rights, which protects people from invasion of privacy by government officials, checkpoints are permitted based on the rationale that it is considered a minor intrusion on privacy to stop someone quickly and it serves a substantial public benefit to deter drunk drivers.  Thus, officers are permitted to stop you at a checkpoint for no reason, and they are even supposed to use a “neutral formula,” or simply an arbitrary number in deciding which cars to pull over.

State and Federal Courts have found that the public benefit outweighs the inconvenience of the intrusion on someone in a checkpoint stop.  However, the Courts have also found that in order to balance things out, law enforcement agencies must limit the intrusiveness by taking various measures to ensure the checkpoint is not overly burdensome and invasive on innocent people.  Thus, certain steps are generally taken in most checkpoint locations, to ensure that the potential stops are Constitutional.

In the landmark case on this topic, Ingersoll v. Palmer, the California Supreme Court analyzed a checkpoint stop that was conducted by the Burlingame Police Department in 1984. In that checkpoint location, there were substantial signs that indicated a checkpoint was ahead, and permitted drivers to exit the street prior to the checkpoint. This was considered by the Court as a major factor that limited the intrusiveness of the checkpoint stop. The primary purpose of the checkpoint location was to deter drunk drivers, not to simply catch drunk drivers. This was emphasized by the Court in their decision, and must be followed in California State Courts today. 

If you have been cited for a violation California VehicleCode § 23152(a) and § 23152(b), after you were stopped at a checkpoint, it is important to contact an experienced DUI Attorney right away.  There may be various arguments that your attorney can raise both during the negotiations process, and in a suppression motion, if they know what to argue. A good DUI attorney may successfully challenge the Constitutionality of checkpoint stops, both in court and at the appellate level.  If a checkpoint stop is found to be Unconstitutional by a Judge, then your case will get dismissed.  The right attorney can truly impact your case, especially when they are knowledgeable, experienced, and have a proven track record in the field of DUI. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

If I'm Pulled Over for DUI Should I Refuse the Breathalyzer Test?

The only circumstances under which you should submit to a preliminary breathalyzer test in the field in California, is if you’re under 21 and requested to do so by an officer, on DUI probation and are required to submit as part of your terms and conditions, or if you did not consume any alcohol within 24 hours.

The preliminary breathalyzer is generally a voluntary test and the results are usually not reliable. BAC results, with these devices, commonly read higher than someone’s actual BAC level.  Scientific studies have shown that breathalyzers provide false high readings during the absorptive phase, which can last for an extended period of time after your last drink. Also most of these devices do not have certain mechanisms, such as a “slope detector,” which factors in contaminants like mouth alcohol and provides a safeguard for the reliability in the results. Thus, the results do not reflect your BAC level and are likely to register higher than what your BAC level actually is.

So when confronted by an officer conducting a DUI investigation in California that asks you to submit to a breathalyzer in the field, before you are arrested, you must politely inform him that you know your constitutional rights to refuse this test.  Tell him you’ve been advised that the breathalyzers may falsely misrepresent your actual BAC level and that you don’t want to submit to anything that could improperly incriminate you. You should have the same response ready when the officer requests field sobriety tests.

A common public misconception is that this preliminary breathalyzer test will show you’re innocent (below 0.08%), and the officer will then let you go.  But, as explained above, you may be below 0.08% and still register well above if you’re still absorbing alcohol.  Also, even if you’re below 0.08%, you can still be arrested and charged with a DUI under California Vehicle Code § 23152(a).

By refusing to submit to the breathalyzer in the field, and refusing the field sobriety tests, you can limit the amount of evidence the officer and prosecutor can use against you. This would allow a qualified DUI attorney to potentially challenge the constitutionality of the arrest, with a suppression motion.  It would also help in negotiating a plea, because it would limit the prosecutor’s evidence in your case.  Finally, it would make it more difficult for a prosecutor to prove you were DUI, beyond a reasonable doubt, in trial.

Remember, this information is specifically in regard to breathalyzer tests in the field, not after an arrest is made.  There are a lot of separate things to consider about the issue of whether to submit to a breath or blood test, which is not mentioned above.   Again, in order to fully utilize this information, you must have a good DUI attorney on your side.  A qualified DUI attorney can truly impact your case, from getting you a much better result, to helping ease your mind during the process.

For more information, visit: What to do when arrested for a DUI