Sonoma County officials find drunk man driving stolen U-Haul

Many in Encino often wonder what may be the differentiating factor between one facing misdemeanor and felony DUI charges. Factors such as one’s personal history of DUI-related offenses may come into play when making such a determination, yet often it is the circumstances in which a DUI arrest was made or the results that come from an accident caused by one who was allegedly driving while intoxicated. One might be at a greater risk of being charged with felony DUI if it is believed that he or she was involved in other crimes or moving violations while also being under the influence.

A recent case in Sonoma County could very well end up producing such a charge given the wide array of offenses allegedly involved. At the center of the incident is a Nevada man whom authorities questioned after noticing that the windshield, side mirrors and headlight on the U-Haul truck he was driving were shattered. Upon approaching the vehicle, they noticed the smell of alcohol on the man. He claimed that a “crazy person” attacked the truck with a bat, causing the damage. Also in the vehicle were his wife and three children, none of whom were wearing seatbelts. He was subsequently arrested for DUI and child endangerment. A charge of vehicle theft may soon follow, as it was revealed that the U-Haul he was driving was stolen.

Even with one facing a myriad of charges in relation to a DUI, he or she should still be protected from facing harsher penalties that what his or her alleged actions may have warranted. One may ensure him or herself such protection by securing the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: Sonoma Valley Patch “Reno Man Driving Stolen U-Haul Arrested For DUI With Kids, Wife In Truck: CHP” Avants, Maggie, June 30, 2017

Why was my driver’s license suspended?

Have you received a notice in the mail from the California Department of Motor Vehicles saying that your driver’s license has been suspended? Did this surprise you? If so, you are not alone as many times such notification does not happen directly after another event and may not always be understood.

According to the Supreme Court of California, there are several reasons for which the state DMV may end up issuing a suspension of your driving privileges. Interestingly, two of those reasons have nothing to do with driving at all. One is for the failure to pay child support as ordered by a court and the other is for acts of vandalism.

While the remaining causes of a drivers’ license suspension do relate to driving, the suspension may still be unexpected. For example, if you overlooked paying the fine you were required to pay for a traffic ticket, your license could be suspended. The same thing can happen if you fail to carry approved automobile insurance or do not report a vehicle accident. Refusing a substance test, being convicted of impaired driving and consuming alcohol if you are 20 years old or younger may also result in a drivers’ license suspension. Finally, if you end up with too many points on your driving record, the DMV could suspend your license. 

This information is not intended to provide legal advice but is instead meant to give California residents an overview of the types of situations that may end up finding them without the legal right to drive for some period of time.

State looks at changing approach to some traffic infractions

Any California driver who has ever received even so much as a speeding ticket knows that the cost of a single traffic ticket can add up fast. For some people, the addition of surcharges can make paying a fine all but impossible and then a downward spiral can begin that may even lead to a driver’s license being suspended.

State lawmakers are actually trying to look at options that may reduce the number of people who have their licenses suspended for some select infractions. Certain traffic tickets might be handled in civil court while others are handled as criminal offenses. Of those, some involve the payment of fines while others may tack on jail sentences as part of the penalties. It is that former group of criminal infractions that do not involve jail time that lawmakers want to move to civil court.

Examples of these include parking in a handicapped spot illegally, changing lanes without a turn signal or failing to stop at a red light. Other offenses like driving under the influence would remain as criminal offenses. The effort is part of an attempt to correct what some assert is an unfair assessment of surcharges or fines by courts. It may also ease the burden on some courts as well as drivers.

California residents who have been cited for a traffic infraction might want to talk to a lawyer to discuss their options for fair treatment.

Source: Mercury News, “California judges want to decriminalize traffic tickets, reducing fines and license suspensions,” Patrick May, June 5, 2017

Can you get an open container ticket for transporting alcohol?

You’re sitting at home on a Friday night with no plans of going out, but then your phone buzzes. It’s a text from one of your friends, telling you to come over for a drink.

You decide to go, but you know your friend’s taste in alcohol, and it’s not the same as your own. There’s likely to be nothing but beer at the house, and you prefer bourbon.

Since you didn’t know you were going and couldn’t plan ahead, you don’t have any unopened bottles of bourbon in the house. You do have a half-full bottle from last weekend, though. You haven’t been drinking at all, but you grab the bottle, toss it in the passenger seat of the car, and start driving to your friend’s house.

On the way, you swerve for a cat that runs across the road. Flashing lights flip on behind you, painting the inside of your car in red and blue. You pull over, and the officer comes up and says that he or she thought you may be intoxicated because of the way you swerved. You’re not, and your BAC comes in at 0.00 when you take the breath test, but then the officer spots the half-full bottle of bourbon on the seat next to you.

Sober as you are, you get a ticket for having an open container.

Is this legal?

It feels very unfair. You know that open container laws are to prevent people from drinking and driving, but you weren’t drinking and driving. You were just transporting the alcohol to your friend’s house, where you were going to drink it safely and responsibly. You never drink an entire bottle in one sitting, so you’re naturally going to have these half-full bottles at the house. Do you really have to buy a sealed one any time you want to go somewhere else?

You do. Open container laws give police the power to hand out tickets to people simply for having these containers in the vehicle, even if they haven’t been drinking. Likewise, a driver can get a citation if a passenger is drinking in the car and has an open container, even if the driver hasn’t been drinking at all.

That doesn’t mean there’s no way around this. For example, if you order an entire bottle of wine at a restaurant and there is some left over, they’ll put the bottle into a sealed bag for you to take home. You may also be able to transport the alcohol in the trunk of the car, meaning your real mistake was tossing it on the passenger seat next to you.

As you can see, it’s very important to understand the letter of the law. Even if what you’re doing seems logical and safe, you could face charges for a simple oversight. When this happens, be sure you know all of the legal defense options that you have.

How can I avoid distracted driving?

As a California driver, you know that the road can be a dangerous place. This is especially true if you partake in distracted driving behaviors, which will not only imperil you but also put other drivers in danger. Accordingly, it’s important to know the proper tips for avoiding distracted driving behaviors to ensure that safety remains a top priority.

Farmers Insurance has a few common sense recommendations you can utilize to avoid distracted driving behaviors. For instance, take a moment to organize your belongings before setting out on the road to prevent the need for unnecessary distractions when you are behind the wheel. This can entail punching in GPS coordinates, placing your beverage in the cup holder or even having any money needed for tolls ready and accessible.

You can also keep distractions at bay by switching off your smart phone while driving. It can be difficult for many to unplug, especially when receiving notifications and the like. If your phone is turned off, you will be unable to respond until which time it is safe to do so. In some cases you can still utilize your vehicle’s GPS functionality while switching off all other notifications.

If you’re driving with a passenger, enlist his or her help when at all possible. This can entail allowing your passenger to operate the radio, sending or replying to texts or using GPS equipment. Just be sure that you keep your conversation to a minimum, which can be another form of distraction for a driver. Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking hands-free functionality is the answer to distracted driving. This technology should also be approached cautiously in order to keep a focus on safety.

Understanding why some recommend refusing a breath test

Many in Encino likely know that by refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test after having been stopped by law enforcement officials, one could face serious consequences. Such a choice will likely result in one’s arrest, followed by a license revocation, as well as fines and potentially imprisonment. Yet there are still some legal experts who recommend that people refuse such tests. This may prompt one to question why?

Yet first things first: Why is one compelled to take a sobriety test upon request? Implied consent laws basically state that by the mere act of driving, one agrees to submit to chemical testing to the check his or her level of suspected impairment. According to California’s implied consent law (which can be found in Section 23612 of the California Vehicle Code), a refusal to submit to such testing will result in one’s license automatically being suspended for one year. That time increases to two and then three years for any subsequent refusals within a 10-year period.

However, the law also goes on to state that one arrested for driving under the influence has the right to determine which form of testing he or she would prefer: blood or breath. Research data shared by the online media company Attn: shows that several elements can influence the outcome of a breathalyzer test, including:

  •          Breath interacting with mucous in the throat
  •          Differing lung capacity
  •          Obstructive lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis
  •          Anxiety and stress
  •          The use of mouthwash or cough drops

Each of these factors can call into question the accuracy of a breathalyzer test. Thus, a blood test may provide a much more accurate measurement (along with potentially sparing one from being charged with driving while intoxicated if it comes in at below .08 percent).