Category Archives: Drunk Driving

DUI vs DWI – What’s the Difference?

DUI vs. DWI – What’s the Difference?

You’ve likely heard both the terms “DUI” and “DWI” when it comes to drunk driving arrests, but what is the difference between the two?

  • DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence
  • DWI means Driving While Intoxicated
  • Both refer to driving while impaired by some substance, whether alcohol or drugs.

In some states, the terms DUI and DWI refer to two different infractions. A DUI indicates that a person has alcohol in their system. This infraction is easier to prove since a simple breathalyzer test can show the presence of alcohol. A DWI, however, is a little more complicated to prove since it requires significant evidence that the driver is absolutely impaired. Of the two, DWI’s tend to have more severe consequences and be a more serious charge.

Recently, most states have stopped separating DUI and DWI infractions. In these states, including California, the two terms are used interchangeably. The state of California exclusively uses DUI, though you may still see DWI used in some cases since it’s such a familiar term. Whether convicted of a DUI due to drugs or alcohol, in California the charges and penalties are the same.

DUI in California

A first time DUI offense in California is classified as a misdemeanor and the penalty typically involves 3-5 years of probation as well as hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fines. Additionally, an ignition interlock device is installed in the vehicle of the offender, requiring the driver to pass a breathalyzer test before operating the vehicle. Other penalties of a DUI conviction include required DUI school, a 6-month driver’s license suspension, and even up to six months in jail.

In the cases where a DUI is not the first offense, the consequences are far more severe. Longer jail time and more expensive fines are just the start. The requirements for DUI school are extended, and driver’s license suspensions may last longer.

Mr. Ticket Can Help With Your Drunk Driving Arrest

If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving in California, it’s important to seek legal representation right away. Mr. Ticket is practiced in representing clients in traffic violations and will protect your rights while helping to minimize consequences. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with a licensed attorney.

Misdemeanor vs. Felony Traffic Violations

Not all traffic violations are created equal, and the type of violation you face can have different consequences for your record, insurance, and drivers license. Today we’ll explain the differences and help you understand your options for each. 

Misdemeanor Traffic Violations

The usual and more common traffic violations are called “infractions” and would include speeding, improper stop at a stop sign, failure to signal, and even minor collisions. These are not classified as misdemeanor offenses, and as such are usually more minor in consequence (points on your license, fines). The following will often bump your violation into the class of misdemeanor: 

  • Someone is injured by the traffic violation
  • Property is damaged by the traffic violation, such as another’s car or mailbox
  • Driving without a license or insurance
  • Reckless driving
  • Disorderly conduct 

Misdemeanor traffic violations will go on your criminal record and can include court and legal fees. 

Felony Traffic Violations

If you’re guilty of committing a more serious traffic offense, you may be charged with a felony traffic violation. While these charges can depend on the severity of the incident and the local traffic laws, a felony traffic violation is usually associated with a DUI but can also include: 

  • Hit-and-run
  • Vehicular homicide or manslaughter
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI)
  • Racing
  • Fleeing law enforcement
  • Repeated offenses of driving without license or insurance

Felony traffic violations incur much more serious consequences, such as permanent felony marking on your record, a breathalyzer for DUIs, suspension or revocation of a drivers license, criminal court proceedings, and legal fees. 

If you’re facing a traffic violation, whether misdemeanor or felony charges, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation to protect your rights and minimize any consequences. We’re practiced and ready to help you.

California ignition interlock device law now in effect

Amid the hubbub of the holidays and the celebration of the new year, the news of a law that took effect Jan. 1 that affects people convicted of drunk driving in California could have been overlooked.

But it’s important to know.

The new law requires those with drunk driving convictions to install an ignition interlock device in their cars.

Years in the making, the law was signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 and finally has been enacted.

California did a trial of the ignition interlock device in four counties, including Los Angeles, beginning in 2010. The results were positive. A Department of Motor Vehicles study showed that first offenders who used the device were 74 percent less likely to drink and drive again.

“Expanding this already successful program statewide helps ensure those convicted of DUI do not become repeat offenders, and make our roads safer,” Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) said. “This is a win for communities up and down the Golden State.”

Under the new law, first offenders in California whose actions don’t cause injuries can choose whether they want a restricted license for a year or to use the device for six months. Both first offenders who cause an injury to someone else and second offenders must install an ignition interlock device for a year.

Drivers convicted of their third offense will be required to have the device installed for two years. For those with four or more offenses, it is mandatory for three years.

The law was celebrated by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“Ignition interlock devices are a game-changer in the fight to stop the revolving door of repeat offenders,” a representative said. “Law enforcement officers across the state are already working hard to keep drunk drivers off the road. [The law] helps the system work smarter by ensuring DUI offenders can continue to work, drive their kids to school, drive to and from treatment — they just cannot drive impaired.”

Making California roadways safer is a positive of the law. Still, not all people arrested on suspicion of DUI are guilty of a violation and deserve to fight the charges before being required to install such a device.

Remember, checkpoints look for more than drunk driving

Police can use DUI checkpoints in California, and they do it in an effort to catch drunk drivers. The checkpoints are effective because they essentially force all drivers to stop, rather than making police officers look for signs of impairment before conducting a traffic stop. Any drivers who are then notably intoxicated at the checkpoint can be arrested, while other drivers are free to go.

However, it is important to remember that the police really look for more than just drunk drivers. They look for any type of impairment, and the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) specifically wants to get the point across that “DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze.”

In reality, you can get a DUI for any type of impaired driving. You may be impaired by illegal drugs. You may be impaired by prescription drugs or medications. Regardless, if it impacts your driving, you could face arrest. Do not assume that you’ll get through the checkpoint just because you have not had anything to drink that night.

At the same time, the officers will ask to see every driver’s license at the time of the stop. Even if you are in no way impaired, you have to show that license and related documentation. You could theoretically get in trouble with the law if you are driving without a license, driving on a suspended license, driving without proper insurance or breaking a host of other traffic laws.

If you encounter a DUI checkpoint, the ramification can be serious, regardless of how much alcohol you’ve consumed. Make sure you know all of your rights and defense options.

What should I expect at a DUI checkpoint?

Driving on the roads of California can be very dangerous for even the most experienced drivers. A common problem across the country, even as law enforcement officials crack down, is driving under the influence. If you ever come across a DUI checkpoint in Encino you need to know what to expect so you can handle yourself appropriately.

For starters, you should always comply with police commands when in a DUI checkpoint. Listen to their instructions and do not talk back to them. If they ask for your license, insurance and registration make sure you provide the officer with every single document.

While speaking with you, the officer will be monitoring you for signs of inebriation. These include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, flush skin, the smell of alcohol on the breath and more. If you are suspected of driving under the influence, the officer will ask you to exit the vehicle.

You will likely be subjected to a myriad of roadside examinations to determine if you are under the influence. Follow all instructions and do not refuse these tests as it will land you in the back of the officer’s car immediately.

Make sure you are respectful at all times and don’t give the officer any other reason to arrest you. If arrested, you will be transported and administered a blood test once you are at the police station.

DUI checkpoints occur more than 2,500 times per year in the state of California. They are backed up by the state’s Constitution and the Constitution of the United States when it comes to the legality of them.

The accused in a DUI case has options — and hope

There are many myths about criminal law and, specifically, DUI law. But one of the greatest myths ever told about drunk driving charges is that the accused person has no chance at beating the charges, or that the charges will stick with them forever. That is completely untrue. There are many successful defense tactics that can be utilized to help the accused, or there could be unique circumstances in their case that are ripe for questioning and further investigation.

To begin, consider the actions of the police officer involved in your DUI and the actions of investigators after the fact. Did the officer read you your rights? Did he or she uphold your rights during the stop? Was the stop legal in the first place? Were any sobriety tests used? Was the instrument used for any breath, blood, or urine tests properly calibrated? What about the chain of custody for the evidence after it was collected? Was it followed to the letter of the law?

These are all important questions to have answers. And then there are the circumstances of your DUI. You may have been forced to drive drunk due to a threat of violence from another person. You may have unknowingly become intoxicated due to a spiked drink. You may have driven drunk by choice in a medical emergency to save someone’s life.

All in all, we have only discussed a few of the many possible problems that could come up with a DUI case presented by the prosecution. It behooves the person accused to discuss this matter with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Studies vary on Uber’s success against drunk driving

California drivers have been sharing the roads with Uber and Lyft drivers for more than five years, and while the companies claim to be a scourge to drunk driving, some scientists are not convinced. Researchers have had varied results when studying the effects of ride-sharing services have had on the rates of drunk driving in an area.

According to Fortune, a 2015 study conducted by Uber and Mothers Against Drunk Driving found that California counties that were serviced by Uber had 60 fewer car crashes each month by drivers under the age of 30 since July 2012. However, independent studies have not always agreed with these findings. A study published in July 2016 found that after comparing traffic data from before and after Uber and its competitors arrived in over 100 major metro areas across the U.S., there was no discernible difference in alcohol-related accidents or accident rates taken as a whole. This study provides a sharp contrast to the claims Uber has made on its contributions to the safety of the communities it services. 

Yet another study reported in the New York Times found that ride-sharing services did correlate with a decrease in alcohol-related accidents. The researchers from this independent study found that the boroughs of New York City, excluding Staten Island, saw a dip between 25 and 35 percent of alcohol-related car crashes since ridesharing came to the area in 2011 when compared to communities without these services. However, while Uber may feel comfortable claiming credit for these successes, scientists do not think that the correlation is enough to be considered conclusive evidence that this reduction is due entirely to ride-sharing services.

Alcohol a factor in auto-pedestrian accident in Santa Ana

Often, the circumstances of an arrest in Encino may prompt law enforcement officials to charge an individual with multiple offenses. An example may be were one was alleged driving drunk while also committing a moving violation or driving with a suspended or revoked license. In such situations, one facing criminal charges may be concerned that authorities may be overzealous in leveling accusations against him or her, perhaps in an attempt to make an example to others. It should be remembered in such cases that one should only face the charges that his or her actions may have warranted.

A myriad of charges appear to be awaiting the driver allegedly responsible for injuring five teens in Santa Ana. Three of the teens were taken to local trauma centers for treatment, while one suffered only minor injuries (the status of the fifth was not reported). The accident occurred when the vehicle involved struck a pole, injuring the two teens that were standing nearby. There were reportedly three teenage occupants traveling in the car, in which investigators subsequently found open alcohol containers. Not only to officials say that the driver was allegedly drunk, but they claim that the driver was also unlicensed and underage.

Kids and teens often may be prone to errors in judgment that, with benefit of added age and maturity, they would not necessarily make later on in life. The question is whether immature actions should deny them the opportunity to learn and apply those lessons later in life. Sometimes, the results of a teen’s irresponsible actions may leave law enforcement authorities feeling as though they have no choice but to pursue serious charges. In such a case, a teen (and his or her family) may benefit greatly from having an attorney to turn to.

Source: KABC-TV “Underage DUI driver strikes pedestrians in Santa Ana, police say” Lee, Greg, July 13, 2017

Open container laws in California

California residents and people who may live in other states but live in California should understand the state’s laws about alcohol in vehicles. Certainly there are clear drunk driving laws that govern the amount of alcohol a driver may have in their system before being arrested for driving under the influence. But, the laws do not stop there. There are also regulations that govern what and where alcohol may be kept or transported in vehicles.

Commonly referred to as open container laws, the California Legislative Information explains that no container of alcohol is allowed to be kept by a driver in any area of the vehicle where a person may ride if it has been opened. This includes even a bottle of wine that may appear full but that has had its seal broken, for example. It includes a bottle of any alcoholic beverage that has some of its contents gone.

American TriStar Insurance Services adds that these laws apply to passengers as well as to drivers. Both a passenger and a driver may be able to be cited if a container of alcohol is found in the seating area of a vehicle and is deemed to be an open container. Storing alcohol in a glove box or other compartment that is accessible from the front or back seat of the vehicle may also result in a violation. Open containers of alcohol may be stored or transported in a trunk.

If a vehicle has no trunk and is designated as an off-road vehicle, it may be transported legally if it is secured in a locked compartment or carrying case of some sort.




What you can expect at the DMV after a DUI arrest

Nothing can ruin a fun night out faster than being pulled over for suspicion of driving while under the influence (DUI). Imagine having a night out with your friends at your favorite watering-hole, then seeing the red and blue lights in your rearview just a few blocks from your house.

While a DUI is a serious charge in California, it is possible to fight it. If you have been charged with a DUI, it is important to know your rights and options. A California criminal defense attorney can advise you on your case. Read further for what you can expect at the Department of Motor Vehicles after a DUI arrest.

DMV review

If the arresting officer took your license, he or she must forward a copy of your completed notice of suspense or revocation form and a copy of your license to the DMV. The officer also has to forward a sworn report about the incident to the DMV.

Once received, the DMV will automatically review the report, the suspension or revocation order, and the results of any intoxication tests you took. If the DMV supports your license suspension or revocation, you can request a hearing to contest their decision.

Getting back your license

After the suspension or revocation period ends, the DMV will return your license. However, you will have to pay a $125 reissue fee and file proof of financial responsibility. If the DMV’s review of the suspension or revocation ends in your favor, it will reissue or return your license without invoking the fees.

The suspension period

If you took a blood test or breathalyzer at the time of your arrest and it resulted in a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher, you could face a four-month driver license suspension if it was your first offense. However, if you have prior offenses within the last 10 years, the DMV can suspend your license for one year.

Applying for a restricted license

You cannot submit a request at the DMV hearing for a restricted license. Instead, you can apply at any DMV field office for a restricted license. This type of license will allow you to legally drive to and from work while your official driver license is suspended.

DMV suspension vs. court suspension

When someone is arrested for a DUI, the DMV takes immediate action by temporarily suspending the individual’s license. It is an administrative action. These sanctions are completely separate and independent from court ordered actions, such as jail, fines or other criminal penalties.

A DUI charge can have very serious consequences. If you have been charged with a DUI, it is important that understand all of your options so legal advocacy is recommended.