On the heels of a month marked by extensive media coverage of the Orange County trial of Andrew Gallo–the San Gabriel man, who, despite having his license suspended for a prior DUI conviction, took the wheel after a night of binge drinking and killed Angeles’ rookie pitcher, Nick Adenhart, and two friends in an early morning collision–news has broken of a new law that will impact DUI repeat offenders. Starting January 1, 2012, judges will have the option of revoking an individual’s license for up to 10 years if that person has three or more convictions for driving under the influence within the past decade. The law is just one of many efforts by state legislators and officials to combat drunk driving in California.
DUI Enforcement in California
Annually 1.5 million people are arrested for driving under the influence in this state, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). DUI repeat offenders account for one-third of those arrested. A recent study of the percentage of drivers with alcohol-related convictions in the nation’s 20 largest cities by insurance.com found that the greatest number of violators resided in San Diego, followed by San Jose in second place, Los Angeles in seventh, and San Francisco in eighth. The high incidence of convicted drivers in these cities was attributed to three factors: a higher rate of alcohol consumption among the population, “more partiers,” in general; a lack of public transportation; and effective enforcement of drinking-and-driving laws.
Over the last 30 years, numerous laws have been passed to prevent drinking and driving in the United States:
In 1984, the Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act was signed into law. Under the law, states that fail to prohibit the purchase or public consumption of alcohol by an individual under the age of 21 will have 10% of Federal highway funding withheld from them. In effect, this law raised the national minimum drinking age to 21.
In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints were legal under the constitution.
In 1995, the Federal Zero Tolerance Law was passed, making it illegal for individuals under 21 years old to drive with any measurable amount of blood alcohol content (BAC) in their blood. Highway safety funds would be withheld from any state failing to comply with the law by October 1, 1998.
In 2000, .08 BAC became the national illegal limit for impaired driving. Under the law, a percentage of federal highway construction funds would be withheld from any state failing to comply.
To date, 14 states have enacted laws mandating DUI first-time and repeat offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. California, however, has only implemented a pilot program in four counties: Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare. Drivers with the device are forced to breathe into a tube connected to a machine that measures alcohol levels; if alcohol is detected, the machine will prevent the ignition from starting. The device not only prevents those with DUI convictions from drinking and driving, it also serves as a deterrent to all drivers, as it considerably increases the cost of receiving a DUI. Legislators will consider expanding the program statewide after a 5-year evaluation.
In California-and nationwide-efforts to combat drunk driving have had an impact on the number of fatal alcohol-related accidents. Throughout the country, such accidents decreased by almost 10 percent from 13,041 in 2007 to 11, 773 in 2008. In California, there were 108 fewer fatal accidents in 2008 than in 2007, from 1,347 to 1,239. Hopefully, the fatality rate will continue to decline with the state’s increasingly aggressive DUI enforcement and harsher penalties.
Los Angeles DUI defense attorneys are faced with a new challenge in defending drunk driving due to new attempts by California police authorities to fight DUI. Police Departments throughout California are attempting to use social media and online services to make those who get arrested for DUI embarrassed. How do they propose doing it? Criminal Attorneys are informed that their client’s name and photo may be placed on social media sites such as facebook, myspace and LinkedIn.
Fighting DUI cases in California has become increasingly difficult for Drunk Driving Defense Attorneys. This is just another reason why DUI lawyers must take every drunk driving arrest, especially those that involve bodily injury more seriously.
Privacy advocates must work in conjunction with criminal attorneys to curb the overly enthusiastic efforts of Los Angeles Police Department to fight DUI by causing unnecessary shame and embarrassment, when other means of fighting DUI is readily available. Police Department defends its proposed action of placing mug shot of those who get arrested more than once for driving under the influence of alcohol on sites such as Facebook and Myspace, by arguing that such action “saves lives”. It is arguable, however, how causing shame and embarrassment by exposing such individuals to pubic view will save lives. To what extent could law enforcement authorities invade one’s privacy? Is this the beginning of the creation of a database of DUI convictions with their private information and photos available for everyone to see?
Are the authorities attempting to fight DUI cases by making DUI an equivalent of sexual predators whose name are readily available online? To propose that the photograph of everyone who gets arrested for Drunk Driving must be immediately place on social media sites clearly violates the constitutional rights of our private citizens. Criminal Defense Attorneys have long fought for our citizen’s rights to privacy and have played a major role in creating a balance between privacy rights of our citizens and the government’s right to protect the safety of the public. In the context of California Drunk Driving Laws, and for all intents and purposes in the whole United States, there should not be an assumption that everyone who gets arrested for DUI will in fact be convicted of the crime. Also, many times a conviction is the result of plea negotiations between criminal attorneys and prosecutors in DUI courts, where there is not convincing evidence of the arrestee’s guilt.
To cause such embarrassment to DUI arrestees by exposing them to ridicule and shame on social medial sites California Law Enforcement Authorities are clearly invading our citizen’s privacy rights, their right to be secure in their property and belongings, and the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven.
The presumption of innocence does not change for repeat DUI offenders. There is no question that drunk drivers in California are responsible for a large percentage of vehicle related deaths each year. However, defense attorneys argue that the constitutional rights of private citizens should not be abridged in order to curtail the interest of those who intend to drink and drive. We could not correct a wrong with another wrong. If we don’t stop this, next thing you know, they will make the license plate of drunk drivers a different color so that everyone knows they have had a DUI, or they could make them place a red flag in their yard, and better yet write it on their forehead “drunk driver!”
Multiple Police Departments in California have pressed the issue of placing mug shots of DUI arrestee online. This is done in an increased push by law enforcement authorities and various non-profit organizations and anti DUI advocates who have lost loved ones in drunk driving accidents.
DUI Defense requires specialized knowledge and skill. With the help of our trained attorneys who aggressively defend Drunk Driving charges, avoid jail time and license suspension. Get the most professional Drunk Driving defense in Los Angeles you deserve.