Friday, December 7, 2007

California DUI Celebrities' Attorneys

California DUI lawyer news: California celebrities & their California DUI attorneys

It's a simple enough message trumpeted in awareness campaigns and reinforced at California DUI sobriety checkpoints, particularly during the holiday season: don't drink and drive.

Yet without fail, stories of individuals stepping behind the wheel impaired continue to emerge in the headlines with their arrests for California DUI .

Kiefer Sutherland, the star of "24," joined the lengthy, dubious ranks of Hollywood celebs who have been nabbed for California DUI driving under the influence, including Mel Gibson, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie.

The actor reported straight to lockup Wednesday evening after a California judge handed him a 48-day jail sentence following his second California DUI drunk driving arrest in three years.

One day earlier, Newfoundland native Wayne Enos Stokes was sentenced to a 3 1/2-year prison term for his 18th impaired driving charge and handed a lifetime driving prohibition - a first for the province.

Impaired driving remains the leading criminal cause of death in the country, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada. More than 70,000 men, women and children are killed or seriously injured in impaired driving crashes in Canada each year.

Doug Beirness with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse recently co-authored "Driving After Drinking in Canada," a paper published in the recent edition of the Canadian Journal of Public Health based on findings from the Canadian Addiction Survey.

The survey of just under 14,000 people aged 15 and older found that just under 12 per cent of licensed drivers in Canada reported operating a vehicle within an hour of consuming two or more drinks - down from estimates in previous years, Beirness said.

However, of the people who reported driving after drinking, less than five per cent of licensed drivers accounted for 86 per cent of all drinking and driving trips that occur.

"That's pretty startling in itself because that shows us that there is really this small minority of people who engage in this behaviour repeatedly. They do this over and over again."

Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada, says when it comes to the general public, this issue of impaired driving becomes one of resources.

"People drink and drive because they can, because their likelihood of getting caught is pretty small," he said. "We just don't have, one, the powers for police to rapidly screen and apprehend impaired drivers, like other countries, like Australia and Europe do, and if we had those resources available to our police it would make a fundamental difference."

Canada's illegal blood alcohol level is among the highest of western countries at .08, according to a 2000 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report. Sweden has the lowest illegal level at .02, while the majority of countries are at .05.

Research indicates in every country where they've lowered the permissible blood alcohol limit, whether it's for repeat offenders, general drivers or young people, impaired driving deaths and injuries fall significantly, said Robert Solomon, a law professor at the University of Western Ontario and national legal policy director for MADD Canada.

Solomon, who has conducted legal research and advocacy work on impaired driving for 25 years, said police don't have the powers they need to enforce federal driving laws and should be given broader authority to demand blood samples following crashes.

"Right now, the people who commit the most serious impaired driving offences are the least likely to be convicted of those serious offences," he said.

"These deaths don't have to happen. Alcohol-related traffic death doesn't fall like rain. I don't believe the Chicken Little theory of alcohol-related death," he added. "These deaths are the direct result of our policies and practices."

Under proposed legislation in the federal government's Tackling Violent Crime Act, police would have better tools to detect and investigate drug-and alcohol-impaired driving, and penalties for impaired driving would be increased.

The proposed legislation includes provisions to allow officers trained as drug recognition experts to conduct sobriety tests and draw samples of bodily fluids to determine whether a person is impaired by a drug or a combination of alcohol and a drug.

It would also make it an offence to refuse or fail to comply with police demands for the tests or samples.

Part of what makes the issue of impaired driving so difficult speaks to the persistence of the behaviour that leads to it - which is drinking itself, Beirness said.

"Even though the majority of the population has gotten the message that drinking and driving is not a good thing to do, there still remains a small minority of people that just simply haven't gotten it yet," he said.

"And part of that is as a result of the fact that their lives are so entangled with alcohol that it's such a big piece of their life that they simply cannot separate the alcohol from everything else they do - and that includes driving."

While there is a role for enforcement, providing rehabilitation is an equally important part of the puzzle, he said.

"When we get a person into the criminal justice system of sanctions we also need to think of rehabilitation, and at present, we're not really doing a very good job of that. The only way to keep these people from racking up eight, nine, 10 different impaired driving offences is to get them into alcohol treatment."

Here are some high-profile examples of celebrities busted for California DUI - drunk driving / driving under the influence:

Mel Gibson: Arguably the celebrity poster boy for drunk driving, Gibson first faced the charge in Toronto in 1984, when he allegedly offered a cocktail to the man whose car he smashed into. More famously, Gibson was charged in July 2006 in Los Angeles, and the anti-Semitic remarks he made during his arrest are thought to have seriously damaged his Hollywood career and reputation.

Paris Hilton: Hilton was arrested and charged with California DUI driving under the influence in September 2006, setting in motion a chain of events that ultimately resulted in the schadenfreude-licious moment in which the much-maligned hotel heiress was sentenced to jail - while shrieking for her mother - for driving with a suspended licence a few months later.

Nicole Richie: In December 2006, the daughter of Lionel Richie was arrested and changed with California DUI / drunk driving after driving the wrong way on a major L.A.-area highway. Richie, a onetime heroin addict, admitted to having smoked marijuana and taken Vicodin, a powerful painkiller, before getting behind the wheel. Her explanation that she took the narcotics-based Vicodin for menstrual cramps, however, was met with ridicule by celebrity-watchers.

Ray Liotta: On Feb. 18, Liotta was charged with California DUI / DWI in an L.A. neighbourhood after crashing his Cadillac Escalade into two parked cars less than a kilometre from his home. The actor pleaded no contest to the California DUI charge on Thursday.

Vivica Fox: On March 20, Fox was charged with California DUI - driving drunk, after allegedly speeding past a marked police car on a L.A. highway.

Lindsay Lohan: The "Mean Girls" wild child has faced the charge twice this year: in May, she lost control of her Mercedes-Benz and struck a curb. She was charged with California DUI - driving under the influence and cocaine possession. Two days later, she entered rehab, and yet just a couple of weeks following her release from L.A.'s Promises, she was drunk and back behind the wheel of a car again. On July 24, Lohan was charged once again with DUI and cocaine possession following a high-speed, pre-dawn chase through the streets of Santa Monica. She served a brief prison sentence for the charges.

Kiefer Sutherland: The man revered as television's fearless Jack Bauer was charged in September for the second time for California DUI driving under the influence after being pulled over in west L.A. and failing a California DUI sobriety test. The arrest followed a previous California DUI incident in 2004. The Canadian actor began serving a 48-day jail sentence this week in order to take advantage of the ongoing screenwriters' strike in Hollywood and the hiatus in shooting "24."

Gary Collins: The longtime television personality was charged with California DUI in October for slamming into another car in L.A. Police officers on the scene smelled alcohol on the 69-year-old Collins's breath and he failed a California DUI field sobriety test.