Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Increased California DUI penalties under proposed bill

California DUI lawyer news - new legislation?

Assemblyman John J. Benoit, R-Bermuda Dunes, Tuesday introduced a California DUI bill increasing California DUI penalties for manslaughter when driving under the influence and closing loopholes creating inconsistent penalties for California DUI - driving under the influence.

AB 2073 would target five California DUI areas:

Manslaughter: Under current California DUI law, an individual driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs / California DUI who causes a victim to suffer great bodily injury can receive a maximum six-year state prison sentence. However, a person driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causes the death of a California DUI victim can receive a maximum four-year California DUI sentence. The California DUI bill resolves the disparity by increasing the maximum California DUI sentence to six years.

Repeat California DUI Offenders: AB 2073 makes any California DUI defendant with a prior felony California DUI conviction ineligible for probation and adds a mandatory three years onto subsequent California DUI convictions. This California DUI addresses the issue of repeat offenders, who -- despite alcohol abuse education, fines, loss of driving privilege, and auto insurance penalties -- continue to to engage in criminal reckless behavior, according to Benoit.

California Drunk Boating: When someone is charged with California BUI - boating under the influence, their prior California DUI convictions can be used to enhance the penalty for BUI and be treated as a second or third California DUI offense. However, the converse is not true when dealing with someone charged with a California DUI with a prior BUI. AB 2073 would allow prosecutors to enhance California DUI charges if there are prior BUI Convictions.

California DUI Blood Tests: Under current California DUI law, a person arrested for California DUI - suspicion of driving under the influence has the choice of submitting to their choice of a blood, breath or urine test. However, the quantifiable amount of drugs cannot be determined in a urine sample. Removing a urine test as an option will assist the prosecution of drugged drivers, according to Benoit.

Conforming BUI and DUI Statutes of Limitations: In 2004, the Legislature passed a law lengthening the statute of limitations for qualifying DUI priors from seven to 10 years. The bill would amend the Harbors and Navigation Code so the statute of limitations for BUIs is similarly lengthened to 10 years, reflecting the seriousness of the DUI offenses and ensuring that repeat California DUI offenders receive the appropriate treatment and punishment, Benoit's office said.

The California DUI bill was introduced at the behest of the California District Attorneys Association, according to Kyle Packham, an aide to Benoit.

No opposition has surfaced yet to AB 2073, but Packham said it could draw opposition from California DUI public defenders opposed to longer sentences for their California DUI clients.

"With eight years of experience in DUI enforcement, making over 1,000 arrests, I have seen how taking the wheel while under the influence of alcohol and drugs creates daily tragedies in our communities,'' said Benoit, a former California Highway Patrol commander.

"The worst anguish is the loss of a loved one because of someone's drunk driving. My bill creates stiffer penalties for DUI manslaughter, which is actually less severely punishable than causing great bodily injury. My bill is a significant public safety measure that will better protect drivers on California streets, highways, and harbors.''

California DUI lawyers need to look at this.