Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Drunk Driving & DUI laws in California

DUI / DMV Attorney Rick Mueller specializes in California DUI and
DMV law. California Criminal Defense Attorney Rick Mueller recently spoke at the California Attorneys For Criminal Justice annual DUI seminar in Rancho Mirage, California: http://www.cacj.org/Events/forms/DUI%20Brochure%20Final.pdf . The California criminal defense lawyers who attended indicated to the President of the California DUI Lawyers Association that San Diego California DUI criminal defense lawyer Rick Mueller's presentation and materials were exceptional.
Specially recognized as a Contributor to the California Drunk Driving Law book, he is now the San Diego DUI Editorial Consultant for the most comprehensive reference book for California DUI law. Known as California's bible for DUI defense, authored by Ed Kuwatch, Paul Burglin and Barry Simons, the book features some of San Diego DUI attorney Rick Mueller's hard work.



New driving laws for 2009 are now in effect for California motorists. These laws are regarded as trailblazing because they protect against the modern-day hazards of text-messaging while driving. They are also revolutionary in their stern clamping down of DUI violators.

In particular, two of these laws address the recent outbreak of car accidents involving cellular-phone use. Moreover, the third law imposes greater restrictions on a minimum alcohol level for convicted DUI drivers.

The first law is referred to as the “Texting While Driving” or the “No Texting Law.” This law prohibits any person from sending text messages on wireless phones or communications devices while driving. Any driver caught texting while driving will be pulled over by a police officer and fined for $20. If the driver repeats the offense, he will receive a $50 fine. Many California lawmakers attest that additional fees may be added on top of these fines.

The “Texting While Driving” law was developed in response to the recent rash of driving accidents caused by cellular phone use. Many of these accidents have resulted in the death of at least one driver or passenger, and were caused directly by texting. The previous version of this law, which is still in effect, prohibits drivers 18 years of age or younger from using wireless devices altogether, even handsfree devices. However, it has been noted that these types of accidents are becoming equally common with older age groups as well. Therefore, the “Texting While Driving” law is in effect for drivers of all ages.

No matter how tempted you are to answer or type a text message while driving, stop yourself from doing so until you are parked in a safe, legal area. A dead giveaway for police officers is seeing one hand on your steering wheel while you use your other hand to text. You simply do not want to risk incurring a hefty fee, much less cause injury or death to another party.

The “No Texting Law” also builds on another law governing wireless-phone usage that is still in effect. This law, titled the “Handsfree Law”, requires motorists ages 18 and over to use only handsfree wireless devices while they are driving. That is, they are prohibited from manually using their cellular phones while speaking on the phone.

It is universally documented that manually operating a cellular phone while driving exponentially increases your risk of getting into accidents. This is because, first of all, the driver loses manual control of the car by using only one hand on the steering wheel. In extreme cases, the driver often drives with his knees while using both hands to do text-messaging. Secondly, the manual use greatly detracts from the driver’s visual attention to the road. As a solution, California legislators chose not to entirely ban cell-phone use but remove its manual use. Therefore, they introduced the “Handsfree Law” to hopefully reduce the number of accidents caused by cell-phone use.

In summary, the “Texting While Driving” law demonstrates that California takes wireless-phone use seriously. Along with California, the states of Washington, Louisiana, Alaska, and New Jersey forbid texting while driving. Thanks to the “Handsfree Law”, California will likely see a considerable drop in accidents, prompting more states to follow suit with the texting ban.

California’s second major driving law, the “Zero Tolerance” law, protects against drunk-driving violations. Specifically, it prohibits drivers under probation for DUI charges from driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least .01 percent. However, a person can actually obtain this BAC from consuming innocuous substances such as soy sauce, cough syrup and even white bread. Nonetheless, if the BAC measures .01 percent on Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) tests, a DUI-holding motorist can be convicted by a second DUI charge.

In view of this new law, it is remarkably easy for probationary drivers to get charged with probationary violations. A hypothetical situation is that a probationary driver may get pulled over for speeding. Once the officer sees he has a DUI, he will immediately submit the driver to a PAS test. Even if the driver has consumed a non-beverage substance containing alcohol, he will still receive violation charges.

California’s penalties for probationary offenses are severe. In some California counties, offenders may be penalized with a 3-5 year extension of their ordinary probation. Fortunately, offenders who have consumed innocuous substances can combat their penalties. It is advised that they hire a reputable DUI lawyer who can prove that the offender did not imbibe alcoholic beverages. Furthermore, the lawyer can submit the PAS device for forensic examination, since many PAS devices are obsolete and cannot measure alcoholic intake properly.

The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true for California DUI drivers on probation. If you fall into this category of driver, you should research foods that contain even trace amounts of alcohol you may be eating. Before you plan to drive, make sure you steer clear of these foods. Furthermore, every time you step out to your car, you should carefully take stock of foods you have eaten in the previous 24 hours. Should you get stopped by an officer, you will have no need to fear when he pulls out the PAS device.

Like the texting law, the “Zero Tolerance” law was previously aimed at minors. In 1994, the first “Zero Tolerance” law stated that only drivers under age 21 who were caught driving with a BAC of .01 percent would incur DUI charges. As with probationary offenders, the punishment for minor offenders was suspension of their driver’s license for one year. Today, these zero tolerance principles and penalties apply to probationary offenders. Though first-time DUI offenders over age 18 are charged with a minimum BAC of .08 percent, it is feasible that the “zero tolerance” BAC of .01 percent will soon apply to them. Either way, California is at the forefront of DUI legislation and is pulling out all stops against DUI drivers, especially repeat offenders.


San Diego drunk driving lawyer Rick Mueller is a Specialist Member of the California DUI Attorneys Association (formerly the Association of California Deuce Defenders). He is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.



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