Friday, April 3, 2009

California's new tough DUI Laws - be very careful to avoid a drunk driving in California because of increased consequences

California has some of the toughest DUI laws in the nation. First time offenders can expect time in jail, fines, fees, probation, license suspension, community service and attendance at a First Offender school. Two laws passed last year have further strengthened penalties for DUIs in California and have provided a new tool to prosecutors seeking criminal charges against those involved in DUI accidents.

Increased Penalties for Those on Probation

California has a zero tolerance policy for those on probation for a DUI charge. Typically, first time offenders receive 3-5 years of probation. During this time period, these drivers cannot operate a motor vehicle after consuming any alcohol.

If someone on probation is stopped and has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01% or more, he or she will face new criminal charges in addition to charges for violating the terms of probation. The new criminal charges can result in additional fines and jail time for the offender, in addition to court costs and attorney fees. Furthermore, the state legislature has authorized the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend the violating driver's license for up to one year. The police may also impound the driver's vehicle, leaving the driver to pay towing and storage costs, which could add up to $2000 to the growing list of expenses.

It is important for California drivers facing DUI charges to remember that they do not have the right to have an attorney present before consenting to a chemical test or during the testing process.

Moreover, California Vehicle Code §23600 prohibits drivers on probation from refusing to consent to a chemical test to determine the amount of alcohol or other drugs in their system. By accepting probation, the drivers provide implied consent to submit to the testing. Refusal to do so is a violation of probation and can result in 30 days in a county jail, plus driver's license suspensions ranging from one to three years.

Driver Responsibility Acknowledgment

Effective as of July 1, 2008, all individuals applying for a California driver's license or seeking renewal of their driver's license are required to sign a written acknowledgment that states:

• Driving under the influence impairs their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle
• Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is extremely dangerous to human life
• If someone is killed as result of a drunk driving accident, the drunk driver can be charged with murder

The legislature's purpose in passing this law was to provide a tool for prosecutors to use in convicting drunk drivers for gross vehicular manslaughter and second degree murder. In order to secure a conviction for one of these crimes, prosecutors must present evidence that the drunk driver knew or had a subjective awareness that driving while intoxicated posed a dangerous risk to human life. This can be difficult for prosecutors to prove, unless the driver had a previous DUI conviction.

The written acknowledgment, however, can serve as evidence of the individual's knowledge of the danger created to human life from drunk driving. Without the acknowledgment or other proof of knowledge, prosecutors may only be able to file charges for the lesser crime of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence - a crime that carries a lesser penalty than second degree murder or gross vehicular manslaughter.

When California drivers sign this acknowledgment at the time they apply for or renew their driver's license, they are providing a potentially powerful piece of evidence for prosecutors to use against them in the future if they are the cause of a DUI-related death. Without the acknowledgment, the driver may only face manslaughter charges. But with the acknowledgment, he or she may face murder charges and 15 years to life in a state prison.

If you have been arrested for a DUI, whether as a first offense misdemeanor, a more serious second or greater offense or a felony, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as immediately. An attorney will be able to answer your questions regarding California's DUI laws and help you through the legal process, often delaying or stopping a driver's license suspension or avoiding actual jail. A person arrested for a DUI has only 10 days from the date of arrest to request a "stay of suspension" and a hearing at DMV to try to save his license. The DMV hearing will also provide the attorney an early hearing of all evidence, which will help in providing the best defense or settlement in court.

DUI Defense Center for California: California DUI Lawyer Rick Mueller, a San Diego CaliforniaDrunk Driving / DWI Defense Attorney handling San Diego California DUI & DMV cases, shows how a San Diego DUI Lawyer will help you.

San Diego California DUI Lawyer Rick Mueller is a premier San Diego County Drunk Driving, DUI & DMV Defense attorney with over 25 years of experience. Known as a "DMV Guru," Rick Mueller dedicates 100% of his law practice to aggressively defending those accused of driving under the influence of alcohol. He has successfully saved the driving privileges of many clients in the past year alone. Complete the important Free California DUI / DMV / Drunk Driving Defense Survey to find out your best strategy and to protect your driving privileges in California.
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