BASIC DUI/DWI LAWS
Driving Under the Influence:
Driving under the influence of alcohol, or “drunk driving,” is by far the most commonly encountered offense in the courts today. Defending against a charge of drunk driving is a tricky business. Defenders need to understand scientific and medical concepts, and must be able to question tough witnesses, including scientists and police officers. If you want to fight your drinking and driving charge, you’re well advised to hire an attorney who specializes in these types of cases.
Basic DUI/DWI laws:
Illegal Per Se Laws make it illegal in and of itself to drive with a BAC measured at or above an established level. Forty-nine states have established per se laws (Massachusetts is the exception). As of November 2003, 45 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico had .08 as the established BAC level, while 4 states remained at the .10 level (WI, NJ, WV, and CO) In other words, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle if a driver has a BAC level of .08 or .10, depending on the state. Research indicates that virtually all drivers show impairment in driving ability at .08 BAC, and the majority exhibit serious deterioration. Virtually all highway safety organizations and transportation safety agencies support .08 BAC, and in October 2000, Congress passed .08 BAC as the national standard for impaired driving regulations. States that do not adopt .08 BAC by a certain date will be denied a portion of their highway construction funds.
Misdemeanor First Offense:
Each state has its own laws specific to defendants charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and court administration of those laws also vary according to the customs and political environment of local jurisdictions. Generally speaking, a conviction for a first offense may involve a fine, a license suspension or restriction, attendance at a DUI education course for a period of time, and probation for perhaps one to three years. There is usually a short jail sentence on the books, but it is usually set aside in favor of probation.
Misdemeanor Second Offense:
For a second offense, it almost certainly will involve some jail time. Additional punishment may involve community service, ignition interlock devices and/or impounding of the vehicle. For an example of punishment in DUI cases, see the estimated cost of a first time DUI as published by the AAA. Check with your local or state Auto Club for specifics in your state.
If you viewed the Auto Club chart, you saw that the range of punishment can be quite vast. What determines how much a judge will deviate from this chart or how much a district attorney will adjust will often depend on the circumstances of your individual case and the skill of your attorney in negotiating a plea bargain, if that is your strategy.
Within the range of penalties, the actual sentence in a drinking and driving case will often be affected by:
- The facts of the case
- Any policies of the local court and prosecutors
- The weaknesses in the case uncovered by the defense attorney
- The reputation of that attorney
What is a sentence “enhancement”?
Most states increase the punishment in drunk driving cases if certain facts exist. The most common of these is an earlier conviction for the same or a similar offense — usually within five or seven years of the current offense. Other commonly encountered enhancements (which must usually be alleged in the complaint) include:
- Having a prior conviction within ten years
- Speeding 20 mph over the limit
- Having a child under 14 in the car
- Having a child under 14 in the car without proper restraints
- Having a blood-alcohol reading over .15 and .20%
- Refusing to submit to chemical testing
All of this is independent of the Administrative Licensing Suspension or Revocation, which is determined separately and which can be very complicated.
Misdemeanor or Felony:
To begin with, drunk driving laws are categorized as either a Misdemeanor or as a Felony. We will focus on the Misdemeanor charges because they are the most common. Felony DUI/DWI is primarily charged in accident cases where personal injury resulted. A death can trigger manslaughter or even, in a few states, second degree murder charges.Felony charges will also likely be charged where there was a prior felony within the last ten years, and, if you have minor children in the vehicle with you at the time of arrest and your alcohol level was very high and/or your driving was excessively erratic, then you may face felony charges on child endangerment along with your misdemeanor DUI.
The laws concerning “drunk driving” have changed radically over recent years. The person arrested today for driving under the influence of alcohol (“DUI”, also referred to as “DWI”, driving while intoxicated) faces bewildering procedures and potentially devastating punishment, punishment that can be more severe than in some felony cases. An experienced attorney who specializes in blood alcohol analysis and drunk driving cases can effectively handle criminal and administrative proceedings. It is an unfortunate fact, however, that many general practitioners or general criminal attorneys attempt to represent clients with little or no training or experience in this very complex field and the results are predictable.
Dram Shop/Social Host Liability
Laws state that a person who serves alcoholic beverages to intoxicated individuals may be liable for the damages caused by such individuals. In some states, a server may also be liable for injuries sustained by intoxicated individuals.
Zero Tolerance Laws:
It is illegal for drivers younger than 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system-regardless of the BAC limit for drivers over 21. Many states set the limit for drivers under 21 at .02 BAC or below to help reduce legal challenges based on claims that mouthwash, gum or cold medicine can be responsible for a positive but very low BAC measurement. However, there is no evidence that such substances affect the standard breath analysis tests when conducted properly or that other challenges to the accuracy of alcohol detection equipment are valid. By late 1999, all states plus the District of Columbia had zero tolerance laws for youth.
Also, there is now a zero tolerance law, primarily enforced by our DMV, for drivers who have a blood alcohol level over 0.01% while driving when you are on probation for a prior DUI. Many people aren’t aware of this and were not told about this when put on probation originally. It is a good idea, if you can do it, to try and get your prior conviction expunged and probation terminated early so that you can avoid this extremely harsh treatment. If convicted, you face a one-year suspension of your license, with no work-related restriction!
Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL):
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation under the authority of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. This organization develops, monitors, and ensures compliance with commercial driver licensing standards. The new federal CDL penalties for a first conviction or refusal to be tested while operating a CMV are a one-year disqualification from operating a CMV. Importantly, the same penalty applies even if the conviction is for operating a non-CMV. If transporting hazardous material, the suspension is three years. And, if that isn’t enough, a second conviction will lead to a lifetime disqualification. The laws for CDL holders are extensive and serious so if you’ve been cited or charged under this paragraph, seek competent legal counsel immediately!
Open Container Laws:
These laws prohibit the possession of any open alcoholic beverage container and the consumption of any alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. In 1998, the Federal government took steps to encourage states to enact open container laws by passing the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which required states to enact open container laws by October 1, 2000 or lose a portion of their Federal-aid highway construction funds. To avoid having their funds transferred to other safety activities, states must certify that they comply with Federal requirements and that their open container law is in effect and being enforced. By April 2002, 30 states and the District of Columbia had open container laws in effect.
DUI Enforcement Activity
See what’s happening in Sonoma County DUI enforcement throughout this Holiday Season
WINTER HOLIDAY AVOID DUI CAMPAIGN – MONDAY UPDATE
Phone (707) 543-4108,
WINTER HOLIDAY AVOID DUI CAMPAIGN – MONDAY UPDATE-12/15/2014
DUI Arrests are down & DUI Fatalities remain the same as last year at zero.
The Winter Holiday Anti-DUI crackdown has resulted in more DUI arrests from local routine traffic enforcement and special Avoid the 13 DUI deployments overnight in Sonoma County.
From 12:01 AM Friday December 12, 2014 through Midnight Sunday December 14, 2014 officers representing 13 county law enforcement agencies have arrested 20 individuals for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In 2013 30 DUI arrests occurred during the same three (3) day time period.
Over the course of the next several days of the campaign a DUI/DL Court Sting will be conducted in Santa Rosa, extra local DUI Saturation Patrols will be deployed in the cities of Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa.
All regularly scheduled traffic and patrol officers will focus efforts at stopping and arresting DUI drivers during their normal shifts. Multiple DUI/Driver’s License Checkpoints, Multi Agency DUI Task Force operations and local Roving DUI patrols are all part of this region-wide crackdown during the 21 day Winter Holiday Campaign.
Police, Sheriff and the CHP encourage all motorists to help make your community safer: Report Drunk Drivers – Call 911! Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. DUI arrest data collection will continue through New Year’s, midnight Thursday, January 1, 2015.
Santa Rosa Police Department
965 Sonoma Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
For Immediate Release December 15, 2014
CONTACT: Sgt. Mike
DUI/Suspended Driver’s License Court Sting
License Court Sting,
Santa Rosa, CA On Monday, December 15, 2014, between the hours of 8:00a.m. and 1:00p.m., officers from the Petaluma Police Department, Sebastopol Police Department, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol and the Santa Rosa Department conducted an undercover ‘Court Sting’ operation at the Sonoma County Courthouse targeting drivers whose licenses where suspended/revoked or who were unlicensed drivers.
Police officers staked out offenders who had been told by a judge not to drive and/or who had been told of their license suspension. 14 offenders were followed by officers from courtrooms to their vehicles to ensure that they were not driving. While some offenders complied with the law and had alternate means of transportation, 6 individuals in court for DUI or other prior violations proceeded to get behind the wheel and drove away from the court house.
Those who chose to drive were stopped by waiting officers. Those stopped for driving while suspended or unlicensed were then cited back into court. Those individuals were identified as:
• Timothy B. 26 year old Rohnert Park resident.
• Daniel M. 22 year old Santa Rosa resident.
• Juan R., 31 year old Calistoga resident.
• Elizabeth T., 19 year old Santa Rosa resident.
• Christopher H., 44 year old Guerneville resident.
• Jose C., 32 year old Santa Rosa resident.
Those arrested today could face additional jail time, long driver license suspensions, along with other financial hits including attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work, and the potential loss of job or job prospects. When family, friends and co-workers find out, violators can also face tremendous personal embarrassment and humiliation.
DUI Court Sting stakeout operations, along with regularly scheduled high visibility DUI enforcement, serve as a proven deterrent with the goal of keeping impaired drivers from the road and heightening awareness among the public of the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
This special DUI operation was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Please help the Santa Rosa Police Department every day of the week: Report Drunk Drivers – Call 9-1-1!
Santa Rosa Police Department
965 Sonoma Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
December 15, 2014