5 Amazing DUI Defenses

Think your DUI is hopeless?  Think again! This article will explore five major categories of defense tactics that you can discuss with your public defender or private attorney.

  • Asserting your Fourth Amendment Right in relation to the Stop.  

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure. With a DUI, this often comes into play when the officer pulls you over for a traffic stop. The officer needs to have reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime (a traffic offense counts as a crime for this purpose). The officer must have probable cause to arrest you.  A defense based on the stop or the arrest is one of the most common and effective ways to fight a DUI, and an attorney can help you apply the law to the specific facts of your case.

  • Attacking the Accuracy of the Field Sobriety Tests.

The officer likely performed the field sobriety tests near the street where he pulled you over, and the conditions may have interfered with the accuracy of the testing processes.  Was there heavy traffic that distracted you or made the tests unsafe? Were weather conditions in play that may have impacted your abilities? Was the lighting poor or in your eyes? Was the ground uneven or dangerous? Were there other environmental hazards or distractions that may have impacted your ability to perform on the field sobriety tests? Aside from the environmental factors, the officer’s explanation and execution of the field sobriety tests can also be used to challenge the results.  Did he explain the tests fully and accurately, and were they administered as they were supposed to be? Attacking the accuracy of the field sobriety tests is a very common, but can be a useful way to defend you.

  • Undermining the equipment and methods used in testing.

In any test involving equipment, the equipment must be functioning properly and used properly in order to achieve a reliable result.  For example, if a breath test was administered, you can question whether the equipment was in good, working condition and whether the officer was properly trained to use it. If you can undermine the fact-finder’s confidence in the testing, then you can draw into question whether the results can be relied upon. Along those same lines, you can question the method of the testing.  For example, when did the testing take place? Was it contemporaneous to the driving or much later? The method of testing is as important as the reliability of the equipment itself.

  • Chain of Custody.

Any evidence used in a criminal case has to pass muster when it comes to the chain of custody, which means the prosecution has to be able to trace where the evidence has been from the time it was taken into custody. For example, when police officers take a blood sample in a DUI case or seize evidence of drugs, the evidence will be packaged with a form and each person who comes in contact with the evidence should be noted on the form. If there has been a break down in that procedure, then you can claim that the evidence has been contaminated or tampered with and therefore the evidence is unreliable.

  • Necessity, Duress, Entrapment, Involuntary Intoxication.

The affirmative defenses are not as commonly used because they require circumstances that are somewhat unusual.  If your case falls into this “oddball” group of categories, the affirmative defenses may well suit you. The necessity defense is where you drove under the influence for a greater good – for example, to race someone to the hospital to save a life. Duress is when you are forced to drive under the influence under threat of your life of safety, such as if you drove while intoxicated because someone threatened to kill you if you didn’t.  Entrapment very rarely arises or if it does, it would be difficult to prove, but an example would be where the police officer requests that the person drive while intoxicated to “set the trap” to arrest that person Involuntary would be where someone was given drugs or alcohol without their knowledge or consent.

 

4 Potential Consequences of Your First DUI

Whether you have just been arrested for DUI or whether you are further down the road in the process, you need to be prepared for what is ahead. You likely have many potential defenses to fight the charge, which are discussed in other articles. For this article we will assume you are 21 or older and entered a guilty plea or conviction of a first DUI and give you a look at “worst case” scenario.

1. Driving Consequences

  • Suspended License:  The DMV will automatically suspend your license if you had a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more for four months.  The DMV will suspend your license for a year if you refuse the test. You’ll need to pay a $125 fee to get your license reinstated at the end of the DMV suspension. The court can also suspend your license, which is typically run concurrent to the DMV suspension, meaning that both suspensions are in effect at the same time.  A driver may be able to get a restricted license, to drive only to certain places like place of employment.
      • If you want to fight the DMV suspension, you need to request a hearing within 10 days.  
  • Interlock Device:  You may be ordered to get an interlock device on your vehicle, which measures your breath alcohol every time you drive.
  • SR-22 Insurance. If you don’t win the DMV hearing or don’t dispute it, and your license is suspended, you will need to get a special type of automobile insurance called SR-22 insurance for three years.

2. Court Ordered Counseling and Probation

  • 3-9 Month Programs:  You will likely be ordered to complete one of three programs, with the program usually determined by your blood alcohol content (BAC) measurement from the DUI:  3 month (30 hour), 6 month (44 hour) or 9 month (60 hour program). Additional hours may also be required based on county requirements. Each program requires drug and alcohol education, hours of group counseling, and certain hours of individual counseling.
  • Probation: Probation is typically 3-5 years.

3. Jail Time – Max is 6 months

  • Jail Time:  Crimes come with a maximum punishment, but this does not mean the judge will impose the maximum jail time.  The maximum for a first offense is up to six months in jail.

4. Financial Consequences

  • Fines, penalties and costs. The court at its discretion will impose a fine of between $390- $1000. Additionally, you will likely incur costs of defense attorney, costs for counseling, money for the interlock device if ordered and the cost of SR-22 insurance. The total cost can be very expensive, but consult with your attorney for an estimate of total costs.

 

What Does It Mean to Establish Parentage and When Is It Necessary?

If you are having a baby, you may be wondering what you can do to protect your baby’s rights. You want your child to have all the support he or she needs from the father. Establishing parentage can be an important step for you to take if you are not married to the baby’s father. This article will walk you through some of the basics of establishing paternity and help explain why parentage is important.

  1. What is parentage? What is paternity?

When a child is born to parents who are married (or to parents in a domestic partnership after 2005), then the law presumes that the couple are the child’s parents.  If the parents are not married, then the father only has legal rights and responsibilities if parentage is established.  However, in some cases parentage will be presumed, such as “parentage by estoppel,” where the parent welcomed the child into his home and treated it as his own.

  1. Why is establishing parentage important?

If you want custody, visitation or child support orders from the court, parentage will have to be established. This can also be important in a same-sex parenting situations if the parents were not married when the mother became pregnant or when the child was born.  There are other advantages: having health and life insurance coverage from either parent, the right to inherit from either parent, the right to receive social security and veteran’s benefits, just to name a few.

  1. What if the father does not admit that he is the parent?

A court may order the alleged father, mother and child to be genetic tested in order to establish parentage.

  1. What are the consequences and rights of the parent after parentage is established?

A parent has generally the right to get custody or visitation rights related to the child, although this right may be impacted in some cases by criminal history. A parent also has a legal obligation to financially support the child, but the amount of financial support will vary depending on various factors including income, custody arrangements, etc.

  1. What are the ways to establish parentage when the child’s parents aren’t married or in a domestic partnership?
  • Signing and filing a voluntary Declaration of Paternity – this is a form that both parents voluntarily sign, which established them as the legal parents of the child. The advantage of the voluntary Declaration is that neither parent has to go to court. After the form is signed, it needs to be filed with the California Department of Child Support Services.
  • You local child support agency can bring an action to establish parentage of a child. This often happens as a matter of course when welfare is requested for the child.
  • You can bring your own court case to establish parentage, which will involve several court forms and possibly a trial. You may want to utilize the help of an attorney or an agency to navigate this process.

 

5 Secrets to Dealing with Cops

Many people find interactions with the police to be very frustrating and risky.  This article will share five secrets from turning a negative encounter into a safer experience that will lay the foundation for your defense in the future.

  1. Keep calm and be confident but not argumentative.

The police officer will be assessing your attitude and demeanor from the moment he interacts with you, so you need to watch what you say and do and what your body language communicates. You want to exude a positive and calm presence, without anger or frustration.  This will send a message that you are not dangerous.

  1. Don’t debate with the officer, but avoid admitting to allegations.

Know that the officer will write down everything you say, so don’t admit to wrongful conduct if it’s not true.  At the same time, you do not want to get into a heated debate with the officer.  Express yourself politely.  For example, if an officer asks you if you know you were speeding, you could respond with “No, I did not know that,” or you could say, “Thank you for letting me know why you pulled me over, but I did not believe I was speeding.”  You have a right to remain silent, and it is often the best course of action to avoid talking as much as possible.

  1. Never run or fight.

Never run from a police officer. This will only get you into more trouble. Never lay hands on an officer or resist arrest.  These actions escalate the situation, so for your own safety you should comply with officer’s orders.

  1. Ask questions.

Often a very polite question can lay the foundation for your case later on.  A simple question to the officer can help you later:

  • When you feel detained:
    • “I don’t want any trouble, but I just wanted to clarify whether I’m free to go now.”
  • When they want to search you or your vehicle:
    • “Officer, are you asking for my consent to search? If so, I’m sorry but I can’t consent.”
  • When they are requesting to search your home.
    • “Officer, do you mind showing me a warrant? I’m sorry, but I can’t consent to a search of my home without one.”
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for an attorney.

You have a right to an attorney, and don’t be afraid to exercise that right. Your request may not change the officer’s actions, but the very fact that you requested and attorney may help your attorney fight your case.

 

Should You Trust an Attorney with Honors and Awards?

This article will give you a helpful map of the honors and awards that you should be looking for as you consider an attorney’s resume and whether he or she is the right person for you.  This will tell you what to look for and the red flags to avoid in analyzing an attorney’s success and history.

  1. Look for Past Successes. An excellent experienced attorney will have a long history of past successes. This is likely the type of success that you want to give the most weight when comparing attorneys because success in your particular type of case is likely to be the most relevant.  Look for a “Result” tab or “Successes” tab on the attorney’s website.  This will give you an indication of the types of cases the attorney has handled.  You will also get a feel for what a successful outcome in those cases looks like to him or her.
  • A disclaimer on past successes is a good thing. Typically, an attorney will have a disclaimer that states something to the effect that a success in one case does not guarantee a success in your case.  The disclaimer itself is in indication that the attorney is honest and ethical.  An attorney who promises you a particular result should be viewed with skepticism because no two cases are ever identical.
  1. Look for Relevant Experience in Other Roles. Look for experience that is relevant to the type of case you will engaging the attorney to handle.  For example, in criminal law, an attorney who has been on both sides of the case can have a unique perspective that can be helpful to you.  For example, a defense attorney who also worked as either a prosecutor or as a police officer may know the system from the inside out.  Similarly, a family law attorney who has experience as a guardian ad litem, victim advocate, or some other role in the court may be able to draw on that broad exposure to assist you more effectively.
  • Red flag. Experience in other roles can be very effective in building an attorney’s skills, but be cautious of someone who has very recently switched to the area of law you are interested in.  An attorney whose recent experience is relevant to your case is likely more ready to represent you than one who just barely switched to your area of law.
  1. Clerkships can be prestigious and also give an attorney insight into the court system or the political system that the attorney wouldn’t otherwise gain from just practicing law alone.  Look for clerkships on an attorney’s resume, and you may give more credence to clerkships that are with judges in California or your county.
  1. Law School Awards and Honors. Awards from law school may be in the far past, but they give you an idea of the personality type of the attorney.  Look for participation in law school extra-curricular activities, such as Moot Court or Law Review or clerkships completed during law school.
  1. Law-Related Memberships, Community Awards, and Community Service. You will likely want an attorney who is well-respected in the legal profession and the community.  Look for memberships in legal organizations, because these show an interest and connection to those legal specialties or groups.  Look for community awards because these indicate that your attorney has accomplished goals that are above and beyond the norm.  Consider community service that has been done by your attorney because those may indicate a personality that is committed to helping others.

How to Go After a Noncustodial Parent for Child Support

We’ve all heard of child support, which is the amount of money a court orders one or both parents to pay to support their children’s living expenses.  A common complaint is that one parent is not fulfilling his or her child support obligations.  This article will explain the procedure for enforcing child support and provide information on free resources to assist in the process.

  1. Get an Order. An Order is a written document by the Court that shows entitlement to child support.  A verbal promise from one spouse to another is not an Order.
  • If you and the other parent agree. If you do not have an Order, but you and the other parent can come to an agreement about the amount, then you memorialize that in writing and then the Judge will approve it if he or she feels it is in the best interest of the child.
  • If you and the other parent do not agree. If you do not have an Order, and you and the other parent cannot come to an agreement, then you will have to file an action for child support.
  1. Motion for Contempt. The next step, once you have the Order in hand, is to file a Motion for Contempt.  You have probably heard of being “in contempt” of court in a criminal matter.  In a civil matter, such as a divorce, a Motion for Contempt basically asserts to the Court that the other party has not obeyed the Court’s order.  If the Judge grants the Motion for Contempt, then the other parent can be ordered to pay fines or serve jail time.
  • Time limit. Timing is very important!  Be sure to file your Motion for Contempt within three years from the payment is due to avoid having the statute of limitations run.
  1. Driver’s License Penalties. If the payment is more than 30 days late on child support, the DMV may refuse to issue or renew a drivers’ license.  If the payment is more than 120 days late for child support, the State of California can revoke the non-paying parent’s license.
  1. Can interest be charged on missed support payments?  Yes, interest accrues at the rate of 10% per year.
  1. Available Resources.
  • If you are looking for other government resources relating to child support, visit childsup.ca.gov. This website is run by the California Department of Child Support Services and may have helpful resources to assist you.

 

3 Things You Need to File For Divorce with the Court in California

If you are ready for a divorce, you may wonder about the essentials needed to get the process rolling and the steps that must be taken to reach your goal.  This article will discuss three essentials for getting a divorce in California.

  1. Time. There is a mandatory waiting period in California that prevents any couple being divorced in less than 6 months. The divorce can take longer, but it can’t take shorter.  The starting point is the date the person officially notifies the spouse or domestic partner about the divorce.  You can get your paperwork in sooner and get the judgment approved, but the divorce will not be final until the waiting period has run.
  • Summary dissolution. You may be wondering if you can avoid the waiting period by obtaining a summary dissolution instead of a divorce.  The answer is no, a summary dissolution does not have a shorter waiting period than a divorce.  Y
  1. You will have to pay a fee to file the divorce papers with the court, unless you qualify for a fee waiver.  You can qualify for a fee waiver if 1) you are receiving public benefits, 2) if you household income before taxes is less than the minimum amounts designated by the court, or 3) if the court finds that you don’t have enough money to pay for your household’s basic needs and the court fees.
  1. Residency in California. A court has to have jurisdiction to hear your case, which is why residency is important.  It would not make sense if you and your spouse both resided in New York, and you asked a judge in California to have jurisdiction over a California divorce.  Either you or your spouse must have lived in California for the last 6 months and the county where you plan to file the divorce for the last 3 months.  If you and your spouse have lived in different counties for the last 3 months, then you can file in either county.  You can still file for a legal separation if you haven’t been in California for the last six months, and then you can file for divorce when the time has expired.

The essentials are fairly straightforward:  time, money and residency.  The details of the divorce can be more complex, so consult with an attorney on your specific facts.

 

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Shoplifting and Theft In California

If you have been charged with a crime in the theft category, you may have some questions about shoplifting or theft.  This article addresses some common questions.

Is it a crime if you didn’t leave the store?  Yes it can be. You can still be convicted of a crime, if you took something but didn’t leave the store.  If you look at the elements below, you will notice that the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove that you moved the item out of the store.  Still, the prosecutor must prove that you had intent, so that’s one area that can be attacked in the prosecution’s case if, for example, you intended to pay for the item but put it in a pocket or a purse without thinking.

What does the prosecution have to prove to convict me of petty theft?  The summary below will show you the general  elements of petty theft:  

  • taking possession of property owned by someone else
  • without the owner’s consent
  • with the intent to remove it from the owner’s possession
  • moving it, and keep it for a period of time
  • value of property is $950 or less.

What does the prosecution have to prove to convict me of shoplifting?  The summary below will show you the general  elements of petty theft:  

  • entering a commercial establishment (for example, a store)
  • while the establishment is open during regular business hours
  • with the intent to steal items worth less than $950

How can you fight a theft charge?  

  • Lack of intent – You can show that you had no intent to steal the item.  For example, if you purchased many expensive items and forgot to pay for the milk that was at the bottom of the cart, then those factors would indicate that not paying for the milk was an oversight rather than an intentional taking.   
  • Accident/Mistake– This defense also attacks the intent element by showing that you were unaware of the item or that it was a mistake.  For example, if a child or friend put the item in your pocket without your knowledge, you could claim that it was a mistake.  Or, if you thought the item had been previously purchased by a family member or friend, then that could show a valid accident or mistake.
  • Belief the property belonged to you – This defense is also a subset of lack of intent and can be used when you believed that the property was yours and not someone else’s property.
  • Consent from the owner – If the owner said or did something that made you believe that they consented to your use or taking of the property, then this is also a defense.

 

 

What Kind of Fees Can I Expect with a DUI Charge?

Unfortunately, the cost of a DUI is very high.  This article will summarize some of the costs that you can anticipate, as well as give you helpful links to find out more.  Your attorney can also advise you on the costs to be anticipated, and can help you prepare for the road ahead.

  1. Impound Fees.  If your vehicle was impounded, you will be on the hook for administrative fees, plus the cost of towing and storage.  The administrative fee depends on where the vehicle was impounded, but for instance, the cost in Vacaville can be $234.  (See https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/dl/fees/miscdl_fees#misc_duireissue).  Also, be aware that the vehicle can only be released to the Registered Owner.  However, if the owner is incarcerated, then the jail can provide a Vehicle Release Form.
  2. Driver’s License Fees.  These vary depending on the age of the driver, and whether it is a first or second offense, but to give you an idea of the ballpark the Reissue Admin Fee for a Driver over 21, is $125.  This link will give you the specifics:  https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/dl/fees/miscdl_fees#misc_duireissue.
  3. Bail Fees.  If you have been incarcerated, you can anticipate a bail bonsdmen fee.  The way it works is that the court sets the bail.  The bonds company charges you a fee (usually a percentage of the amount of bail), and then the bonds company pays the full amount to the court.  When you appear at your hearing, the bonds company receives their money back, but they earned the fee.
  4. Court Fines.  These can run you at least $2,000.  According to the Yolo County Sentencing Guidelines for Infractions and Misdemeanors, Effective August 25, 2016, the minimum fine to be imposed for a DUI is $1958.  
  5. Other Miscellaneous Court Fines and Fees.   The Court will likely impose misc. fines and fees which total at least $300, depending on the jurisdiction.  See the excerpt below from the Yolo County Sentencing Guidelines for Infractions and Misdemeanors, Effective August 25, 2016.
  6. Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 8.57.36 PMCounseling – The amount of counseling ordered and the cost of the classes varies, but a conservative estimate would be at least $200 for counseling and classes.
  7. Restitution – If the DUI involved an accident, the court may order restitution, which means that you will have to pay for the damages incurred by the other driver.
  8. Interlock  – An interlock device is placed in your car so that your breath alcohol level is checked before you can drive.  The cost can vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle and the company you choose.  One company surveyed charged a $60 installation fee and 69.95 plus tax per month.  
  9. Insurance – Automobile insurance rates are higher for those who have been convicted of a DUI.  To reinstate your license after a DUI, you will have to file a Proof of Insurance Certificate (SR-22).  These sites can give you more information about the insurance needed.  https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/pubs/brochures/fast_facts/ffdl35 

 

 

3 Essential Steps to Best Resolve a DUI Conviction

If you entered a guilty plea to a DUI or lost your case at trial, this article is for you.  It discusses what to do next once you have a DUI conviction.  Following these steps will help you succeed in completing your probation successfully and putting this conviction behind you.

Set Yourself Up for Probation Success

  • Know.  Make sure you find out what the terms are of your probation and how long it lasts.  Typically, you will at minimum be ordered to stay drug free and not have any other criminal offenses.    
  • Do.  Confirm that you have your paperwork and call the court for a copy if you have lost it.  This will list what you need to accomplish and when.  Typically you will need a counseling evaluation and a certain amount of counseling sessions. You may have community service obligations.  Following through with the Court’s orders is essential.
  • Report.  Ensure that anything you complete is reported, because you want to “get credit” for the counseling, etc. that you finish.  If you don’t know whether the court has a record of what you’ve done, be proactive to call and find out.

Do Not Drive with a Suspend Driver’s License 

  • Don’t drive while your license is suspended.  Typically, your license will be suspended.  Make sure that you do not drive during the suspension period.
  • Complete the DUI Program.   You will likely need to complete a DUI program prior to reinstatement of your license.    
  • More information about Suspended Driver’s License.  For more information about a suspended driver’s license in California go to http://www.dmv.org/ca-california/suspended-license.php

Compliant Driving after a DUI – Interlock and Insurance

  • Interlock.  An ignition interlock device prevents you from driving with a level of blood alcohol above the setting.  You will typically be ordered to utilize this device for a certain amount of time following your DUI, and you shouldn’t do anything to try to bypass the system.    
  • Insurance.  You need a special type of automobile insurance following a DUI.  It is often called high-risk or SR-22 insurance.  Make sure that you obtain the right kind of insurance and keep your payments current.

If you take the time to know and obey the terms of your probation, you can successfully overcome a DUI conviction.  Make sure that you find out what you need to accomplish, avoid driving while your license is suspended, and take the steps necessary once your driving privileges are restored.