Most police officers in the City of Angels take very seriously their responsibility to get Los Angeles DUI drivers off the road. Occasionally, however, some law enforcement officials may turn a blind eye to someone’s drinking and driving offense. When authorities discover their actions, those officers find that they’re got legal troubles of their own.boyle-heights-los-angeles-DUI-police

The Los Angeles Times recently reported on two officers, Rene Ponce and Irene Gomez, accused by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office of filing a false report and conspiracy to commit an act injurious to the public.

The case against the officers involves an incident from two years ago. On the night of October 26, 2014, a Mustang driven by an unnamed driver slammed into two cars parked on a neighborhood street. When the driver tried to flee, people in the neighborhood who had been awakened by the crash gave chase. Larry Chavez, who held the driver down until the officers arrived, said that the man was very drunk.

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The State of California law recognizes that children involved in incidents of DUI in Los Angeles are at special risk; in fact, California Vehicle Code 23572 mandates enhancements in penalties for anyone driving DUI with kids in the car. For a first offense, convicted DUI drivers have to serve a mandatory 48 hours in jail. A second offense results in a 10-day jail stay and a third offense in a 30-day jail sentence. Drivers caught DUI for a fourth time with children in their vehicles could spend three months in jail.children-at-risk-DUI-los-angeles

A September 5th crash in Cuyama, California, illustrates just why authorities are so concerned. Jerald Holman was traveling westbound on Highway 166 when his Toyota Camry drifted into the eastbound lane. When Holman hit a Chevrolet in that lane, the impact ejected two young passengers—a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl—from the car. Emergency responders pronounced both children dead at the scene. The children’s mother, Todeshia Lewis, was also a passenger in the car. She and Holman suffered minor injuries.
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When someone arrested for DUI in Los Angeles is under the influence of alcohol, law enforcement officials have a fairly easy way to measure the degree of intoxication with a breathalyzer test and/or a blood alcohol concentration test. But it’s not that easy when it comes to measuring how marijuana affects a person’s ability to drive. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, remains in the bloodstream for a long time and there are no good ways for police officers in the field to measure its presence in the bloodstream.THC-test-DUI-los-angeles

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California could soon be among the 25 states that require drivers with a first DUI conviction to install ignition interlock devices in any vehicles that they drive. The new law would not affect the penalties for anyone convicted of DUI in Los Angeles, since Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento and Tulare Counties have been operating under a pilot program that requires an IID for first-time offenders since 2011.Senate-Bill-1046-los-angeles-DUI

Senate Bill 1046, championed by Senator Jerry Hill, passed the Senate in late August; the California State Assembly approved a similar bill earlier in the year. The legislation now sits on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk; he must decide by September 30th whether or not to approve the bill or veto it.

If the bill becomes law, a first DUI offense would require installation of an IID for six months, with lengthier periods for increasing offenses. (Second DUI – one year; third DUI – two years; fourth and any subsequent DUIs – three years.)
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Court rulings and new laws in other states don’t have an immediate impact on California DUI laws and the outcome of arrests for DUI in Los Angeles.  But it’s always interesting to take a look and see how other states are dealing with challenges and updates to DUI law.TennLegislature-DUI-law-debate

•    The Tennessee State Legislature has taken the extraordinary step of going into special session to amend a law that they passed that raised the BAC limit for 18 to 20-year olds to 0.08 percent.  The legislature had reasoned that since the new penalties for drivers in that age group were the same as for drivers over 21, the BAC limits should be the same. But that put them in conflict with federal law, which mandates a 0.02 limit for those under 21. Since the federal government threatened to withhold federal highway construction funds from the state, the state legislature had to hold a special session (at a cost of at least $75,000) to amend its law and bring it into conformity with federal law. (The federal government refused to waive an October 1st deadline to allow the state to amend the law at its next scheduled legislative session in January 2017.)

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Drivers arrested for DUI in Los Angeles often leave a very visible trail of damage in their wake: wrecked vehicles (theirs and/or others’), downed utility poles or traffic signals, broken windows in storefronts. But sometimes the damage spreads a lot further.DUI-fire

According to a story in the August 29th Los Angeles Times, 44-year-old Rene Ilene Hogan was driving under the influence when she started a fire that set ablaze 450-plus acres of grass and forest in Calaveras County.

Hogan was driving a 2002 Kia Rio but didn’t realize that her rear tire was flat. She continued traveling until the tire wore down to the wheel rim, causing sparks to fly. Some of the sparks hit the very dry grass along the highway, setting off several fires. Her Kia eventually caught fire as well, but Hogan kept driving, apparently oblivious to the damage she had caused and her own peril.

Motorists who saw her car on fire tried to alert her, but Hogan didn’t notice them. Finally, one car pulled in front of her, forcing her to stop. The driver and nearby residents managed to pull Hogan from the car before she suffered any burns. Police later charged her with driving under the influence of a narcotic analgesic and cannabis, as well as driving on a suspended license.

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Drivers arrested for DUI in Los Angeles usually have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. But there are times when a DUI suspect’s BAC measures much higher—so high that you wonder how they ever managed to even get behind the wheel of a vehicle, much less drive it.high-bac-level-dui-los-angeels

In Henrico County, Virginia, 44-year-old Angela Gittings faces DUI charges after she hit several vehicles outside an area high school. Police measured her blood alcohol content at 0.38, more than four times the legal limit.  Gittings was also driving without a license; the DMV had revoked it because of previous DUIs.

According the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a BAC of 0.31 to 0.45 poses a “significant risk of death in most drinkers due to suppression of vital life functions.” People with this level of alcohol may lose consciousness and/or suffer from life-threatening alcohol poisoning.

The NIAAA also states that a BAC reading of 0.16 to 0.30 significantly impair a person’s speech, memory, coordination, attention, reaction time and balance. It also has a very negative impact on a person’s driving-related skills, judgment and decision making.

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Suppose a police officer asks someone suspected of a DUI in Los Angeles to consent to a test to measure the blood alcohol content in their body. If the blood test turns up evidence of drug usage—which the officer did not mention in his request for that blood test—can the state use those results to win a DUI conviction?xanax-Alprazolam-DUI-los-angeles

The Minnesota Supreme Court recently addressed a similar question in a ruling in a 2014 DWI case. According to a report by Minnesota Public Radio, police requested a warrant to draw Debra Fawcett’s blood after she ran a red light and caused a two-vehicle crash. Fawcett admitted to drinking a few beers earlier in the day.

The test results showed that Fawcett’s blood was alcohol free. However, they also revealed that she had THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) and Alprazolam in her bloodstream. (Physicians often prescribe Alprazolam, better known by its trade name Xanax, for anxiety disorders.) Fawcett did have a valid prescription for the drug.

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If a driver is under age 21 in California, state law (Vehicle Code 23140) makes it easier for prosecutors to convict them of DUI in Los Angeles. Instead of the typical blood alcohol content measurement of 0.08 required for a DUI conviction, California’s DUI law lowers that standard to 0.01 for someone under age 21. This law complies with federal requirements, which set the BAC standard for underage drivers to 0.02.under-21-los-angeles-DUI

Tennessee used to comply with those standards as well. But a new law—actually intended to make the state’s drunk driving penalties tougher—raised the BAC standard to 0.08 for all drivers in the state. Lawmakers thought they were simply making the law consistent for all adults over age 18, but the change has threatened the state’s federal road funding.

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Intoxicated drivers often make bad decisions that draw police officers’ attention and leave the drivers vulnerable to arrest on a charge of DUI in Los Angeles. But California drivers aren’t the only ones making mistakes, as these arrest stories from around the country clearly demonstrate.shocking-los-angeles-DUI-stories

In Madison, Wisconsin, a 42-year-old woman decided that she was in the mood for a beer. Only problem was she opened the can while sitting in a car and right in front of the officer who had pulled her over on suspicion of DUI. When the woman refused to get out of the car and continued drinking, the officer had to call reinforcements to pry the unidentified driver out of her car. She faces charges of reckless driving and driving while intoxicated.

In Connecticut, two people were driving their vehicles with flat tires and probably hoping that police didn’t notice. Police in South Windsor arrested 33-year-old Eric Schneider after they received reports that a vehicle in the area was riding on a bare rim. Schneider had apparently been traveling with a flat for so long that he wore the tire away. He’s facing DUI charges.

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