school-bus-DUI-deadliest-crash-300x158Great journalism has the ability not just to report the facts, but also to raise important questions and provoke discussion. The issues surrounding DUI enforcement and prevention are indeed complex, and many news stories over the past ten years have helped to propel these much-needed conversations forward. Let’s continue our exploration.

1. Reflecting on the Deadliest DUI Accident in History

On May 14, 1988, a DUI driver in a pickup truck slammed head-on into a school bus in Carrollton, KY, killing 27 people and injuring 34 others. Today, that collision still holds the record as the deadliest DUI accident in history. It was a triggering event that resulted in sweeping changes to the laws, including stricter safety measures for buses and a lowering of the legal BAC limit nationwide. But as ABC News reports, thirty years later, some are still questioning whether enough has been done to turn the tide of DUI.

scooter-DUI-los-angeles-300x169Suppose you’re at a bar with some friends and you have a few drinks. You don’t feel exceptionally impaired, but you realize you’re probably not safe to drive home. You notice a scooter rental nearby and decide that might be a cheaper choice than springing for a cab or Uber. In fact, you grab one more drink with the money you saved. You’ve made a good choice, right? You’re being responsible.

Not so fast.

In late September, as USA Today reports, Los Angeles prosecutors secured their first DUI conviction of a man riding an electric scooter while under the influence—no doubt the first of many.

DUI-myths-vs-realityAs much as we are bombarded with media messages and warnings to avoid drinking and driving—and the consequences if we ignore those warnings—it’s remarkable how much the public doesn’t understand about DUI, especially here in Los Angeles. In particular, people who get pulled over on suspicion of DUI frequently have inaccurate preconceived ideas about what officers can and cannot do, what might cause an arrest, whether or not the charges will stick, and so on.

To be clear, you should never get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking, and nothing we’re about to say should be construed as suggesting otherwise. However, people frequently misjudge their own thresholds, and even people who haven’t been drinking sometimes find themselves under roadside investigation for DUI. Let’s dispel a few commonly held myths about DUI in Los Angeles (and the rest of California, for that matter) and replace them with the facts.

MYTH: Only people who have been drinking are arrested for DUI.

DUI-child-endangerment-CA-300x199Here in California, a single DUI can disrupt your life significantly. Even if you’ve been arrested for your first DUI, it can cost you fines, jail time and license suspension if you are convicted.

However, if you were arrested for DUI with children in the car, your world is about to get a whole lot more complicated. If you drive under the influence, you are considered a threat to public safety, let alone yourself. But if your kids are in the car when you do it, now you’re looking at possible child endangerment—a whole other issue that can add mandatory jail time and more to your sentence.

The repercussions of driving DUI with kids in the car extend well beyond the arrest itself. Let’s look at the numerous possible consequences of doing so.

Vince-Vaughn-DUI-los-angeles-300x225Getting arrested for DUI can be highly disruptive and embarrassing in itself—but imagine if your shortcomings made national headlines. By definition, famous people rely on publicity to keep them…famous. However, occasionally they get media attention for less than flattering reasons. Even so, we can always learn something from their stories, so let’s take a look at a few high-profile DUI cases from the past few months.

Vince Vaughn

Around 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 10, Dodgeball actor Vince Vaughn, 48, was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in Manhattan Beach outside Los Angeles, WTOP reports. He allegedly failed an on-site sobriety test but opted to take a blood test rather than submit to a breathalyzer. Vaughn was arrested on the scene on suspicion of DUI, as captured by police body cameras. An unnamed passenger in the vehicle was also arrested for public intoxication, and both were cited for delaying an investigation—which under California law is listed in the same section as resisting or obstructing arrest.

marijuana-DUI-defense-300x224In January of this year, California became the ninth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. (It has been legal for medicinal use since 1996.) However, the Adult Use Marijuana Act (aka Proposition 64) has actually done little to simplify the rules surrounding when and how pot may be bought, sold and used; if anything, the rules are now more complicated. In fact, as Time magazine points out, Prop 64 is so packed with details that it’s over 60 pages long!

Obviously, those who indulge should be aware of the ins and outs of the new law to avoid inadvertently doing something that could get them ticketed or arrested. The following overview can serve as a guide to help you stay within the bounds of the law so if you do use pot, you can do so legally, safely and without endangering others in the process. Let’s explore what is now legal under California’s marijuana laws, and what is not.

It is LEGAL to use pot, but only if you’re 21 or older.

DUI-drug-los-angeles-defense-300x172On September 7, 2017, Stergios Economos was driving in Burbank, CA when he struck Michelle Ann Landes, age 64, who was walking to her job at Walt Disney Studios, striking three other vehicles and injuring at least one other person in the process. Landes was rushed to the hospital but soon died from her injuries. Last month, as KTLA reports, Economos was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading no contest to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence of a drug.

While tragic stories like these are far too common, this incident in particular holds several important lessons because of the details surrounding it. Let’s unpack this story and see what we can learn.

Alcohol Is Not the Only Substance that Can Impair You.

One term you’re likely to hear in the context of California criminal law than in other states is the term “wobbler” or “wobbler offense.” While other states do have “wobblers,” California law is known for them; in fact, there are over 100 “wobbler” offenses documented in the California penal code, including some related to DUI. What are these “wobbler DUIs,” what do you need to know about them, and how can your attorney address them in a way to help you obtain the most positive possible outcome?DUI-wobblers-los-angeles

“Wobbler” Defined

A wobbler is simply a crime that can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony. The decision to pursue one or the other is usually left to the prosecuting attorney who takes into account the circumstances surrounding the case to decide which is the more appropriate charge—or which he believes carries the best likelihood of a conviction.

doctor-license-and-DUI-los-angelesOn February 20, 2016, Dr. Rex Lloyd Patrick Rhoten, a neurosurgeon with Kaiser Permanente, was driving his Tesla along a stretch of road in Rancho Santa Fe, supposedly on his way to work, when official documents state he crashed his vehicle into some trees, according to NBC 7 in San Diego. The responding officer noticed possible signs of intoxication which were confirmed with several field sobriety tests. His BAC level was registered as .26, over three times the legal limit. A few months later, Rhoten was convicted on charges of DUI; shortly after, the California Attorney General filed a Matter of Accusation with the state Medical Board, putting Rhoten’s professional license in jeopardy.

According to official documents filed one year after the incident, Rhoten is prohibited from the solo practice of medicine for five years pending an evaluation—his medical license revoked, but stayed, during the five-year probation.

A DUI conviction can cause widespread repercussions, including jail time, fines, required treatment, driver’s license suspension and social embarrassment—but for people whose jobs involve professional licensing, a DUI can have even more serious repercussions. Licensing boards may invoke disciplinary action on members who receive DUI convictions—anything ranging from official reprimands to fines, mandatory treatment, suspensions and even permanently revoking their licenses.

Here in California, even a single DUI conviction can complicate your life greatly. A first-time conviction can cost you jail time, license restrictions, fines and mandatory classes—not to mention embarrassment in your home and professional life. However, these difficulties pale in comparison to what you could face for multiple DUIs. By the time you reach three or more convictions, California law places you in an entirely different category, in part thanks to the “three-strike” criminal penalty structure. If you are facing your third (or more) DUI conviction, you’ll need to be prepared for some major changes in your life.three_DUIs-los-angeles-300x199

The penalties for three or more DUI convictions within 10 years are spelled out in California Vehicle Code 23546 and 23548. We’ve summarized the key points below so you’ll know what to expect and how to prepare.

Be Prepared to Spend Time in Jail

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