Articles Posted in DUI

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Francisco Andres ALVAREZ, Defendant and Appellant.

2023 WL 9014911 (Cal.App. 4 Dist.), 1

 Summary: In Mitchell v. Wisconsin (2019) 588 U.S. –––– [139 S.Ct. 2525] (Mitchell),  the United States Supreme Court held when a “driver is unconscious and therefore cannot be given a breath test … the exigent-circumstances rule almost always permits a blood test without a warrant.” (Id. at p. 2531 (plur. opn. of Alito, J.).)

People v. Suazo (Cal. Ct. Appl., Sept. 19, 2023, No. F082140) 2023 WL 6118736, at *1

Summary: Suazo while having an elevated blood-alcohol level, drove his 2008 Ford Focus at a high rate of speed off the highway, through a fence, and into agricultural equipment parked in an adjacent yard. His passenger was ejected from the vehicle and killed. Suazo was convicted of second degree murder; gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated; driving under the influence and causing bodily injury; driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more and causing bodily injury; leaving the scene of an accident; and driving on a suspended license.  The jury found defendant fled the scene of the crime. (Veh. Code, § 20001, subd. (c)).

On appeal, Suazo contends the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of second degree murder in light of his testimony that he drank alcohol without intending to drive afterward, then drove while unconscious. He also contends the trial court erred in failing to give, or his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to request, instructions on unconsciousness and voluntary intoxication with regard to count and the fleeing-the-scene allegation.

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. VONDETRICK CARR, Defendant and Appellant. (Cal. Ct. App., Apr. 7, 2023, No. E079368) 2023 WL 2820859, at *1

Summary: Carr drove drunk with four children in his car, hitting a pickup truck. One of the children was killed and Carr was convicted of second degree murder. Car was sentenced to a 51 years, 4 months to life in prison.

In 2021, Carr filed a petition to vacate the murder conviction under Penal Code section 1172.6. The trial court denied the petition because Carr was not convicted either on a natural and probable consequences theory or under the felony murder rule.

THE PEOPLE, Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Respondent; JESSICA ORTIZ, Real Party in Interest. (Cal. Ct. App., July 28, 2022, No. E077594) 2022 WL 2981170, at *1–2

Summary:Penal Code section 1001.95 authorizes superior court judges to offer pretrial diversion, over the prosecution’s objection, to persons being prosecuted for “a misdemeanor.” (Pen. Code § 1001.95, subd. (a).) The statute prohibits diversion for specified misdemeanors like registrable sex offenses, domestic violence, and stalking.  Misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence (DUI) (Veh. Code, §§ 23152, 23153) are not excluded from diversion in Penal Code section 1001.95.  But an older statute, Vehicle Code section 23640 bars any form of pretrial diversion for felony and misdemeanor DUI charges.

The superior court granted diversion to  Ortiz, on misdemeanor DUI charges (Veh. Code, § 23152) pursuant to Penal Code section 1001.95. The  appellate division of the superior court upheld the diversion order for Ortiz and two other defendants who had also been granted diversion on misdemeanor DUI charges.

People v. Murphy (Cal. Ct. App., May 25, 2022, No. B306773) 2022 WL 1673827, at *1

Summary: Murphy appealed his three convictions for second degree murder. (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a).). The court sentenced him to three concurrent terms of 15 years to life in prison, Murphy argued that the evidence supporting his convictions is insufficient because the prosecution failed to prove he acted with implied malice. Murphy, while under the influence of marijuana, drove his car at nearly 90 miles per hour through a red light and collided with another vehicle, killing its occupants.

The Court of Appeal concluded that sufficient evidence supported the jury’s verdict. Even though there is no standardized medical test equivalent to the blood alcohol concentration test that accurately determines a person’s level of impairment from marijuana, there was substantial evidence that Murphy was impaired from using marijuana and that acted with implied malice both when he smoked marijuana with the intent to drive, and when he drove in a manner that demonstrated a conscious disregard for human life.

ALICIA URBIETA ISLAS, Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Respondent; THE PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest. (Cal. Ct. App., May 20, 2022, No. H049445) 2022 WL 1597051, at *1–3

Summary: Islas was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). (Veh. Code, § 23152, subds. (a) and (b).) She moved for pretrial diversion under Penal Code section 1001.95, which gives judges discretion to offer diversion to misdemeanor defendants. The trial court denied diversion based on Vehicle Code section 23640, under which DUI defendants are categorically ineligible for diversion. Two appellate courts have published decisions finding misdemeanor DUI defendants similarly situated to petitioner categorically ineligible for Penal Code section 1001.95 diversion. (Grassi v. Superior Court (2021) 73 Cal.App.5th 283 (Grassi); Tan v. Superior Court (2022) 76 Cal.App.5th 130 (Tan).) We agree with the reasoning in those authorities and will therefore deny the petition for writ of mandate.

Issue: Whether misdemeanor DUI defendants are categorically ineligible from Penal Code section 1001.95 diversion by operation of Vehicle Code section 23640.

Grassi v. Superior Court of Orange County (Cal. Ct. App., Dec. 28, 2021, No. G060362) 2021 WL 6124764, at *1

Summary: Grassi filed a petition for writ of mandate after the trial court concluded that she was statutorily ineligible for misdemeanor diversion. Grassi claims that Penal Code section 1001.95’s plain language and legislative history makes diversion available to misdemeanor driving under the influence defendants despite Vehicle Code section 23640’s prohibition on granting diversion to driving under the influence defendants.

The Court of Appeal, in this case of first impression, we conclude the two statutes can be harmonized  to provide diversion to misdemeanor defendants, except for those defendants excluded in Penal Code section 1001.95, subdivision (e), and misdemeanor driving under the influence defendants pursuant to Vehicle Code section 23640. The court denied the petition.

People v. Nault (Cal. Ct. App., Dec. 20, 2021, No. B306460) 2021 WL 5997961, at *1–3

Summary: Nault, driving whiledrunk after four previous DUI convictions tried to pass an 18-wheeler on a narrow road. Nault’s pickup hit an oncoming car and killed its driver. While Nault was unconscious from the crash, police took a warrantless sample of his blood. Nault argues this violated the Fourth Amendment. The court of appeal affirmed but direct the trial court to stay a second sentence under Penal Code section 654.

Prior DUI Convictions: At his 2020 trial, Nault stipulated to four DUI convictions between 2000 and 2009. On August 11, 2017, a park ranger found Nault digging his pickup out of beach sand. Nault was stumbling about and he sounded and smelled drunk. He refused field sobriety tests and a blood test. He told the ranger to arrest  him and said his blood alcohol content was over 0.08 percent because he drank a Four Loko. The ranger arrested Nault and impounded his truck.  Nault’s license was suspended.

People v. Grabham (Cal. Ct. App., Aug. 31, 2021, No. A160384) 2021 WL 3909628, at *1

Summary:  Grabham was convicted of violating Vehicle Code 1 section 23152, subdivision (a) (section 23152(a)) and section 23152, subdivision (b) (section 23152(b)). Grabham arguesd that section 23152(a) and (b) are different statements of the same offense and Penal Code section 954 trequires vacatur of one of his convictions. The First Appellate District concluded that section 23152(a) and (b) are separate offenses and Grabham may properly be convicted of both. 

Facts: California Highway Patrol Officers initiated  a traffic stop due to Grabham’s cellphone use and expired registration. After smelling alcohol coming from the truck and observing that Grabham’s eyes were red and watery and that his speech was slurred a full DUI investigation was conducted.

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