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Law offices of David. K. Uthman.

Articles Posted in DUI

With all the talk today about “fake news” and the quality of journalistic reporting, some have come to question the value of what they read or hear from news sources. One thing news sources do unquestionably well, though, is highlight cases that serve as “what not to do” warnings for others. By learning about the strategic errors others made in handling their legal affairs, you can hopefully learn from those mistakes and avoid the downfalls that occurred to the subjects of the articles. For example, one San Diego man faces jail time in Nevada, in part, because he spent several years trying avoid drunk driving charges. Don’t be like that driver. Instead, if you are facing DUI charges in California, reach out to an experienced San Francisco DUI attorney to handle your case on time, thereby allowing you to obtain closure and move on with your life.

The San Diego man was R., who had experienced several encounters with law enforcement related to drunk driving. While working at a Lake Tahoe ski resort in 2011 and 2012, he was arrested several times for DUI. He made bail and then promptly left Nevada, according to a Record-Courier report.

R. headed to San Diego and was able to avoid punishment for his drunk driving arrests for several years. Just because you can do something does mean that you should do it, however. That’s not just true on an ethical or moral level, it can be true on a beneficial self-interest level, too. At the time, R. probably thought that his effort to avoid punishment for those DUI charges was a successful move. It was not.

If you’ve just been charged with misdemeanor drunk driving, you may think that this type of charge doesn’t really require you to retain legal counsel. After all, it’s just a misdemeanor, so it won’t affect your life that much, right? Furthermore, you might think that you can “get out of it” without an attorney, or will end up being convicted even with an attorney, so why spend the money? The reality is that even misdemeanor DUI convictions can have substantial effects on your life. However, with the aid of a skilled San Francisco DUI defense attorney, you may have more options than you think, including having the charge never appear on your record, even if you actually were driving drunk at the time.

Imagine it:  the police pulled you over. The officer conducts a breathalyzer test, and your result is above a .08. There was nothing wrong with the test, and there was nothing wrong with your consent to it. Your case has no hope, right? Wrong. There may be many various methods through which a skilled defense attorney can assist you and reduce or eliminate the impact of this arrest.

For some veterans, they may have an extra option:  military diversion. California has a statute, Penal Code Section 1001.80, that recognizes that there are often mitigating circumstances when it comes to veterans and violations of the law. This diversion program may, in the end, leave you with a result that’s as if the arrest never happened at all.

The U.S. and California Constitutions protect citizens from unreasonable searches. That protection can be especially important if you have been accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol. If the police have obtained your blood without first getting your informed consent or a valid search warrant, the blood-alcohol content test results from that blood may be inadmissible as a result of an improper warrantless search. In your DUI case, the difference between a conviction and an acquittal may be the blood evidence you do or don’t get suppressed. To make sure that your rights are protected and that you have a strong defense on your behalf, make sure you retain skilled San Francisco DUI defense counsel to fight for your rights.

An example of how readily such a situation can occur was the case of Matthew from Contra Costa County. Matthew, after allegedly finishing a beer and a golf game, traveled to visit his girlfriend. After a half-hour at the woman’s home, the pair set out together. Eventually, Matthew crashed near Concord. When law enforcement officers responded, one allegedly detected a “slight odor” of alcohol coming from Matthew. A second officer questioned the driver and allegedly noticed a “moderate odor” of alcohol on Matthew’s breath. His eyes were bloodshot and watery, according to the officer.

An ambulance took Matthew to the hospital for treatment. While the man was there, hospital staff drew his blood twice. The first time, his blood-alcohol level was 0.148. The second time, 77 minutes later, it was 0.11. At no time in the process was a search warrant obtained for Matthew’s blood.

When law enforcement pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving, there are certain things they can do and certain things they cannot do. There are certain rules, for example, regarding when they can take your blood or breath for analysis. Even once you consent, there are limits to how they can use the sample you provide. If law enforcement goes beyond those limits, you may be entitled to an order that suppresses certain evidence in your criminal trial. An experienced San Francisco DUI attorney can help you make sure that your rights are fully protected in your case.

A recent case from Southern California is an example of how these protections can help you. In 2016, law enforcement officers stopped a woman named Aubree. The officer arrested Aubree for driving under the influence of alcohol. After he made the stop, he gave the driver the required admonishment regarding breath testing and blood testing. Regarding the blood test option, he told the woman that two vials of blood would be drawn, that one would go to the county crime lab for testing, and that the second vial would be “held at no cost to you.” The officer also explained that there was no way “to retain any kind of a sample for retesting” with the breath test option. Aubree consented to a blood test.

What happened next may have surprised Aubree. The state charged her not with driving while drunk but with driving while under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol. The crime lab had determined that Aubree’s blood alcohol level was above the legal limit, but the police later sent the second vial to an outside lab, which performed a drug screen, and that test yielded a positive result.

The specific details of Fourth Amendment “search and seizure” law, as it relates to blood-alcohol content tests, has evolved significantly in the last few years. For a long time, law enforcement officers had a lot of latitude regarding the taking of blood from a suspected drunk driver, even without a search warrant. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that narrowed the leeway afforded to officers in obtaining blood draws from suspected drunk drivers. This change in the law provides more opportunity for DUI defendants to get the results of their blood tests excluded from evidence in their criminal cases. To make sure that you have the best defense possible, complete with the exclusion of all inadmissible evidence, make sure to work with an experienced San Francisco DUI attorney.An example of this change in the law, and how it can help DUI defendants, was the case of Samuel, a man arrested for suspicion of DUI in San Mateo County on June 13, 2015. A CHP officer stopped a black Honda and detected the odor of alcohol from inside the car. Samuel underwent four field sobriety tests. He did not do well. The officer did a preliminary alcohol screening. The PAS test results ranged between .144 and .177. The officer arrested Samuel and took him to a nearby CHP station. There, Samuel’s blood was drawn.

At his trial, Samuel argued that the results of his blood test should be excluded from evidence as a result of an improper warrantless seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Samuel eventually won this argument in the Appellate Division. The key to Samuel’s success was the issue of consent. There are a few ways that law enforcement can perform a search or seizure of you or your possessions. One is if there are special circumstances, which the law calls “exigent circumstances.” The other is if you give the officer permission to do the search or seizure.

In Samuel’s case, the prosecution didn’t argue that there were exigent circumstances; the prosecution simply argued that the seizure complied with the Fourth Amendment because Samuel consented. The problem was that the evidence didn’t support this assertion. Even the arresting officer eventually testified that Samuel didn’t explicitly consent to the blood draw. Samuel’s behavior, according to the officer, was more an act of his “submitting” to the blood draw, as opposed to his affirmatively selecting to undergo the blood test.

In your DUI case sometimes, the seemingly smallest details can make the biggest differences. A police officer’s failure to provide you with proper information about your options prior to taking a blood alcohol test can possibly give you the opportunity to have that test’s results excluded from your trial. To make sure that you take advantage of all of the protections the law provides you as a criminal defendant, make sure that you are working with an experienced San Francisco DUI attorney.

A recent case from Santa Clara County offers an example of how these legal protections can work for you. The facts of the case started out as many suspicion-of-drunk-driving encounters with law enforcement probably do. A local police office initiated a traffic stop at around 10 p.m. after spotting a vehicle turn the wrong way down a one-way street in downtown Campbell. During his interaction with the driver, the officer smelled what he thought was alcohol on the driver’s breath, and he identified what he thought to be slurred speech and bloodshot, watery eyes. The driver, Rebecca, said that she had consumed one or two margaritas at a nearby restaurant.

The officer administered three field sobriety tests to Rebecca. It is important to note that, under California law, you are not required to submit to field sobriety tests; you may legally refuse to do them. Refusing to submit to a field sobriety test may motivate the officer who pulled you over to arrest you, but then, so will submitting to them and failing them, which is what Rebecca did.

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