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 From an emotional standpoint, a case where someone is accused driving under the influence and killing another person is one of the toughest.  With the victim, you usually have someone who did not deserve to die.  They are often young, in the prime of their lives.  They are usually also close to the driver.  The victim is often a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or sibling of the accused.  Unfortunately, that person is not available to express forgiveness to the driver.
 
As for the driver, you often have a person who has never been in trouble in his life.  He may be college educated, have a great job, and a loving family.  But for this horrible incident he would have continued to be an upstanding citizen.
 
Recently, a San Jose woman pled guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter after hitting and killing a 79 year old grandmother.  She is waiting to be sentenced by a Santa Clara County judge.  Her maximum possible sentence is 12 years in the state prison.  In fact, the judge is precluded from granting this woman probation unless he finds “unusual circumstances” where the interests of justice require it.  According to statements, the family of the victim has forgiven the defendant, and believes that the victim would forgive her as well.  Unfortunately, California DUI sentencing law provides somewhat less opportunity for the Court to forgive her. 

As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that, regardless of the outcome, nobody wins in these cases.  Regardless of what side you are on there is nothing but tragedy in these cases.  An innocent victim loses her life, and a contrite survivor is cast into the hell of the California prison system.  

11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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As a San Francisco DUI attorney, many clients inquire about how to avoid a DUI charge in the first place.  I have discussed the "rules of the road" which give the San Francisco police officer or California Highway Patrol officer probable cause to stop your vehicle.

THere are other things you can do before you even go out for a few drinks, whether it's a road trip to San Jose, or a short trip to the Richmond District.  Know your vehicle.  If you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with your car, you are more likely to make mistakes.  If you fit in this category, sit in the car before you leave.  Take a moment to know where everything is before you start to drive.  Simple things such as turn signal levers, emergency brake lights, headlights, high beams, windshield wipers and so on.  Adjust the seat and steering wheel BEFORE you drive away. 

If you normally drive a car with a clutch, acclimate yourself to an automatic transmission.  Drive the vehicle for a while before you make your trip. 

Another thing you should do is make sure everything works in the vehicle.  All the lights are in good working order, the registration tags are current, and so on.  Avoid being stopped simply because your tail light is out, or broken.

Taking the time to go over the car itself can make your evening more enjoyable, and avoids an arrest for a vehicle infraction while you're driving home in San Francisco.  Don't make the officer's job easy.



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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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As a San Francisco DUI lawyer, I have clients come into my office from all over the Bay Area with their DUI citation.  Once I get the police report, I become frustrated by the statements made by the client to the police officer.  The problem is that most people do not know that they have the right to refuse to answer questions that might incriminate them before they are arrested. 

It is important to know that everything you say from the point you are approached y the officer until you are released from custody can, and most likely will, be in a subsequent police report, and it may be used against you at trial.  You do not have to say anything to the officer other than your name and insurance information.  Do not offer information such as "I only had three beers" or "I'm upset because my boyfriend broke up with me."  Don't make jokes to the officer.  Don't argue with the officer, or swear at the officer.  You will later regret it.

While it is possible for a DUI attorney to get the statements thrown out, it is possibly that a judge may leave them intact.  They will then be intact for a jury to hear. 

So remember, be quiet, give out only essential information, and hope for the best.



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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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After a night out with your family in the Mission District of San Francisco, where you had too much to drink at dinner, you are stopped by a San Francisco police officer.  The embarassment of being arrested for DUI in front of your family is humiliating.  You get released the next day, and figure all you need to worry about is the DUI charge, and trying to keep your license at the DMV hearing.

Wrong.  As any San Francisco DUI attorney can tell you, there are potential enhancements and additional charges that can come out of that family night out.  The most serious is a misdemeanor child endangerment charge.  You were driving, under the influence, with your young chidren in the car with you.  This can add jail time and fines to your DUI charge.  It potentially could involve the child welfare department, depending on the circumstances, and the blood alcohol level.

Obviously a DUI, and a loss of license privileges, will create even more problems for your family.  In addition, potential jail time, enhanced by the child endangerment charge, will cause havoc for you and your family.  While a good DUI attorney can work to reduce the impact of the child endangerment charge, including dismissal of the charge, it is something to keep in mind when you go out with your family, and consume alcohol.



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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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Whether you are driving in the Richmond District in San Francisco, or asleep at the wheel in the Mission District, it is important to know what exactly is "drunk driving" in California.

The legal definitions of "driving" and "drunk" can be inteprreted in many ways.  You can be driving even though you are approached by a police officer in a parked park with the engine off, or in an accident with the keys out of the ignition.  The key is whether the police, and the District Attorney, can place you in the driver's seat.

Being "drunk" doesn't necessarily mean having a lot of drinks in the SOMA area.  The key is whether you are legally impaired.  This can be accomplished not only by alcohol, but illicit drugs, prescribed drugs, cough mediicine, or other substances which impair your ability to drive.

Obviously, once you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, a qualified DUI attorney in the San Francisco area can help determine whether you fall into the legal definitions under the law.

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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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You are applying for a new job.  You are asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime.  You remember back to that DUI you got when you were out on the town in the Richmond District in San Francisco three years ago.  You have to admit that you have a DUI.  Say good bye to that job.  Even if the question isn't on the application form, your potential employer will run a criminal background check, and that DUI will be there.

What do you do?  One option is to expunge your DUI record from your criminal history.  If you have successfully completed probation, paid all your fines, committed no other crimes (other than traffic infraction tickets) you can petition the court to expunge or erase the conviction.  When the Court grants your petition, you can mark "No" on an employment application asking for criminal conviction. 

The expungement does not free you from future enhancements if you get another DUI, nor does it prevent you from admitting to a conviction that was expunged for certain California licenses and immigration applications.  But it does allow you to lessen the burden of a prior conviction to let you get that job you want.

A qualified San Francisco DUI can explain the process of expungement and its benefits, and prepare your petition.



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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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You've gone out for drinks in San Francisco.  Later, on the ride home through the SOMA district, you get stopped by the San Francisco police.  You are arrested, and a subsequent Blood Alcohol Content test has you at 0.14, over the legal limit in California.  When you are arrested in California, there are two different cases:  the criminal case and the Department of Motor Vehicle administrative case.

You must request a DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest.  Otherwise you automatically lose.  By losing, you lose your license for 120 days.  You also need to obtain SR-22 insurance proving you in fact have insurance.  You will need to obtain proof of enrollment in a DUI school for at least three months.

If you have a DMV hearing and win, and you win your criminal matter, then nothing will happen to your license.  If you, however, lose your DMV hearing, but win your criminal matter, you still need to get the SR-22 insurance proof, take the DUI school, and have your license suspended.  Why?  Because the DMV case and the criminal matter are completely separate, and one does not effect the other.

Hiring a qualified DUI attorney in San Francisco will help guide you through the maze of the DUI laws, and explain the consequences of every possible result from a DUI arrest.

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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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You have your first court date in San Francisco Superior Court coming up.  It's the arraignment, where you'll get a copy of your charges filed by the District Attorney.  The judge asks you what your plea is.  You just want this all to end.  What are your options?

If you plead guilty, the judge will then find you guilty of a DUI.  You will be sentenced on that day to jail time, huge fines, a DUI three month course, probation, and a permanent conviction on your record. 

This is guaranteed.  And you will have done it without the benefit of seeing the police report, or testing the BAC results, or seeking the advice of a San Francisco DUI attorney.  And once it's done, there's little chance of going back and changing your mind.  It's over.

Fighting your case will allow a qualified San Francisco DUI attorney to review the evidence, talk with the District Attorney, and do everything possible to affect the outcome of your case to your advantage.  Perhaps the officer had no reason to stop you at 2 a.m. in the morning on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond District.  Perhaps the BAC device is defective, and that 0.08 is really a 0.05.  Maybe the witnesses in the case are unavailable for trial.

In the end you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Don't go into a DUI charge alone.  A DUI conviction will plague you long after that first scary court appearance.

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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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You've been charged with a DUI after a night out in the Mission in San Francisco.  You have a court hearing coming up.  The San Francisco police officer gives you a citation, along with your temporary driver's license.  What else could go wrong?

At the arraignment hearing, you receive your trial information, telling you what you are charged with.  You notice a few extra things.  These are called enhancements or aggravating factors.  They are either charged by the District Attorney or added later by the judge.  They are meant to increase the punishment of the DUI.

Some examples:  Driving under the influence with children in the car.  Soeeding or driving reckless.  Having a blood alcohol level above a certain level.  Refusing a test for measuring blood alcohol content.  Being in an accident, or worse, causing injury to another person, even one who is a passenger in your car.

If you haven't consulted with a qualified San Francisco DUI attorney yet, now's the time.  Any one of these enhancements could result in additional fines, additional jail time, or increased time in revocation of your license.  Don't try to handle this on your own.  A qualified DUI attorney can try to eliminate the enhancements, challenge the arrest itself, or do other legal maneuvers to your benefit.

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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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It's 2 a.m. in the morning, and you have been out and about in San Francisco, and it's time to drive home to the Marina District.  You know you have had too much to drink, but you get in your car anyway.  You drive one block and are in a residential area.  You stop your car, turn the engine off, and fall asleep.

Later an officer taps on your window, and begins the DUI stop procedures.  You are arrested for DUI.  But you weren't driving.  Can you get out of a DUI conviction?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

You may not know this, but you can be convicted of a DUI even if you aren't operating, moving or driving a motor vehicle.  The issue is whether you have control of the vehicle.  This comes into play if you have the car keys, either in the ignition or within reach.  In addition, you are in control if you are in the driver's seat.  More obvious signs are a running engine, or stopped in traffic, asleep, or having been observed by a police officer driving.

Other circumstances are less obvious.  Sitting on your car hood or fender.  Sleeping in the back seat.  Again the issue is control.  You do not need to be seen driving by an officer.

What it all comes down to is the issue of driving and control - a fact issue.  A good San Francisco DUI attorney can help to sort through the facts and the law, and fight to throw out the charge.  It's never cut and dried.

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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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Once you've been stopped by a San Francisco police officer for a possible DUI, the officer has already made a decision that he or she has probable cause to stop you.  As you roll down your window to talk to the officer, and the officer smells alcohol on your breath, the likelihood that you can leave at that point is slim.  And then you begin to speak.

The most damaging evidence in a DUI case are the statements you make to the officer.  Admissions of drinking, the amount you've consumed, and other responses to questions the officer is asking you.  A San Francisco DUI attorney is going to try to determine if these damning statements can be suppressed under Miranda.

In a situation where you have been "arrested" the officer must give you your Miranda advisals:  telling you that you have the right to remain silent, seek advice of an attorney, that anything you say can be used against you.  The question becomes "when" you've been arrested.  In a DUI case, the officer most likely has determined you are under the influence based on errative driving, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, and other usual factors.  Additional questions are asked in an effort to further allow you to incriminate yourself, and have the statements used against you in court.  Without the advisals.

A qualified San Francisco DUI attorney will determine which statements are "spontaneous" and thus allowed into a trial, and those which are solicited after you are technically under arrest.  Those statements can be suppressed because they were made without the Miranda advisal.

Beyond the obvious advice, which is to say nothing other than your name during an arrest, sometimes that advice goes out the window when you are in a panic, or are attempting to get out of a DUI at the road stop.  It doesn't work.  If you remain silent, there are no statements to suppress.  If you talked too much, hire a DUI attorney to get those statements thrown out.



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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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What can you do when you are pulled over for a DUI by the San Francisco Police Department?  Here are some basic things you can do, and have the right to do:

1. If you see the police lights, try to pull over carefully, but not too carefully.  Show you are in command of your vehicle.  Turn on your turn signal.  Slow down and brake gradually. 

2. How do you look?  Is your shirt tucked in, do you look ruffled or disheavaled?  Is your makeup smeared?  Make adjustments accordingly before you roll down the window.

3. Remember that the police officer is noting EVERYTHING you do and say.  The first impression is most important.  In other words, be nice to the officer, be cooperative, and not defensive.

4. Before you go out for the evening, put your car registration and insurance in an easily accessible place in your car.  Make sure you can easily find your driver's license.  It saves you searching your vehicle while you're nervous.

5. You should remember that you do not have to submit to a preliminary breath test.  This test is used by the officer to determine whether to arrest you.  You also do not have to submit to the field sobriety tests.  Will this get you out of an arrest?  Probably not, but these tests are unreliable, and will be used against you.  

6. Other than your name and address, you do not have to talk to the officer about your activities.  Invoke your right to an attorney during any questioning.

A qualified California DUI attorney can help advise you regarding your rights during a stop, and if you have been stopped and subsequently arrested, the DUI attorney can evaluate the circumstances of the stop to determine if anything was done improperly.



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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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If you have been arrested for a DUI in San Francisco or the Bay Area, there is the tendency to simply admit you're guilty, and avoid the costs of hiring a qualified DUI attorney.  In some criminal cases, such as traffic tickets, that may be the case.  In a DUI, it is not, especially in California. 

The DUI arrest itself has already created chaos in your life for you and your loved ones.  Having an experienced attorney on your side will minimize the stress related to a DUI. 

This is especially true when you are looking at your second or third or more DUI charge.  The punishments go up incrementally each time.  Also, if there are extentuating circumstances in your case that could increase the punishment, such as driving under the age of 21, having minor children in the vehicle, or having a high BAC.  You need to hire a qualified DUI lawyer.

If you are in an accident, and someone, even you, have been injured, there are a multiitude of reasons why you need an attorney, not only for the DUI, but also the tangent consequences of the injuries, including a possible civil lawsuit.

The results of a DUI conviction can be costly to you and your loved ones.  You could lose your job if you lose your license.  You could spend time in jail.  You could pay large fines and penalties.  An experienced lower can reduce or minimize these consequences, or get rid of the DUI charge all together.

In other words, i you don’t know what you need to do, or what steps you need to take, hire a DUI attorney.  A qualified San Francisco DUI attorney can walk you through the steps of the entire DUI process at the criminal level and the Department of Motor Vehicles.  The attorney can review the facts of your case and challenge the charge in a trial, or plea bargain a better dea.



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11/17/2008
Anders Johnson
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You are driving in the Sunset District in San Francisco, California.  You are pulled over, and the officer suspects you are under the influence of alcohol.  You are arrested and taken to the San Francisco Police station for a breathalyzer test.  The breathalyzer estimates the concentration of alcohol in the blood. 

Can you control the breath test?  In other words, can you fool a breathalyzer into showing a lower BAC reading?    The answer is No.

There are a lot of people who believe certain myths regarding a breathalyzer and BAC. For example, sucking on pennies does not lower a BAC reading.  Breath mints?  No.  They only mask the odor of alcohol, they do not change the alcohol content being measured.  Indeed, you don’t have to drink alcohol to get arrested for a DUI, because the human body produces its own supply of alcohol naturally on a continuous basis.  Therefore, we always have alcohol in our bodies and in some cases, some people produce enough to become legally intoxicated.

Are breathalyzers are always accurate?  No, and many errors are made in tests because they lack precision. The police or sheriff department official administering the test can also affect the results of a test.  

So what can you do?  A qualified San Francisco DUI attorney can examine the test procedures, as well as the accuracy of the results.  The attorney can determine if there were errors, or if there are other factors effecting the final read out.  Don't assume the BAC taken at the police station is accurate.  You may not be able to control the results of the breathalyzer, but your attorney can control how those results are used.  In some cases, the results can be voided.



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