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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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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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