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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.  

3/24/2009
Mindy
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At least five arrests were made at three Virginia Beach checkpoints for driving under the influence on St. Patrick’s Day.  Police set up these checkpoints as a way to catch drunk drivers on the roads.

"I view the checkpoints as proactive rather than reactive," Officer J.M. Baker said. "They make people think, maybe there's going to be a checkpoint on the way home, maybe I should drink responsibly."

St. Patrick’s Day, along with July 4th and Labor Day, are some of the biggest days for DUIs, even bigger than New Year’s Eve, according to Sgt. Scott Wichtendahl, who is the head of the Selective Enforcement Team that specializes in DUI and traffic.  The Selective Enforcement Team made eight DUI arrests this St. Patrick’s Day, which was more than New Year’s Eve.

Police officers at the St. Patrick’s Day checkpoints stopped 328 vehicles between 8:00 PM and 1:00 AM.  The DUI checkpoints were set up in the 2400 block of Shore Drive, on General Booth Boulevard and on the I-264 West access ramp on South Independence Boulevard.  Checkpoints are usually set up in areas where there is a high concentration of bars.

During the stop, drivers were asked for their driver’s license and registration and officers were looking for any sign of impairment.  Some drivers were also asked to complete field sobriety tests.  Many of the police officers are experts in identifying drunk drivers based on their behavior.



Category: Keyword Search: VA DUI

3/9/2009
Mindy
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If you are a diabetic and have been pulled over for suspected DUI in Virginia, there is a good chance that you will be arrested, even if you haven’t been drinking alcohol.  Drivers who have diabetes and suffer from hypoglycemia are often mistakenly accused of being intoxicated.  Some of the symptoms associated with hypoglycemia are similar to those linked to intoxication, including slurred speech, impaired motor skills, poor balance and drowsiness.  A diabetic may also stagger as a result of hypoglycemia.

Drivers who have diabetes and are experiencing hypoglycemia, which refers to low blood sugar levels, frequently fail the standard field sobriety tests in Virginia.  A breath test used to measure blood alcohol content may give a false reading for a diabetic.  When someone who has diabetes has developed hypoglycemia, there can be acetone in their mouth, which can also be smelled on the breath.  A breathalyzer will often mistake the acetone for ethyl alcohol that is found in alcoholic beverages.  As a result, the diabetic’s BAC reading will be high, although they haven’t been consuming alcohol.

An experienced Virginia DUI attorney can help you if you have been wrongfully accused of driving under the influence.  You should not be punished for DUI when a preexisting health condition, such as diabetes, caused you to fail the field sobriety tests and give a false BAC reading.

The article, “Diabetes Can Give an Inaccurate BAC Reading,” has more information on this topic.



Category: Keyword Search: VA DUI

3/6/2009
Mindy
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You can’t always rely on the results from a breath test to prove DUI.  There are too many factors that affect the readings given from breathalyzers in Virginia.  Prosecutors often use BAC readings as their main argument against a DUI defendant, but an experienced Virginia DUI attorney knows when these tests are inaccurate.

Breath testing equipment is frequently used when a police officer pulls over a suspect for DUI.  These devices are used to measure the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the driver, by utilizing a ratio to convert the alcohol in the breath to alcohol in the blood.  The first potential problem with breathalyzers is that it is automatically assumes that this ratio will be the same from person to person. 

If you have been arrested for DUI in Virginia and your BAC was above the legal limit, you need to have an expert review your case.  The various factors that can skew the results of breath tests are endless.  Radio frequency from a police officer’s radio or a nearby airport can affect your breath test results.  Mouth alcohol can throw off the reading, especially if you wear dentures.  Other chemicals are often mistaken for ethanol, which is found in alcoholic drinks.  Even certain medical conditions, such as diabetes can give false results from breathalyzers.

Don’t let your Virginia DUI conviction be based on the results from a breath test, without first looking into other possible causes that could have altered your BAC reading.  Talk with an experienced DUI attorney today by calling 888-DUI-ANSWER.

 



Category: Keyword Search: VA DUI

2/27/2009
Mindy
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A 41-year-old man from Halifax was recently charged with DUI (driving under the influence), after he hit a Halifax County school bus.  He has also been charged with hit-and-run.

Virginia State Trooper K.R. Martin charged Glenn H. Spell of Chatham Road following the accident.  Spell sideswiped a school bus operated by Willie Francis Jr., 43, of South Boston.  The bus only sustained minor damages, including a black streak along the side of the vehicle.  However, Spell did not stop after hitting the school bus, but later returned to the scene of the crash on Thompson Store Road where he had struck the bus at 4:40 AM.

There was no significant damage and no one was hurt in the accident, but school transportation officials still responded to the call from the bus driver.  When the school transportation officials arrived to the accident scene, Spell had already returned, but left again when state police were called.  Spell was later identified as the driver and was charged with DUI and hit-and-run.

In Virginia, the consequences for DUI are severe.  A first time DUI offense can result in a court fine of up to $2,500 and a jail sentence.  A DUI conviction will go on your criminal record and could affect your insurance premium, future employment and your family’s wellbeing.  Virginia courts hear so many DUI cases, that they frequently encourage DUI defendants to quickly admit to guilt.  If you are facing a DUI charge in Virginia, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately.



Category: Keyword Search: VA DUI

2/23/2009
Mindy
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If you have been arrested for DUI in Virginia, chances are you will be charged with a misdemeanor, not a felony.  Even though both are considered criminal charges, a misdemeanor carries a lesser punishment.

A DUI conviction that is classified as a misdemeanor in Virginia may still carry a short jail sentence and fine, but the punishment is far less severe than a felony offense. If your DUI conviction is tried as a felony, you could be facing a state prison term of more than a year, in addition to a fine, license revocation and other consequences.

Every state is different in regards to how DUI convictions are classified.  In Virginia, a DUI offense is a misdemeanor unless it is the third offense within ten years.  A third DUI offense will be prosecuted as a Class 6 felony.  A fourth DUI offense will require mandatory time in jail of one year.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is particularly tough on convicted drunk drivers.  The section of the Virginia Code that addresses DUI is over 40 pages in length.  Even a first time DUI offense in Virginia can result in jail time, a fine of up to $2,500, a license revocation of one year and mandatory attendance of a DUI educational program provided by the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP).  If you are given a sentence enhancement, you could be facing an even worse punishment.

The article, When is DUI a Felony Offense, has more information regarding when DUI is charged as a felony versus a misdemeanor.



Category: Keyword Search: VA DUI

2/13/2009
Mindy
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Various states, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska and Washington, have already enacted laws requiring first time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock systems into their vehicles.  These devices are similar to breathalyzers and are installed into the vehicle’s dashboard.  The engine will not start until the driver blows into the device and has a low reading (according to the programmed blood alcohol concentration, BAC).

Virginia has proposed a similar law that would require drivers who are convicted for a first time DUI offense to install an ignition interlock in Virginia, even if there was a low BAC at the time of arrest.  This proposed law would revise the state’s existing law that requires ignition interlocks for repeat DUI offenders and for those who were arrested with a high BAC in Virginia.

This proposed law, and similar proposed laws in other states, has been a topic of many intense debates, which is discussed in the article, “Ignition Interlocks for First Time Offenders is a Heated Topic.”  The critics of this law feel that the requirement of an ignition interlock for a first time DUI offender is unfair and basically gives the same punishment to that driver as someone who has multiple DUI offenses.  Opponents to the law believe that ignition interlocks do not solve the problem of drunk driving.  A former MADD president was even quoted as saying that the drunk driving problem has been reduced to “a hard core of alcoholics who do not respond to public appeal.”

Advocates of the law have cited a 2008 study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which showed that interlock devices in New Mexico reduced the number of repeat DUI offenses by about two-thirds in the state.  However, critics believe that this decline could also be contributed to other factors, such as education programs.

If laws, such as the one being proposed in Virginia, are passed, many feel that judges will not have the ability to distinguish between drivers who have had a few drinks and barely go over the legal limit and those who go way over.



Category: Keyword Search: VA DUI

2/10/2009
Mindy
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Albemarle County Police kicked off a campaign to nab intoxicated drivers on Super Bowl Sunday in Central Virginia.

Before the Super Bowl, Corporal Ken Richardson explained, “We are going to have heavy patrol from the roads during the time of the Super Bowl to look for intoxicated drivers.”

Albemarle County Police added seven traffic patrol units that Sunday to watch county streets before the official kickoff into the early hours of Monday morning, said Richardson.

Richardson said that they were looking for any unusual driving habits that people were doing, such as crossing the lines.

Central Virginia bars also helped out in the efforts to keep drunk drivers off the roads in Albemarle County.  Kiersten Kaufman of the Wild Wing Café in Charlottesville said that her staff was prepared to cut off fans who had enough to drink.  “We train our staff very, very well to know the signs of when someone is a little too intoxicated, and often times those signs present themselves before they’ve gotten to that point,” said Kaufman.

Some of the signs that Kaufman said to watch out for that would indicate someone had too much to drink include slurred speech, not walking properly, putting their head down or slowing down as far as drinking.

Richardson said that he hoped everyone would have come up with a plan to get home safely from Super Bowl parties.  One of the ways that people could prevent an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) was by designating a driver.



Category: Keyword Search: VA DUI

2/6/2009
Mindy
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Over the last three years, Staunton’s law enforcement has been the most stringent by area authorities, according to statistics.  In 2006, Staunton police arrested 121 motorists and in 2007, this number jumped to 183.  Last year, there were 174 DUI arrests.

When Officer Lisa Klein, a spokeswoman for the Staunton Police Department, was asked why the number of arrests went down in 2008, she said that she thought the public was getting the message that driving under the influence in Staunton was not going to be tolerated.  “I do think people are responding.  We’ve been hitting it pretty hard,” said Klein.

According to Klein, there were no directives from top brass to target intoxicated drivers, but the fresh batch of police officers could have had an affect on the number of DUI arrests.

Staunton law enforcement has led the way in DUI arrests with a total of 478 arrests over the past three years.  Waynesboro arrested 395 suspected drunk drivers and the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office arrested 195 drivers.  Area 17 was placed first in “Operation Checkpoint Strikeforce” two of the last three years.

Miles Bobbit, director of Staunton’s Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) said that DUI referrals to his organization have been increasing by 100 per year.  He said that the agency is on track to continue that trend this year.

The financial costs of a DUI arrest are high, which include towing bills, storage fees, court costs and fines, jail costs, lost work days, VASAP expenses and increased insurance fees.



Category: Keyword Search: VA DUI