According to a recent report, there were 68 DUI arrests in Napa County in January alone.
The NapaValleyRegister.com released a report reflecting the number of DUI arrests and DUI convictions, including so-called “wet reckless” convictions, in Napa County. The information comes from the Napa County Sheriff’s Department and reflects monthly statistics. There are even names, convictions and blood-alcohol levels listed in the report that come directly from Napa County Superior Court.
The DUI convictions listed in the report are cases where the defendants pleaded guilty or no contest to one or more drunk driving charges or where one or more of the charges led to a guilty verdict at trial.
NapaValleyRegister.com’s report shows vehicle code violations, which are driving under the influence (Vehicle Code section 231512), reckless driving while under the influence (23103.5) and causing injury to another person while driving while under the influence (23153).
The Napa County Superior Court provided blood-alcohol levels based on the results from various tests. Some of the blood-alcohol tests were taken at the time of the arrests, while others were taken with a blood sample at a later time. The results of these tests have not necessarily been proven or admitted in court. In California, a person is not allowed to drive if he or she has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher.
Below is a summary of the number of arrests, DUI convictions and blood alcohol levels. Names are listed in the report, as well, which can be found on NapaValleyRegister.com.
DUI Arrests: 68
DUI Convictions/pleas: 63
Reported blood-alcohol below .10 or unavailable: 18
Reported blood-alcohol between .10 and .19: 32
Reported blood-alcohol between .20 and .29: 12
Reported blood-alcohol between .30 and .39: 1
A man being accused of DWI in New Jersey, is using a rare legal defense known as “pathological intoxication.” Eugene Baum Jr., a Dover man, has been accused of drunk driving and killing two teenage pedestrians in Kinnelon almost three years ago.
According to the pathological intoxication defense, someone can have a condition where they regularly become so intoxicated that they have no control over their alcohol or drug addictions and are unaware of their actions.
Baum’s DWI defense attorney claims that Baum had been hospitalized three times before the fatal accident two years ago for alcoholism. On the evening of the crash, he was operating as if he was on “autopilot” and was oblivious to his actions. His attorney went on to describe Baum as “a sick individual who suffers from a medical condition of pathological intoxication.”
The attorney from the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center feels that Baum’s defense is just a gimmick and said the only time you see such a defense is on a television show, such as Law and Order.
John Kip Cornwell, an associate dean and professor of law at Seton Hall Law School, likened Baum’s pathological intoxication defense to an insanity defense.
“It’s a very rare defense. He’s trying to thread a needle that would link all of these things together,” said Cornwell.
Baum has been charged with two counts of first-degree aggravated manslaughter in the April 20, 2006 deaths of Mayada Jafar of Kinnelon, 15, and Athear Jafar of Jefferson, 16. When Baum was arrested for DWI, his blood-alcohol level was 0.305 percent, almost four times higher than New Jersey’s legal limit of 0.08 percent.
The pathological intoxication claim may be allowed, as involuntary intoxication is not prohibited as a defense.
If you are pulled over for a suspected DUI in Virginia, there is a good chance that you will have to do a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, as part of a series of field sobriety tests. Police officers use the HGN test in Virginia to help determine if you are intoxicated. Even though scientists believe the HGN test is reliable, there are my factors that can alter the results.
Nystagmus is defined as an involuntary movement of the eyeball that occurs when there is a disturbance of the inner ear system or the oculomotor of the eye. Consuming alcohol is supposed to hinder the ability of the brain to control the eye muscles, which is where the HGN test comes in to play. The more alcohol that is consumed, the great amount of involuntary movement of the eyeball.
During the HGN test, a police officer will be looking for movement in the eye when you look to the side. The officer will most likely ask you to follow an object with your eyes, such as a pen or penlight. Generally, the object is held about 12 to 15 inches from your face and at a slightly higher eye level. It is important that the police officer is able to clearly see your eyes, if not, the results could be wrong.
There are many causes of nystagmus, besides alcohol consumption. Neural or muscle activity, brain damage, eye strain, brain tumors, inner ear diseases and other health problems can all result in nystagmus. If a police officer is not properly trained in administering the HGN test, the results could be skewed.
If you have been arrested for a Virginia DUI charge, it is crucial that you contact and an experienced DUI attorney who can review the details of your HGN test and other field sobriety tests.
The article, “The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test Used in DUI Arrests,” has more information on this topic.
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.
Congressman Jeff Flakes, R-Arizona, is planning to introduce a bill that would require an illegal immigrant who has been convicted for a third drunken driving offense in Arizona to be deported.
“I keep hearing again and again that illegal immigrants with several drunken driving convictions are still here and still on the road,” Flak said when he announced that he will sponsor the proposed bill. “In many cases, people have been killed or severely injured, and it’s simply not right.”
According to Flake, high profile cases have brought more attention to the problem of illegal immigrants with multiple DUI offenses in Arizona. One of the high profile cases included the death of Phoenix Police Officer Shane Figueroa last fall who was killed in a car accident caused by an illegal immigrant who was driving drunk. Figueroa was responding to a call when a truck turned in front of his patrol car. The impact of the collision spun Figueroa’s patrol car and he crashed into a block wall. He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center where he died from his injuries.
Flake said that people are understandably upset that there isn’t a simpler way to deport illegal immigrant who have multiple DUI offenses.
“Right now, a drunken driving offense has no immigration consequences in and of itself. So this legislation would say, ‘If you have three drunken driving incidents, then you’re out. It’s a deportable offense,’” said Flake.
Flake hopes that his proposed bill will lead to a similar federal law, where “three strikes and you’re out – out of the country.”
A New York State police investigator was charged last Friday, February 6, 2009, with driving while intoxicated, DWI. He is known for his involvement with the Great American Irish Festival in the local community, which was confirmed by state police on Monday.
In New York, DWI is defined as having a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.08 percent. The penalties for a DWI conviction in New York include the loss of driving privileges, fines, and a possible jail sentence. A driver convicted of first time DWI offense in New York may have to pay a fine of up to $1,000 and may have to serve up to one year in jail.
Matthew Sullivan is facing DWI charges in New York. He was suspended with pay pending an internal investigation, said state police Lt. Glenn Miner, a spokesman based out of Albany.
He was arrested for DWI by another member of the state police, said Miner. According to police records from Friday night, Sullivan was arrested on Rt. 12 in the Town of Trenton, said an Oneida County Sheriff’s deputy. The details behind Sullivan’s DWI arrest have not been released.
Sullivan is a police investigator who works in the Troop D area based out of Oneida. He is also the president of the annual Irish Festival and a 2007 recipient of the Accent on Excellence award for local community leaders.
Troop D Public Information Officer Trooper Jim Simpson was able to confirm that Sullivan is the Great American Irish Festival president, but directed any further questions regarding Sullivan’s arrest to the Albany office.
Sullivan declined to comment when he was contacted by a news reporter.
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.
The Georgia immigration law from 2006 is going un-enforced. The immigration law, which was meant to crack down on illegal immigration has been called one of the nation’s toughest because it orders local governments, contractors and subcontractors to confirm the legal status of new hires. It also has a provision addressing illegal immigrants who have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Georgia.
Based on this 2006 law, illegal immigrants arrested for DUI in Georgia, must be reported to immigration authorities. However, supporters of this law do not feel confident that this provision is being taken seriously. Proponents believe that the state government has not been enforcing the law and no one at the state level has checked to see whether governments and businesses are complying.
The DUI arrest provision of the Georgia immigration law, which requires jailers to check the legal status of anyone booked on a felony or a DUI, has had some problems. For example, someone who has been arrested for DUI in Georgia may post bond to get out of jail before the feds are called to hold that person on immigration violations.
“There is no state oversight of any of this stuff,” Terry Norris, executive vice president of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association said.
Some believe that this law has not been properly enforced because of a lack of accountability, as the Legislature never provided money to monitor the law.
“As far as any enforcement responsibilities under the law, we don’t have any,” said Labor Department spokesman Sam Hall.
Hall said that the agency offered to conduct random audits, if it received funding. He even said that the agency posted guidelines on its website. According to Hall, there is no central agency that has the authority to monitor who is complying with the law.
Last week, New Jersey bill SB1926 was heard by the New Jersey Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The New Jersey bill would require the installation of breathalyzers in the cars driven by DUI first-time offenders who had a low BAC.
The American Beverage Institute (ABI), “an organization dedicated to the protection of responsible on-premise consumption of adult beverages,” has opposed the New Jersey bill requiring ignition interlocks for drivers convicted of DUI with a low BAC. However, the organization is in favor of focusing on high BAC drivers and repeat DUI offenders, who the American Beverage Institute believes makes up the core of the drunk driving problem today.
According to ABI Managing Director Sarah Longwell, who was invited to provide expert testimony before the Committee, “we believe that this bill denies judicial discretion and ignores proportional response by mandating ignition interlock devices for low-BAC, first-time offenders. This bill mandates that even those only one sip over .079 receive a punishment primarily reserved for the high-BAC, repeat offenders who cause the vast majority of alcohol-related fatalities in New Jersey.”
Even the former Mothers Against Drunk Driving president Katherine Prescott has said that the drunk driving problem has to do with “a hard core of alcoholics who do not respond to public appeal.”
Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has shown that the average BAC of a drunk driver involved in a fatal crash is .18 percent, which is more than twice the legal limit.
The New Jersey bill would target low BAC, first-time DUI offenders instead of the dangerous drunk drivers on the roads. Many experts believe that first-time DUI offenders should not receive the same punishment as repeat offenders, which is essence, is what the New Jersey bill would accomplish.
Arizona Legislature proudly passed the strictest DUI laws in the country and began enforcement last year.
The legal limit for blood-alcohol content (BAC) is now .08 percent in Arizona and punishment for DUI conviction has become more severe. Under the new law, a first-time DUI offender in Arizona may be required to install an ignition-interlock device in the car. This device reads the driver’s BAC before the engine will start.
Another major change to Arizona DUI laws is the elimination of a certain quantitative BAC requirement to charge the driver with DUI. Drivers have been charged with DUI with a BAC as low as .06 percent. Some critics of the Arizona DUI laws have claimed that they are too ambiguous, allowing police officers to have too much power.
If you are pulled over for DUI in Arizona, the police officer will ask you to submit to sobriety tests and will use the evidence collected against you. The police officer will take notes as you perform certain tasks and if you appear to be intoxicated, you may be arrested for DUI.
Drinking and driving is a problem in Arizona. Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that more than 30 percent of traffic fatalities in Arizona are related to alcohol. People are encouraged to designate a driver, call a taxi or use public transportation, but that is not always an option. Arizona’s public transportation system does not run late enough for many people and taxis can get expensive. For example, the last bus leaving Tempe departs at 1:00 AM. Increasing the hours of public transportation may be one way to lower the number of drunk driving accidents in Arizona.
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.
Based on a proposed bill, if you have been convicted of DUI in Virginia, you would be required to install an ignition interlock even if your BAC was below 0.15 percent. The bill, known as House Bill 2041, would revise the current state law that requires only repeat DUI offenders and drivers with a BAC above 0.15 percent to install these devices. This bill is being discussed for the second year in a row and many Virginia legislators are concerned. If it passes, Virginia would join eight other states that have similar laws.
An ignition interlock system is a small handheld device that attaches to the dashboard. Before a driver can start the car, he or she has to blow into the device, which will measure BAC. The driver is also required to blow into the device at designated times while driving. The engine will only start if the driver’s BAC is lower than .02 percent.
According to a member of the House Courts of Justice committee, the cost of obtaining and installing the ignition interlock system is estimated at $455.
Del. Sal Iaquinto R-84 is the sponsor of the bill and believes that if passed, it will deter repeat DUI offenses. He said that there is a 64 percent decline in DUI recidivism after the ignition interlock system is installed.
Critics of the bill are concerned that it could negatively impact people who need to drive for their jobs and people with multiple vehicles. Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-68 said that since so many people rely on company vehicles for their jobs, the proposed bill could have “desperate impact on a large number of people.”
If the bill is passed, it will go into effect January 1, 2010.
Jamal Williams, the defensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving early morning on Sunday, February 1, 2009. He is the second Chargers’ player within the last month to be arrested for DUI.
Williams was initially pulled over for speeding on a freeway outside downtown. He submitted to a blood-alcohol test, but it will take a few weeks for the results to be completed. Williams was taken to a county jail where he later was released on bail.
Williams is an 11-year veteran and recipient of the Chargers’ Most Valuable Player Award this season.
According to the City Attorney’s office, Williams’ case had not been submitted as of Tuesday, February 3, 2009.
The team’s general manager, A.J. Smith said that “we’ll continue to monitor the situation and let the legal process run its course.” He went on to say, “the Chargers have always been leaders and positive contributors to our community. We take our stature in the community very seriously. Through the Chargers and the NFL, our players receive one of the most comprehensive education and support programs in sports to help them deal with issues that affect all segments of society.”
Vincent Jackson, the Chargers receiver, was also recently arrested on allegations of DUI. His DUI arrest occurred five days before San Diego’s playoff loss at Pittsburgh. Jackson’s court date is set for February 17, 2009. When he was arrested, he was on probation for a previous DUI arrest, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Let's hear your DUI experiences or those of your friends or family, from the San Francisco California Bay Area! We can learn and grow from individual stories, and make the best defense even better.
I Want My Lawyer! If I'm not under arrest, let me go. Do not question me. I assert my 5th Amendment privilege. I DO NOT consent to any searches or entry into any property. I DO NOT consent to any tests except under DUI Implied Consent.
San Francisco and the Bay Area in California is experiencing a shortage of police recruits as the number of officers retiring has increased significantly in the last few years. This has created a need for the police force to curtail certain activities, including DUI sobriety checkpoints, as well as enforcement problems when DUI cases get to court.
Nothing has been proposed in the short term to deal with this problem. Any one else seeing this trend?
Here’s an interesting bit of news on DUI breath test results. A court in Washington State ruled that alcohol breath tests should not be admitted at trial. "Simply stated, without the reliable evidence that a correctly functioning breath test instrument can provide, the discovery of the truth in DUI cases suffers," the judges wrote. "The innocent may be wrongly convicted, and the guilty may go free."
The ruling cited problems with the patrol's toxicology lab, including the false certification of solutions used to verify breath tests, the improper rejection of data, mistakenly switched data and reliance on software that miscalculated data.
If this becomes a trend on the West Coast, look to California, San Francisco, and the Bay Area to follow suit, making it more difficult for prosecutors to prove their cases.
In today’s information age, a DUI arrest in the San Francisco Bay Area can haunt you for years. I spoke to a man—we will call him “Bill”—who told me a story of how he got his DUI in San Francisco. The San Francisco Police Department did not arrest him for his DUI; his arrest was at the hands of the CHP (California Highway Patrol). He got his DUI on Highway 101, but it could have been anywhere: Highway 80, Highway 580, or even Highway 280.
Bill’s problem was that the DUI that he got in San Francisco some years back now gave him a Criminal Record. That’s right, a DUI is a charge that gives you a Criminal Record that any prospective employer can find and use to deny you a job that you are completely qualified for. Because DUIs are so politically charged in the San Francisco Bay Area, an arrest can haunt you forever! But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you take action and have your DUI expunged, you can put an emotionally and financially difficult time behind you—permanently.
I told Bill that under California law his misdemeanor DUI conviction can be expunged, as long as Bill successfully completes the terms of his probation, which were imposed by the San Francisco Superior Court when he went to court for his DUI. If Bill had not been placed on probation for his DUI conviction, his record could be expunged one year after the date that he plead guilty or “no contest” to his DUI. Although successfully completing probation is always a requirement, San Francisco Superior Court does have broad discretion when it comes to expungement.
The moral of the story is that if, like Bill, you have a DUI conviction in the San Francisco Bay Area, your DUI means that you have a permanent criminal record. That is, unless you take action. If you don’t seek expungement, any employer can treat you as a criminal. A charge or conviction of DUI in California, and especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, is a serious threat to the quality of your life and must be treated seriously.
Tomorrow I will tell you what could be a happy ending to Bill’s DUI arrest in San Francisco.
The story of San Francisco resident Adrian Gonzales is an extreme illustration of an important point about DUI law in California and elsewhere. While it’s unlikely that a given person will suffer the kind of legal trials and tribulations that Mr. Gonzales underwent, it throws into relief the kind of bureaucratic rigmarole that those accused of a DUI—many of whom are entirely innocent—will have to endure. Even more importantly, it demonstrates the supreme important ensuring that our records don't diminish our freedom or quality of life.
Mr. Gonzales, after being pulled over for a routine traffic violation, was told by police that he was wanted for DUI in Pomona County, outside Los Angeles. Mr. Gonzales, who had never been to Pomona, was understandably surprised. The officers then confiscated his driver’s license and impounded his motorcycle. The next day Mr. Gonzales returned to the police station in the hopes of clearing up this obvious misunderstanding. Unfortunately, his efforts to exonerate himself just got him arrested.
Thankfully, the police promptly took his fingerprints and compared them to those of “Adrian Gonzales”—his southern California drunk driving doppelganger—which convinced the officers that they were dealing with a case of mistaken identity. Expecting a swift resolution, Mr. Gonzales instead learned that the police couldn’t return his driver’s license until the DMV agreed to wipe his driving record clean. Despite having a letter from the police department testifying to his innocence, the DMV took months to expunge the DUI from Mr. Gonzales’ record. In fact, his record was only expunged once a local news reporter contacted the DMV and inquired about his case.
When Mr. Gonzales went to reclaim his motorcycle, convinced that this would be the end of an unpleasant ordeal, he was informed that it had been sold. It took about a year and a half—and yet another intervention by the local news on his behalf—before he received fair compensation from the city of San Francisco.
To your average person, this story exemplifies the kind bureaucratic black hole that one can fall into. While few of us have had to deal with a scenario this extreme, each of us have had a run-in with the maddeningly slow and apparently irrational nature of bureaucracy in all its forms. But to a DUI attorney, the meaning of this story is more specific. First, it demonstrates a little known reality: the relationship between the legal system and the DMV, when it comes to DUIs, is complicated and confusing. (For more information, read our article entitled “The DMV hearing and drivers license suspension.”)
Second, Mr. Gonzales’ ordeal illustrates the supreme importance of our records, whether they are our criminal records, our DMV records, or whatever else. Our records are what determine the amount of freedom, privileges and opportunities we are given by our government, our employers, our banks and our society. For us to be in control of our lives, we must take control of our records. That’s why we recommend that, if you have been arrested of DUI—even if the charges were dropped—you seek legal help in expunging your records. No less than Mr. Gonzales, you deserve a clean slate.