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An Important Lesson from an Unfortunate Story


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11/17/2008
Vaughan de Kirby
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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.


 

 

 



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