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DUI Charges Are Nothing To Laugh About
By Michelle Groh-Gordy
Question: My fiancee and I traveled to a party at a friend's house out of town last weekend, and I had a bit too much to drink. She said she was fine, though, so I let her do the driving.
She must have been driving a little too fast, because we didn't drive more than a few miles when the police pulled us over. I guess that I didn't realize how intoxicated she was because she didn't do so well on the tests they had her do on the roadside. Then, when they asked her to do one more test, she got scared and said she wanted a lawyer before she did anything else. She ended up spending two traumatic nights in jail.
I am really concerned about all this. What kind of trouble is she looking at for refusing to take that test, and what more does my fiancee have to look forward to as she tries to deal with this charge? - B.D., San Bernardino
Answer: Your fiancee has much to deal with in the near future with regard to her DUI arrest, and I'm afraid she won't be looking forward to any of it. Your questions are so good and so important that I am going to dedicate the column this week and next to examining the painful course one will likely endure if they are charged with driving under the influence in California.
To begin with, it is highly unlikely your fiancee was pulled over because she was speeding. Speeding usually requires quick thinking and even quicker reflexes; both are behaviors that are usually not present in those driving under the influence.
While there are many things an intoxicated driver might do to draw the attention of the authorities, the top five are:
Making wide turns.
Straddling lane markers.
Drunken "appearance" of the driver.
Near miss with another vehicle or object.
Weaving or drifting from lane to lane.
Once your fiancee was pulled over by the police, the officers no doubt started examining her visually. They were probably checking to see how her eyes looked, if her speech was slurred, if her face was flushed, if her coordination was off in any way, or if anything about her behavior or speech seemed questionable. Since you had just come from a party, they probably could smell alcohol emanating from the car.
At that point, it sounds like your fiancee was put through the standard battery of field sobriety tests. They probably had her walk heel to toe and stand on one leg to test her balance. They also might have had her try to follow the beam of a small flashlight with her eyes. They were looking to see if her eyes started to jerk when they were drawn to the sides, as they usually will when someone is under the influence.
It then sounds like your fiancee made a critical error. If the test she refused was the chemical test of her blood or breath, she lost her driver's license for one year the very second she refused. Every driver in California gave every police officer in California the right to administer a chemical test the minute they signe...
Hard Core Drinking Drivers
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Hard Core Drinking Drivers
'The problem is targeting these drivers at the expense of programs aimed at other drivers with BACs high enough to elevate crash risk. Why let them off the hook? Why exclude any driver with a BAC high enough to impair driving? Target them all,' McCartt says.
Target every offender: General deterrence programs like sobriety checkpoints target all drivers with laws and enforcement to convince them they'll pay a high price if they become impaired by alcohol and then get behind the wheel. Specific deterrence involves penalties especially for repeat offenders and drivers with very high BACs who are identified through general deterrence programs. Penalties for these drivers may include incarceration, vehicle impoundment, ignition interlocks, or other sanctions. While evaluations indicate that some of these strategies can reduce recidivism, they aren't as important as general deterrence because they don't target as many potential offenders.
'It's a matter of the probabilities,' McCartt points out. 'An estimated 90 million vehicle trips per year involve alcohol-impaired drivers, but only about 1.5 million of these end in driver arrest. Given such low arrest likelihood, the first priority needsto be to raise the probability that all impaired people, including the hard core, will be deterred from driving or, if they do drive, will be arrested for the offense.'
A broader approach is to take steps to reduce overall alcohol consumption. This recognizes that many of society's problems, including but not limited to deaths and injuries in crashes involving impaired drivers, result from alcohol consumption. But there are big challenges. One is that trying to reduce intake goes against vested interests including the corporations that produce and distribute alcoholic beverages. Another challenge involves public acceptance. Surveys show a clear preference for punishing DWI offenders over curbing everyone's consumption.
A future approach might involve equipping every vehicle with technology that measures a driver's BAC and prevents driving if the BAC is high. Such technologies, which will have to measure BACs more quickly and unobtrusively than breath devices, are being developed (see Status Report, April 2, 2005; on the web at iihs.org). The potential is to keep all impaired drivers from starting their vehicles.
'Whatever approaches we develop or revive from the 1980s, it will be important to recognize that punishing the hard core won't be enough to make a big difference � and it will be counterproductive to the extent that it draws attention away from the occasional heavy drinkers and the numerous impaired drivers with lower BACs and no priors,' McCartt concludes. 'Targeting the broader group with general deterrence will net the hard core too.'
For a copy of 'Hard-core drinking drivers and other con...
You Drink, You Drive, You Pay ... A Whole Lot
By Michelle Groh-Gordy
Being charged with a DUI means you will be acquiring a new, expensive, undesirable sideline, and getting released into the cold air of freedom after a long night in jail is only the beginning of that pricey, unpleasant journey.
Last week, B.D. of San Bernardino wrote to tell us about his fiancee's arrest for driving under the influence. He then asked what more she had to look forward to as she faces the consequences of the DUI charge.
B.D., your fiancee's DUI charge is going to be very, very costly. She is going to pay the price in lost time, lost sleep and a good deal of cold, hard cash.
A DUI is a serious crime with a wide range of possible outcomes, so I strongly recommend that if your fiancee can afford it, she hire an attorney well-versed in this specialized field. While the cost for DUI representation can vary greatly with skill, experience and the requirements of each particular case, fees average $2,500 or more.
Your fiancee has already had to spend some pretty unpleasant time in jail. While she was being booked, fingerprinted and charged, the cash register was already starting to ring. She will be billed for the services involved in her incarceration - and those fees will add, on average, another $156 to her tab.
Since your fiancee refused to take the chemical test, she has already lost her ability to drive for one year. When her license suspension expires, she will have to pay another $125 to the DMV to have her license reinstated.
You did not mention if the car was impounded when your fiancee was arrested. If it was, you already know that the towing and impound fees can run into hundreds of dollars.
What happens next will depend upon the outcome of her trial. If she is convicted, she will have to pay more than $1,300 in fines, penalties and additional fees to a restitution fund. She may also face more jail time. If the jails are to capacity, or she is unable to pay for some of the fines and fees that she incurs, the court may order her to perform community service. This might involve spending her weekends with a few dozen new friends in orange vests, picking up trash on the freeway.
The court might also order her to attend weekly DUI classes that usually have a tuition cost of around $500. In addition, the court can order her to attend mandatory weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The court also can require her to pay for the installation and upkeep of an ignition interlock device. Her car will not start if she breathes into it and there is alcohol on her breath.
Before she can drive again, she will have to make a pit stop to see her auto insurance agent. There, she will get the unwelcome news that the average annual premium increase for a first-time DUI offense is nearly $7,500.
The American Automobile Association estimates that the cost for a first-time DUI offense can easily exceed $12,000.
Even so, because no one was injured when your fiancee w...