THIS SATURDAY’S JULY 4TH MEANS PARTIES, DRINKING & ACCIDENTS WHILE DRIVING
Whether you are celebrating at a backyard BBQ, enjoying the fireworks at the Casino in Rancho Mirage or at Palm Desert Park, the chances are you will be drinking as you enjoy the holiday festivities. DUI's and Accidents occur when there are more people on the roads and more people who have been drinking and driving.
This year July 4th occurs on a Saturday which results in more parties, drinking, arrests and accidents than most years with a mid-week holiday. Typically this holiday is the last influx of visitors who will be partying with the desert locals. Together this will result in more DUI arrests and accidents. Many of those accidents will involve one or more drivers who had been drinking.
Of course accidents can occur without drinking but an accident involving alcohol yields an arrest that makes the incident more serious. If you are in an accident and have not been drinking, call 911 to get an officer there to make a report to memorialize the facts. Use your smart phone to take pix of all cars, injuries, parties and if your phone can... also record witness statements.
If injured go to a hospital or urgent care asap. If you do not the insurance company will later argue if you were really injured you would have sought immediate medical help right.
I realize that no matter what I write today, most of you will not follow or remember my directions and many of you will get stopped at a DUI checkpoint over the July 4th weekend. Sometimes your lack of memory or poor FST's are from " Black and White Fever" where you get nervous when you see a police officer. Of course you do not have to have been drinking to develop "the fever" but do try to jot down the facts to share with your lawyer for either your DUI defense or prosecution of your Accident case.
On my weekly legal radio show I started off each show saying People Don't Plan to Fail, They Fail to Plan. If you understand and remember what I am sharing this week you will be Planning Ahead. If you are stopped for a possible DUI remember that the Field Sobriety Tests (FST's) at the scene are OPTIONAL as is the BREATH TEST at the scene. Politely tell the officer that you understand the FST and Breath test are optional and you elect "not to take them". Then courteously request a Blood Test where you will be taken to the hospital or police station to get a blood draw.
As a reminder of what to do, I suggest you CUT OUT the info "card" on the page to the left of this article and hand it to the officer when stopped. That alone will save you a lot of aggravation
The following is a step by step of what will happen with a DUI:
A DUI is a criminal offense that has two separate legal proceedings: The Court and The DMV Hearing. During the booking and custody the officer will snatch your license and give you a pink form (in addition to your white or yellow citation) which is a temporary license for 30 days.
You will be asked to submit to another chemical test (breath or blood) at the station to determine your Blood Alcohol Content. You will be fingerprinted and a booking photograph will be taken. You will usually be released on your own recognizance after 4 hours in custody.
It is important to remember to call DMV to schedule a Hearing Within 10 days of the arrest. Better yet immediately call an Attorney who will call DMV for you and maybe get a hearing officer he/she knows. At the hearing your lawyer presents evidence and can subpoena witnesses, including the arresting officer. Your attorney can advocate for your license and driving privileges, and the DMV will then rule on whether or not the officer had reasonable cause to stop and take your license... and whether your breath was .08 or more.
The DMV hearing is stacked against the driver as the hearing officer is both the prosecutor and judge and they win 90% (plus) of the cases. However the hearing gives you a glimpse of the case and the evidence against the driver.
At the Arraignment you, or your attorney, on your behalf, will appear and enter a not guilty plea. Your attorney can discuss the case with the DA and possibly negotiate a plea bargain; set the case for Motions to Dismiss and or for a Pre Trial or Trial proceeding.
With a trial the DA and your lawyer will present evidence, argue, and cross-examine any witnesses. The jury will then decide whether or not you are guilty of driving under the influence and OR driving with a blood alcohol of .08 or more.
The court sentences you after a plea bargain or conviction. The penalties will differ based on the circumstances of your case, but could include fines, jail time and or home arrest with an ankle bracelet, community service, and alcohol education.
If you have any questions regarding this column or ideas for future columns please contact Dale Gribow at 760-565-0533.