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Pro tip: People who want to avoid charges for a DUI in Los Angeles (or for other criminal charges) should avoid gifting police officers powerful evidence against them.los-angeles-DUI-police-chase

In Tumwater, Washington, on May 17th, police charged 32-year-old Christopher Rieg with hit and run and with driving under the influence. Reportedly, Rieg traveled through an intersection, slammed into a black sedan and then took off. But he left behind something from his vehicle—his license plate. When a police officer found the tag in the intersection, he did a quick search and found that the plate belonged on a car owned by Rieg. The officer also uncovered a booking photo of Rieg from an earlier arrest.

Police officers discovered Rieg and a female companion standing by the side of the road not far from the crash scene. They administered a blood alcohol test and found his BAC level was .16 – twice the legal limit. After Rieg went to jail, a judge set his bail at $50,000.

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Police arrested thousands of people for DUI in Los Angeles and other cities throughout the country this month. Here are a few that made national headlines.Rikki-Cheese-DUI

•    Authorities in Orlando, Florida, reported that they picked up a minivan with five underage teens—including a 17-year-old driver—obviously under the influence. This traffic stop was unusual, however, because teens were all Amish, and their vehicle had been traveling at speeds of more than 100 mph. The driver reportedly didn’t even have a license; he was operating the vehicle on a learner’s permit.

•    The afternoon news anchor of KTNV-TV Channel 13 in Law Vegas made headlines when her own station reported on her arrest on a misdemeanor DUI charge. Rikki Cheese had a previous arrest for DUI in 2009.

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Some drivers never seem to get the message about the dangers of DUI in Los Angeles, no matter how many times they face arrest, pay fines or waste days or weeks (or longer) in jail.  dui-homicide-los-angeles

A judge in Nashville, Tennessee, gave a local DUI defendant plenty of time to ponder her driving decisions and their effects on others’ lives. Judge Monte Watkins sent Stephanie Ferguson, age 30, to prison for 26 years after she caused an accident that killed two men in their 60s.

The worst aspect of the case? Ferguson caused into the fatal collision just two hours after pleading guilty to her second DUI.

On January 22, 2015, a judge sentenced Ferguson to two days in jail and put her on probation for a year. Ferguson also lost her license, but that didn’t stop her from driving her red pickup truck just two hours later. She reportedly came over a bridge and slammed into a white Cadillac stopped at a signal. Two of the vehicle’s occupants received fatal injuries. Emergency responders transported six other people to the hospital as well.

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A Texas judge has finally sent Ethan Couch, the “affluenza” teen, to jail. Most drivers convicted of a deadly Los Angeles DUI would have been grateful to receive Couch’s original sentence—10 years’ probation for causing four deaths while DUI. But Couch didn’t appreciate the break he received.affluenza-kid-DUI-punishment

Judge Wayne Salvant ordered Couch to report to jail to serve a sentence of 720 days, which amounts to 120 consecutive days for each of the four people that he killed. Couch, who was 16 at the time, also injured nine other people when he plowed into a disabled SUV on the side of the road.

Couch pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and other crimes. During the sentencing hearings, Couch’s lawyers contended that he suffered from “affluenza” and therefore couldn’t be held accountable for his behavior. That defense, and the juvenile court judge’s sentence of 10 years’ probation, led to a storm of criticism throughout the country.

In late December, however, a video surfaced that showed Couch breaking the terms of his parole by drinking at a party. Rather than face the consequences, he fled with his mother to Mexico. Authorities there picked him up a month later and extradited him to the U.S.

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Blood alcohol content serves as a determining factor when police decide whether or not to charge someone with DUI in Los Angeles. If a breathalyzer and/or blood test shows a reading of .08 or higher, the driver will likely face a charge of driving under the influence.marijuana-DUI-in-Los-Angeles-defense

But a May 10th article in the Washington Post highlights the subtle challenges of evaluating whether or not a driver is operating under the influence of marijuana. Pot doesn’t show up in a breathalyzer test, and measuring the THC content in the blood doesn’t give an accurate picture of whether or not someone can drive safely.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recommends that states take a different approach. Instead of setting legal limits for THC in the bloodstream, states should train certain police officers for certification as drug recognition experts (DRE). Then, when a DUI suspect shows signs of marijuana use, these specially trained officers would conduct an hour-long series of tests to confirm (or refute) that suspicion. Only then would they administer a blood test to determine the level of THC content in the suspect’s bloodstream.

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Should people of Irish ancestry complain about planned checkpoints for DUIs in Los Angeles on St. Patrick’s Day? In Oakland, California, at least, their protests could have an impact if the local department’s actions regarding Cinco de Mayo DUI checkpoints are any indication.cinco-de-mayo-los-angeles-DUI

A press release, “Fiesta Time of Jail Time,” issued by the Oakland Police Department triggered protests by Hispanic activists, according to various media reports. The release  said that “In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become synonymous with festive fiestas and salty margaritas…but present-day celebrations often lead to drunk driving–and there’s no victory in that.” (Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.)

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Defendants who go to court charged with a Los Angeles DUI may anticipate a lecture from the judge who hears their cases. They likely would never anticipate, however, is that the judge would sentence them to jail… and then spend the time behind bars with them!purple-heart-los-angeles-DUI

Stories in North Carolina’s Fayette Observer and in the Washington Post tell the tale of Sergeant Joe Serna, a retired Special Forces veteran who served almost twenty years with the U.S. Army. He survived four tours of duty in Afghanistan and had close brushes with death three times; he earned three Purple Hearts.

Serna’s wartime experiences never left him entirely. He suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he has had some substance abuse problems. After being arrested for DUI, he had been on parole and enrolled in a veteran’s treatment court program supervised by North Carolina’s District Court Judge Lou Olivera.

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Police in California may soon have a new weapon in their efforts to get DUI drivers off the road. The state legislature is considering authorizing the use of a device that measures levels of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and pain medications (including opiates).marijuana-drug-dui-los-angeles

The push to get the new device approved is apparently in response to a California ballot measure that would authorize the use of recreational marijuana in the state. In an April 6th article, the Los Angeles Times reported that State Senator Bob Huff of San Dimas has authored a bill that permits police to take an oral swab from a DUI suspect and then use a handheld device to test for the presence of marijuana and other controlled substances.

Lawmakers may have good reason to be concerned about the consequences on driving habits if the pot bill passes. The Times article notes a 40 percent increase in positive tests for drugs in drivers killed in crashes in California between 2009 and 2013. It also said that pot-related traffic deaths increased by almost one-third in Colorado in the year after that state legalized recreational pot.

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When police officers charge drivers with Los Angeles DUI, they must take great care when booking people to avoid violating their Fourth Amendment rights. Even simple, seemingly trivial mistakes in protocol can mean that an otherwise justified arrest won’t stand up in court.4th amendment los angeles DUI defense

To that end, the Arizona Supreme Court recently ruled that if police officers say that a driver is “required” to take a blood alcohol test rather than “requested” to do so, the DUI charge won’t stand. According to Tucson TV station KVOA, the court said that requiring a search would violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search.

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Synthetic drugs are causing a real dilemma for states striving to enforce laws against driving under the influence. Depending on the type of drug a driver uses to get high, prosecutors can find it next to impossible to obtain a DUI conviction. Is that fair? How can states standardize how they handle and punish drug DUI cases? What safeguards should be in place to protect defendants?aerosol dust cleaner-DUI-los angeles

An Associate Press article recently analyzed the case of 18-year-old Kristian Roggio, who suffered fatal injuries when another driver crossed a road in Brooklyn and collided with her car. Police maintain that the offending driver got high after inhaling aerosol dust cleaner, and they charged him with vehicular manslaughter. However, the New York Supreme Court threw out those charges, because that particular substance didn’t appear on the state’s list of banned substances. The Court decided that case nine years ago, but problems regarding how to identify and prosecute drug DUIs in New York and beyond persist to this day.

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