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Tragedy struck on South Victoria Avenue over the weekend, as 38-year-old assistant principal, Christopher Prewitt, lost his life after being struck by a car driven, allegedly, by a DUI driver.christopher-prewitt-dui-crash

Authorities arrested 23-year-old Shante Chappell of Oxnard for Los Angeles drug DUI and vehicular manslaughter in connection with the crime. Chappell made a $50,000 bond, and he faces his first day in court on Friday.

Prewitt, who had a major hearing disability, competed for the U.S team in the World Games for the Deaf as a water polo player. He coached and taught at the DeAnza Academy of Technology and Arts. The principal of that school, Hector Guerrero, reflected on Prewitt’s life and legacy, saying that he impacted “thousands of lives” and that “positivity was what Chris Prewitt was, and the kids absolutely loved that about him.”

This is obviously a deeply tragic loss – not just for Prewitt’s family, but also for the community and the school – and it speaks to how DUI manslaughter cases can ripple across many lives and the entire community.

Given the profound nature of these charges, prosecutors can seek substantial penalties in such cases. Depending on the nature of the crash and death, a defendant can face stringent charges per California Penal Code Section 191.5(a) – “gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.” This charge is complex, and prosecutors must work diligently to prove, among other things, that the defendant acted in a “grossly negligent” fashion. Technically speaking, that’s a type of negligence that goes beyond ordinary carelessness and bad judgment or lack of attention.

Consider, for reference, the Olivia Culbreath case. In case you missed the headlines, a young woman, while allegedly DUI, killed 6 people after driving 100 miles per hour the wrong way on the 60 freeway. Culbreath’s alleged actions could easily be considered grossly negligent, because everyone knows that driving 100 miles per hour the wrong way on the freeway can create a high risk of bodily injury or death. Any reasonable person would tell you that.

Without more facts about the Prewitt case, it is hard to know what prosecutors will ultimately ask for in this case.

If you or someone you love is contending with a Los Angeles DUI charge, former prosecutor and Harvard Law School educated attorney, Michael Kraut, and his team at the Kraut Law Group would be happy to provide a free and confidential consultation about your options.
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This Los Angeles DUI blog, like many other media outlets, is fascinated by ironic DUI arrests.drunk-as-sht-dui-los-angeles

Most people don’t actually know what the word “ironic” means (looking at you, Alanis!), but it defines a situation with a paradoxical discrepancy. For instance, if you are listening to somber, dreary music while an adorable, colorful children’s TV show plays on the screen, THAT is ironic.

Also ironic: trying to plead innocence, after the police pull you over for driving under the influence while you’re wearing a T-shirt with the words “Drunk As Sh**” in enormous bold letters.

Yet that’s exactly what happened to 21-year-old Ross McMakin of Oregon over the weekend.

On Sunday morning, authorities say that McMakin drove his Ford Ranger pickup truck onto the curb and smashed into a parked car. His ex-girlfriend then tried to grab the keys, but he allegedly choked her and drove off by himself. Police were notified at around 3:30 in the morning, and they stopped him.

Per the Corvallis Gazette-Times, McMakin’s BAC level was over twice the legal limit (in Southern California, as in Oregon, that number is 0.08% BAC). He allegedly told police that his “girlfriend didn’t know how to drive stick shift,” so that was why he was driving. He faces a rouge’s gallery of intense charges, including harassment, strangulation, reckless endangerment, and DUI driving.

He also faces instantly infamy, thanks to his T-shirt — that he wore in his mug shot — which read “Drunk As Sh**.”

McMakin obviously is hoping his ironic arrest will fade and be forgotten. Unfortunately, the internet has a memory like an elephant – if you are arrested for DUI wearing an ironic T-shirt – that picture will unfortunately likely live forever in infamy, since it has a “viral element” to it.

On the other hand, someone like McMakin can seek to fight some or all of his charges. One option – which may or may not be available for the 21-year-old – is to seek something called expungement. Basically, if you plead no contest to a DUI (or guilty), in some cases, the court can later allow you to dismiss your case and remove it from the record. Obviously, this won’t help with the public humiliation factor, but it can help you when it comes to applying for a job or insurance. Plus, if you ever get arrested again for a crime like DUI (or something else), the expungement will prevent the court from “seeing” what you did in the past.

For help managing the aftermath of your arrest, call a Los Angeles DUI criminal defense attorney with the Kraut Law Group immediately for a free and confidential evaluation of your case.
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It’s been a busy week for the LAPD, at least as far as Los Angeles DUI arrests are concerned.PCH-DUI-checkpoint

According to the LA Weekly News, police set up multiple saturation patrols and checkpoints throughout the Southland last weekend. On Saturday night (from 7 PM to 1 AM), the LAPD patrolled South LA, near the 77th Street Division area, as well as Huntington Drive near Poplar Boulevard in El Sereno. The police also set up another saturation patrol on Sunday in the West Valley Division area.

Law enforcement officials argue that these patrols prevent deaths and injuries on the road. Per the LAPD: “research shows that traffic collisions involving an impaired driver can be reduced by up to 20% when well publicized DUI checkpoints and proactive DUI patrols are conducted routinely.” While these patrols can, indeed, make the roads safer, they can often capture innocent people in the dragnet, forcing those drivers to endure license suspension, jail time, humiliation, spikes in their insurance rates, and other frustrating consequences.

The authorities set up another checkpoint on PCH over the weekend, netting 20 DUI arrests after checking out 150 drivers. That LAPD checkpoint, which ran from 7 PM to 3 AM, per a Sheriff’s Country press release: “was one of many that have been and will be conducted throughout the year in Malibu.” Authorities arrested 10 people for driving without a license, impounded three vehicles, and even arrested someone for refusing to comply with checkpoint instructions.

History of DUI Checkpoints in L.A. and Beyond

Believe it or not, checkpoints have only been considered Constitutional for a few decades. A landmark case decided by the Supreme Court in the late 1980s considered whether DUI checkpoints violated Fourth Amendment rights. The Supreme Court ruled that such checkpoints were Constitutional, but the court put many constraints on them. For instance, police cannot hold vehicles indefinitely or use excessive force. Authorities are also limited in terms of when and how they can establish and run checkpoints.

Checkpoint Defenses

Depending on when and how you got arrested, you may be able to challenge the validity of the checkpoint or the arrest. For instance:

•    Perhaps police incompetence or negligence occurred;
•    Maybe the blood test that showed that you were above the legal limit was badly calibrated or improperly administered or recorded;
•    Perhaps the police failed to read you your rights, engaged in abusive or overly aggressive behavior, or searched your vehicle without probable cause.

For help, call experienced Los Angeles DUI defense attorney, Michael Kraut, and his team today for an even, clearheaded consultation about your defense options.
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Are all Los Angeles DUI offenders equal?worst-drivers-dui-los-angeles

Obviously, the simple answer is no. For instance, let’s say you just got pulled over at a checkpoint. A police officer gave you both breathalyzer and field sobriety tests. You failed both. Now, you face a misdemeanor charge of violating California Vehicle Code Section 23152.

Alternatively, let’s say you hurt somebody while committing the same crime. Suddenly, you face charges under a different law – felony charges! – per California Vehicle Code Section 23153. There are other ways the law slices and dices DUI offenders. The law stipulates different punishments, depending:

•    If you were under age when you got behind the wheel while DUI;
•    If you’re a repeat offender (the law suggests more intense punishments for second and third time recidivists);
•    If you committed additional crimes while DUI, such as hit and run, battery against a police officer, etcetera;
•    If you were egregiously over the legal limit.

But are these classifications “fine grained” enough? More to the point: might there be certain classes of offenders who should be punished far more harshly than “standard” Los Angeles DUI offenders?

For instance – and we’ve all seen drivers like this – but let’s say you see a 19-year-old kid in a hot rod car speeding while likely DUI on the 405. He cuts across 4 lanes of traffic and nearly causes four wrecks before police pull him over. He behaves extremely aggressively/recklessly/obnoxiously. In an ideal world, perhaps the 19-year-old should lose his license for ten years and be forced to write handwritten apologies to everyone he almost killed.

Obviously, that wouldn’t/shouldn’t happen. But that’s the gut reaction many of us have, when we see drivers behaving super obnoxiously: “that guy should have his license taken away forever and should be thrown in jail, just for being a jerk.”

We’ve all had those thoughts – even people who defend DUI drivers for a living!

The question is: is there scientific merit to such thinking? Are superb obnoxious drivers, for instance, more likely to get into injury crashes? If we could catalogue drivers in a more fine grained way, could we come up with more appropriate punishments for certain crimes? Even if we COULD slice and dice the galaxy of offenders like that, would we really want to? Practically speaking, this strategy would open up a whole raft of moral and legal questions.

The problem is inherently complicated and messy – and that’s the point of this thought exercise. Dealing with DUI is an inherently messy exercise. The law cannot foresee every situation, nor spell out every contingency plan. And that’s why it’s so important for a defendant to work with a seasoned Los Angeles DUI lawyer. You need to stay on track and avoid getting confused or misled.

If you haven’t already retained an attorney, call Michael Kraut of the Kraut Law Group today to explore your defense options. Mr. Kraut is a seasoned former prosecutor; he can help you come to terms with your charges and get excellent results.
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If you were busted for driving under the influence in Los Angeles, you may be feeling pretty ashamed and depressed. Don’t beat yourself up too much, though: even Superman occasionally gets a DUI.Christopher-Reeves-dui-superman-dui

Seriously.

Last week, 33-year-old Christopher Reeves of Utah (no relation to the actor Christopher Reeves who played the Man of Steel) was busted for drug DUI per the David Country Sheriff’s Office. In his mug shot, Reeves wore a Superman shirt.

Authorities charged him with possessing methamphetamines and DUI and set his bail at $15,000.00. A local deputy said he saw the 33-year-old erratically driving early on Tuesday morning, “performing weaving maneuvers, drawing the attention of deputies.” When police searched his car, they allegedly found massive amounts of methamphetamines, as well as drug paraphernalia and Spice – a synthetic kind of marijuana.

The local Sheriff’s Office wryly commented “I hope he will live not to regret the choice of T-shirt on this day, but rather his actions.” Reportedly, the paraphernalia and the amount of drugs found in his car was “plenty to distribute around” – and indicated that Reeves could face distribution and intent to sell charges, which would make his criminal situation far more dire and complicated.

His arrest raises an important issue that needs to be discussed – the distinction between over-the-counter meds and illegal narcotics, such as meth, LSD, cocaine, etc. You might think the law would classify these drugs differently, from a DUI standpoint. If you’re high on over-the-counter vicodin or Benadryl while behind the wheel, that doesn’t seem “as bad” as being high from pot or cocaine.

However, California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a) doesn’t really care about what got you high — it just cares if you ARE high. And if you are, it’s a criminal offense: the statute does not distinguish between street drugs and legally prescribed medicines. The statute only cares about the level of impairment. It concerns itself with the end result: did you take a substance (alcohol, drugs, other) that made you a dangerous driver?

So how can you fight back against such charges?

Law enforcement does not have the equivalent of a breathalyzer to test for drugs like prescription meds or marijuana. Prosecutors rely on the expertise of Drug Recognition Experts (DRE), who use field tests and other methods to identify potentially drug impaired drivers. Authorities also use blood and urine tests.

If you or someone you love needs to find a Los Angeles DUI defense attorney, call Michael Kraut of the Kraut Law Group today. Mr. Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney (ex-prosecutor), and he has tremendous experience defending complex DUI cases. He can help you create a smart and astute defense to your charges.
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If you’re arrested and convicted for driving under the influence in Los Angeles, you can face a gallery of potential punishments, including but not limited to:lance-dodes-sober-truth

•    DUI alcohol school;
•    Fines and fees;
•    Jail time;
•    Mandatory driver’s license suspension;
•    Mandatory installation of IID device in your car (which prevents you from driving unless you blow a “non-alcoholic breath” into a machine);
•    Harsh probation terms.

A standard remedy in DUI cases is rehab. The court can mandate that you enter rehabilitation to “get sober” and stop being a danger to the society.

12-step programs are ubiquitous in California. But they are surprisingly far less effective than the conventional wisdom would have you believe, at least according to Harvard University psychiatrist, Dr. Lance Dodes, author of the controversial but compelling new book, The Sober Truth.

Dr. Dodes (who co-wrote the book with his son, Zachary) argues that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has a success rate of only 5% to 10%. Astonishingly, most rehab facilities do not keep track of recidivism rates beyond a year.

The Dodeses provide compelling research that suggests that 12-step approach just doesn’t work for 90% of the people who enter the program. Nevertheless, AA remains the “standard candle” — the default treatment for alcoholism in our society. The Dodeses argue that other treatment methods have had far higher success rates — yet public health authorities don’t seem to care.

In fact, even though AA does work for 5-10% of people, 5-10% of alcoholics will spontaneously get better without ANY intervention. In other words, at least statistically speaking, AA treatment appears to be the equivalent of no treatment at all.

Dr. Dodes offers his own pet theory about what really causes addiction, which he details in another book, The Heart of Addiction. His central thesis is that addiction is a kind of compulsion – it’s not a “brain disease” caused by malfunctioning dopamine signaling, as some conventional experts suggest, but rather a psychological phenomenon.

To illustrate his point, Dr. Dodes points out that addicts often “feel better” the moment they make the decision to drink – NOT when the alcohol actually touches their lips. This evidence suggests that psychology is key to the process.

He also points out that, during the 1960s, many U.S. service personnel stationed in Vietnam became addicted to heroin – one of the most physically addicting drugs on Earth. When these soldiers returned from war, most quit heroin easily. Most “domestic” heroin addicts, by contrast, had (and still have) a horrible recidivism rate. Dr. Dodes suggests that this evidence again shows that the problem in alcoholism is fundamentally psychological: soldiers in Vietnam used the heroin to stave off feelings of helplessness caused by the fighting. Once they returned to a normal environment — no more fighting — they felt back in control of their lives and found that they could quit easily. The stimulus causing helplessness was no longer there.

Dr. Dodes’s research and thinking is obviously very stimulating. But if you have been arrested for Los Angeles DUI, you have more serious, practical considerations than understanding the nature of addiction. To that end, consider calling former Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Kraut of the Kraut Law Group today for a free consultation about your case.
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Twenty five-year-old Aloni Bonilla was arrested for DUI in Los Angeles back in 2012 on the westbound 10 freeway. But did the officer who slammed her head into a wall use excessive force?Aloni-Bonilla-DUI-lawsuit

Bonilla just filed a federal lawsuit against Officer Jose A. Ramirez for violating her civil rights during the DUI arrest. According to reports, Bonilla had been driving from Baldwin Park to Alhambra to visit a friend. Due to unclear signage, she wound up on a shut down part of the 10 near the Francisquito Avenue onramp. An officer pulled over on suspicion of DUI and gave her a breathalyzer test, which suggested that she had alcohol in her system. He then took her to a local hospital for a DUI blood test.

The Cal State Los Angeles student said that Officer Ramirez became violent at the hospital: “He grabbed me by my arm, lifted me out of my chair, turned me around and slammed — drilling it — my head into the wall. On the wall was a mounted object, and the left side of my face immediately started to bleed and swell.” She claimed that Ramirez then radioed that she was resisting arrest, he used a knee to hold down her back and then cuffed her. She said “I’m 120 pounds, this is a 220 pound, 6-foot male Latino officer … I was never given medical treatment, I never got that blood sample.”

Aloni lost her DUI case, in spite of video evidence that showed the entire handcuffing process unfold. The Los Angeles County Superior Court judge did not allow the footage to be used in her case because prosecutor said that it was prejudiced against Ramirez.

However, the surveillance video went up on YouTube and sparked a wave of sympathy for Aloni, prompting protestors to petition outside a federal court house with signs that read “stop police brutality” and “justice for Aloni.” Bonilla told reporters last week: “This is bigger issue … I want the public to know that resisting arrest can be used as a cover up charge when an officer uses excessive force.”

It’s obviously unclear how Bonilla will fare in her lawsuit, but her story drives home how confounding and complex the DUI defense process can be. If an officer does exert excessive force, how can you prove it? In Bonilla’s case, even though she had video proof of what happened to her, she still couldn’t win her DUI case.

To construct an appropriate defense, talk to Michael Kraut of the Kraut Law Group. For over 14 years, Mr. Kraut served as a senior level prosecutor for the city before switching over to representing defendants in Los Angeles DUI cases. Continue reading →

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When you report on Los Angeles DUI cases day-in, day-out, as we do on this blog, it’s easy to become a little numb to the news.Mario-Careaga-DUI

Yes, many DUI stories are horrible – for everyone involved. But when viewed en masse, the stories can start to lose their meaning. Sometimes, however, a story emerges that strikes a chord not just because it involves a celebrity (or someone in power) but rather because it exposes our own fragility. It illustrates how a single lapse of reason can have profound consequences for victims, family members and anyone touched by the crash.

To that end, consider the sad story of Nancy Lopez-Ruiz, a 22-year-old dancer for the Miami Heat Basketball Club. On September 10, 2010, police arrested Mario Careaga and charged him with manslaughter DUI, after he hit Lopez-Ruiz’s bike on U.S. 1 and Sunrise Boulevard. The force of the crash threw the dancer off her motorcycle and launched her 130 feet from her vehicle, where she died.

Last week, court began hearing testimony in Careaga’s case. The jury saw photographic evidence that Careaga had been partying at the nearby Galleria Mall and drinking. He told the court “There were three drinks that I got, I finished two, but the third I did not finish — I left it on the counter.” Per an affidavit, police took two blood samples from Careaga after the crash and found that he had BAC levels of 0.24 percent and 0.23 percent respectively.

For those of you at home who are keeping score, that’s just about three times the legal limit for DUI in Florida or California – most places in the country. Law enforcement says that Careaga drifted out of his lane and hit Lopez-Ruiz with his Mercedes. He was released on $10,000 bond.

Per California law, when someone dies in an auto accident – and DUI is suspected – prosecutors can hit you with a very serious charge of vehicular manslaughter. Prosecutors will use police reports and investigatory tools to determine charges. You need to construct your defense immediately after an event in which someone dies, since evidence that could exonerate you – or at least mitigate your punishment – can quickly disappear. Witnesses may forget what they saw, for instance, or critical evidence from the scene may be cleaned up.

In a worst case scenario, you could be hit with a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, pursuant to penal code 191.5 (a).

To build an effective defense to Los Angeles DUI charges – whether they’re vehicular manslaughter charges or a simple misdemeanor offense – call Harvard Law School educated ex-prosecutor Michael Kraut and his team today at the Kraut Law Group for a free consultation.
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It’s potentially one the most bizarre Los Angeles DUI trials of 2014…chris-lanzillo-dui-costa-mesa

A Riverside Private Eye, Chris Lanzillo, has taken the 5th Amendment (to avoid self-incrimination under oath) over 200 times in a recent deposition.

Lanzillo stands accused of following Jim Righeimer, the Mayor of Costa Mesa, back in 2012, and calling in a fake DUI report on him. The lawsuit says the PI tailed the mayor, called 911, and reported that the mayor had been driving erratically and weaving around. Lanzillo was working for the Costa Mesa Police Association, which had been in a major kerfuffle with Mayor Righeimer and his City Council.

Critics believe that Lanzillo – backed by the Police Association — engaged in an illegal smear campaign. Righeimer’s successor, Mayor Pro Tem, Steve Mensinger, says that someone also put a GPS device on his vehicle, when he ran for election.

An attorney representing the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem expressed his disgust with the whole situation: “It is very disturbing when any organization associated with law enforcement refuses to answer questions under oath on the grounds that the answer may incriminate them.”

The deposition of Lanzillo lasted a full three hours, and he took the 5th 200 times. That means that, on average, Lanzillo took the 5th more than **once a minute for three hours in a row**.

The Costa Mesa Police Union, meanwhile, denies the knowledge of the false DUI and instead places blame on a law firm it hired – Lackie Dammeier McGill & Ethir – which has since been dissolved. The firm had a reputation for representing police associations in a very aggressive manner.

Who knows how the trial down in Costa Mesa will turn out? It’s interesting to consider, and it does teach us that DUI cases can easily devolve into a situation of “he said, she said.”

How does anyone really know what happened during a DUI arrest (or accident) in an objective way? The answer is that objective fact finding is hard! An accident reconstruction expert – who is familiar with DUI crashes – should get involved, ASAP, and identify what happened prior to the collision. For instance, was the crash unavoidable, or did human error or negligence play some role? The analyst should also look at the mechanical condition of the vehicles involved, weather, traffic and lighting that may have been relevant, and road conditions.

To construct your Los Angeles DUI defense effectively, connect with Michael Kraut of the Kraut Law Group immediately for a free consultation. Continue reading →

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Some disturbing Los Angeles DUI news: An LAPD officer, 29-year-old Jonathan Chel of Fullerton, was arrested on Friday, after he slammed his car into a McDonald’s drive through in Diamond Bar while DUI.lapd-dui-los-angeles-mcdonalds

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Chel had been exiting the 60 freeway at Golden Spring’s Drive at around 1 in the morning, when his Mazda slipped off the exit ramp, “launched” across a 50-foot gulf, crashed the McD’s, and finally stopped at Brea Boulevard in Golden Springs.

Per a California Highway Patrol report, rescue workers took Mr. Chel to UC Irvine Medical Center for his injuries. Fortunately, they were not too severe. A CHP officer arrested him at the hospital for DUI. Mr. Chel had been off duty. No one else was hurt in the incident, no other vehicles suffered damage.

“Do you want fries with your DUI?”

The image of a rouge, off-duty LAPD officer smashing through a McDonald’s drive through while DUI sounds almost comical – like something you might see in a spoof movie. However, this incident obviously is no laughing matter. It does, however, allow us to segue into an interesting conversation about the relationship between DUI and food consumption. The rate at which your body processes alcohol depends on many factors, including:

•    Whether or not you eat a meal when you drink;
•    Your metabolic state;
•    Your genetics;
•    Whether you’re a man or a woman;
•    The amount of alcohol you’ve consumed recently and throughout your life — chronic alcohol consumption can also affect your metabolic rate.

Police officers are subject to the same exact DUI laws that citizens must obey, including California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) and 23152(b), and they, too, can face punishments such as DUI alcohol school, jail time, forced license suspension, and mandatory installation of an Interlock Ignition Device (IID). In addition, a police officer who violates the law – e.g. causes a catastrophic DUI accident — can lose job responsibilities and/or get fired. In fact, if the news reports prove accurate, it would highly unlikely that Mr. Chel would not face serious repercussions at his job — e.g. a suspension, if not an outright termination.

No matter what happened with respect to your Los Angeles DUI arrest, the team here at the Kraut Law Group can provide a free, confidential case assessment. Mr. Kraut is a former Los Angeles prosecutor with relationships with many experts in the field, and he can help you contrive a smart and ethical defense.

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