Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

Archive for the ‘DUI’ Category

Three Things You Can Learn From Peter Murhpy’s DUI Arrest

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

By now anyone who is (or was) a fan of the 1980s British music scene knows that Bauhaus frontman and goth godfather Peter Murphy was arrested for hit & run DUI in Los Angeles County on Saturday.  Judging from the reaction in the social media universe, fans were more disturbed by the fact that ‘ol Mr. Moonlight was driving a Subaru Forester than they were by the fact that he was arrested.  I get it.

But there are some interesting things to learn here based on the way the story developed.

Lesson #1:  The charges you are arrested for are different from the charges filed against you.  Here’s how it works:  If you get arrested, the police agency who arrested you and set a bail.  The initial amount of bail is determined by a “bail schedule” which varies from county to county.  If the police think you’re a flight risk, the bail will be set higher.  The police also write a report.  They then give this report to a local prosecutor. The local prosecutor makes the ultimate decision as to which charges to file.

In Peter Murphy’s case, he was arrested on suspicion felony DUI, hit and run, and possession of methamphetamine. Because he is not a US citizen and lives in Turkey, the police thought he was a flight risk. So they set bail at $500K.

Once the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office took a look at the report, they didn’t think the facts warranted a felony.   All the charges Murphy was arrested on are what’s known as “wobblers”, which are offenses that can be filed as felonies or misdemeanors.  The DA decided that the  evidence presented did not rise to the level of a felony, so they filed misdemeanor charges instead and his lawyers were able to convince the judge to let him out without posting any bail at all.

Lesson #2:  In California, if the defendant has hired an attorney, he or she is not required to appear in court for misdemeanors:  This is why Peter Murphy can go on tour while the case against him is pending.  As long as he is in contact with his lawyer and following whatever instructions the court gave to him, he will be

Lesson #3:  Less Is More With Press.  Peter Murphy’s lawyer did an excellent job of handling the publicity on the case. According to the LA Times article, his lawyer declined to comment on the case, but reassured everyone that Peter will be able to go on tour and the case will be handled.  He summed it all up with one simple line:  “We are going to take care of business.”  Good stuff.  It’s about the client, not the lawyer and Peter’s lawyer understands this.  Peter Murphy is obviously not a Lindsay Lohan sized celebrity, but ain’t it refreshing to see a hard working lawyer doing the right thing for his client and not preening for the press?  Bonus pro move:  Attorney kept Peter in the lockup in the back of the courthouse and appeared in court on his behalf so his client wouldn’t have to deal with his fans sitting in the courtroom gallery.

Wishing all the best for Peter Murphy.

 

 

 

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Lessons From Amanda Bynes’ Arrest: Don’t Talk, Squawk, or Tweet

Monday, June 11th, 2012

“Anything you say can or will be used against you.”

How many times have we all heard these words when someone is arrested on a TV show?  It’s almost become a cliché.

As a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, I know that many people who are arrested don’t fully appreciate that, in the context of talking after you have been arrested, anything really does mean anything.  Even the most innocuous-sounding language can come back and hurt a person who has been arrested.

A recent example involving a celebrity illustrates the point.

On April 6, Amanda Bynes, who starred in the Nickleodeon show, “All That,” and later appeared in the film version of the musical “Hairspray,” was arrested in West Hollywood for hitting the corner of a sheriff’s vehicle with her BMW.  Approximately seven weeks later, she was charged with driving under the influence and for refusing to take a Breathalyzer or blood-alcohol test.

After finding out that she is facing these charges, Byrne sent out the following message via Twitter to President Obama and her more than 250,000 followers:

“Hey @BarackObama… I don’t drink. Please fire the cop who arrested me. I also don’t hit and run. The end.”

Some of you might be thinking:  “What’s the big deal?”  It’s not as if she admitted to something or said something incriminating.  True.  The most important reason for not talking to the police or making a public statement relating to charges is that people can and often say something that directly implicates their guilt.  It’s shockingly common for people to admit to committing a crime (or what they think is a crime) or to provide information that either corroborates some other incriminating evidence, or provides the basis for cross-examination at trial.  Here, Ms. Bynes stated that she doesn’t drink, thereby indirectly affirming her innocence.  Her statement could have been worse.

But for several reasons she still would have been better off keeping quiet.  First, being charged with DUI hardly makes someone appear likeable.  Contacting the President and asking him to fire a local police officer isn’t a great popularity move either.  Should this case ever go to trial, prosecutors have an incentive to try to get the tweet admitted into evidence.

Second, the message on Twitter generated much more media attention than the original arrest or the decision to press DUI and related charges.  When news of the tweet spread, so did the picture of the mug shot.  This isn’t the kind of attention that most people, even celebrities, need.  It’s also possible that this kind of media attention may subtly bias the pool of potential jurors.

Third, and most importantly, the press attention may make it much harder for the prosecutors to accept a plea deal.  They may be more motivated than they otherwise would have been to try Ms. Bynes.  Although it’s premature to tell, it’s certainly plausible to believe that the ill-advised tweet could actually increase the punishment Ms. Bynes ultimately receives for allegedly hitting a sheriff’s patrol car back in April.

Admittedly, a certain amount of speculation is involved when determining how a certain public disclosure impacts how a particular case will be defended.  Nonetheless, if you are arrested, the safest course of action is to stay quiet and let an experienced criminal defense lawyer do the talking for you.

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New California Law Allows Video Cameras In Car – What It Means

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Ever been pulled over or arrested by the police following a traffic stop?  Did you wish you had a video and audio recorder in your car so you could prove that the cop’s version of events was wrong? In California, starting on January 1, 2011 you can do just that.  That’s right, on New Year’s Day on 2011, a revision to California Vehicle Code Section 26708 goes into effect and drivers will be permitted to install “video event recorders” on their windshield.   This will allow for drivers to record their driving, conversations with passengers, and arguably, encounters with the police.   Until now, such cameras were illegal under the premise that it obstructed or reduced the driver’s view.  However, there are strict requirements for these cameras:

  • Video recorder must have to the “capability of monitoring driver performance to improve driver safety.”
  • Recorder must be capable of recording audio, video and G-Force levels.
  • Recorder must automatically save recording and data when triggered by crash or unusual driving action or when recorder is adjusted by driver to do so.
  • Recorder cannot store more than 30 seconds of video, audio and data before or after the “triggering event.” (We have lots to say about this, read below).
  • Camera must be outside of the airbag deployment zone and in a seven inch square on the lower right corner of the windshield, or a five inch square in the lower left corner of the windshield.
  • Notice must be posted in a visible place in the vehicle that notifies the passenger that conversations are being recorded.

The purpose of this law is to encourage commercial drivers like truckers and shuttle operators to drive safely.  But the law allows any driver to use this device. As a criminal defense lawyer, what interests me is seeing how this recorder can be used to record people’s driving before being stopped by the police and more importantly, how this can be used to record people’s encounters with the police.  This could be vital in cases where issues such as probable cause or consent to search a vehicle, performance on Field Sobriety Tests, or the police’s conduct towards a driver.

Of course, the law provides that the video recorder must record in a loop and must only save 30 seconds worth of data before or after “the triggering event.”   This may be a hurdle in recording a lengthy police encounter.  But the issue that should be litigated is what is the “triggering event”?  30 seconds after what triggering event?  The incident that caused a traffic stop?  The entire police encounter?  This is an issue that will be hashed out in the courts, especially since violating the “video event requirements” is a violation of the Vehicle Code.   We wonder why 30 seconds is the allotted amount of time in the first place.  If this video event recorder is placed in a private vehicle and there is notice to passengers that it is being recorded, who cares how long it records for?  The owner of the car can turn it off at anytime, so this should help privacy concerns for private citizens.  The police know full well that they have no expectation of privacy during a traffic stop.  California Highway Patrol and most other police agencies are now equipped with dashboard video and remote audio that records traffic stops anyway.  Why shouldn’t citizens have this same right?

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The Myth of the Wet Reckless In Los Angeles DUI Cases

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Many people accused of a DUI in Los Angeles believe that their lawyer get their DUI charge reduced to something known as a “wet reckless.”   For the uninitiated, a “wet reckless” is an alcohol related misdemeanor that is similar, but less serious than a DUI.  The benefits to a wet reckless include a shorter probation period, lower fines, six weeks of a weekly alcohol class rather than 12 weeks, and in LA County there in no requirement that an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) be installed on your vehicle.  However, a wet reckless is still “priorable”, meaning that if you get convicted DUI in ten years, the wet reckless counts as a prior DUI conviction and the penalties on your next DUI will be enhanced.

Do not be fooled by an attorney promising you that he or she can “get you a wet reckless with no problem” in your DUI case.  For starters, a good DUI lawyer should always vigorously investigate your case and be ready to take your case to trial.  Whether your case actually goes to trial or not, preparing for trial is the way to get the best deals.  Now, if you blow a .08 or .09 on a first offense, sure there’s a strong chance you can get a wet reckless and if your lawyer does his or her job properly you may even get an even better offer.   But if your breath or blood shows that you have anything more than a .10, your lawyer is going to have work to get that wet reckless.  Los Angeles DAs and City Attorneys don’t give away wet reckless for nothing, your lawyer is going to have to research the case, file the discovery motions and really challenge the police and prosecution’s case.

  • Were the chemical tests performed properly?
  • Was the breath machine functioning normally?
  • Did the officer administer the breath tests correctly?
  • If blood was drawn, was the blood drawn, preserved and stored properly?
  • Was the equipment that tested the blood in working order?

These are just a few of the issues that a lawyer needs to investigate and discover in most cases.  Of course, if there is really a significant problem with the way in which the tests were done, you may find that your lawyer is able to get the charge reduced even further or you may even be able to take your case to trial.   Whatever your circumstance you need to be sure that a qualified criminal defense lawyer is handling your DUI case.

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Los Angeles DUI Checkpoints – Labor Day

Monday, September 6th, 2010

The Labor Day Los Angeles DUI checkpoint at the corner Venice of Abbot Kinney was in full swing this afternoon and evening.   If you went through this checkpoint and were then arrested for DUI, driving on a suspended license or any other offense, you may need to contact a qualified criminal lawyer who understands how to handle complicated checkpoint cases.  DUI checkpoints are governed by stringent and detailed rules set forth by both the California Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.   It is critical that the criminal defense attorney you hire to represent you understands that ins and outs of DUI checkpoints.  Checkpoint cases present multiple issues beyond the normal DUI case.  These issues include whether or not a “neutral formula” was used to decide which cars to stop, the methodology used to determine where to set up the checkpoint, and time limits on how long the checkpoint must operate.  There are more issues which your lawyer will explain to you.

Often people who are not DUI find themselves under arrest at checkpoints for outstanding warrants, driving on a suspended license, and other offenses.   If this has happened to you , it is even more important that you contact an attorney and explain everything that transpired during the traffic stop.   You may be surprised at how often the checkpoints are not run correctly.

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Los Angeles DUI Tip – Don’t Mess With the Drive Thru

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

The easiest way to avoid a DUI in Los Angeles is to not drink and drive, but one sure way to get caught driving drunk is going through a fast food drive-thru while intoxicated.  If the person taking you order, your money and or giving you your food at a fast food drive-thru believes you are drunk,  they will call the police and report you.  Yes, this is perfectly legal.  The police are allowed to use a tip from a citizen informant to form the probable cause to stop you for DUI.  All the fast food worker has to do is call the police and give them your license plate number along with the make and model of your car.  If you even make it out of the parking lot before the police arrive, you’ll be pulled over very quickly, charged with a DUI and will you find yourself in need of a criminal lawyer to represent you — if you even make it out of the parking lot.   Needless to say, your chances of the police being called increase if you are rude to the people working the drive-thru window.

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Teacher with Multiple DUI Convictions Suspended

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Today, the California Court of Appeals upheld The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s suspension of a 5th grade teacher who had been convicted of three DUIs. The teacher had been convicted of the three DUIs between 1987 and 2002. She received this suspension even though there was testimony from the school principal that she was a good teacher despite her multiple DUI convictions. This should go without saying — just just because someone gets a DUI does not mean they are unable to perform well in their job. This is why it is so important to understand the collateral consequences of a DUI conviction.

This is especially true in Los Angeles, if you are accused of a DUI and hold any kind of professional license, it is important that you or your DUI attorney investigate the consequences a DUI conviction may have on your job. It is equally important that you understand how to hire a qualified DUI defense lawyer. The penalties for DUI grow more and more severe every day, what happened to this teacher could happen to anyone.

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