When it comes to DUI's, obviously every state in the nation is concerned for the public safety and Mother's Against Drunk Drivers and a number of other interest groups have really played a role in increasing penalties and increasing the easiness of law enforcement to be able to catch and arrest those individuals who are drinking alcohol and driving on our roads.
A lot of people don't realize that in order to get a DUI, you don't have to be drunk – you just have to not be able to safely operate a motor vehicle. California is definitely among one of the toughest states in the nation when it comes to DUI law and the enforcement of DUI law.
This is definitely borne out when I see people coming from other states who got DUI's in their home state and then they come to California and attempt to get a driver's license, and once California sees that that person had a DUI or multiple DUI's in another state, they will make them meet the requirements of any driver in California that were to get a DUI before they will allow them to drive.
For example, I saw one person that had gotten a second time DUI in another state and really hadn't done any alcohol program. In California, for a second time DUI, you have to do an 18-month alcohol program which is a huge pain in the neck and costs a lot of money and time.
The bottom line is the DMV told that person if you don't do that program, you cannot drive in California and you will never be able to drive in California. So, there's no question, as compared to other states in the nation, California DUI's is definitely one of the most difficult to deal with.
Punishments for California DUI's
Another aspect of California's harshness is the fact that for a fourth time DUI, a person will be looking at a felony and up to three years in prison. If it's a felony DUI and someone is seriously injured, there is a three-year enhancement.
That three-year enhancement is typically a great bodily injury allegation which causes the DUI to become a strike and the person has that conviction on their record forever. Really, what it's boiling down to is the legislature, prosecutors and judges are sick and tired of people putting other people's lives in danger when it comes to driving on the road in Los Angeles and throughout California.
So, they will send people to jail or prison. They will put harsh sanctions on them where they're not allowed to drink alcohol during the probationary period. They'll put scram bracelets on them while the case is pending so they can't injure anybody.
It's typical in Los Angeles courts that when somebody is charged with a DUI and they have a high blood alcohol level or it's a second time DUI, that that person will be ordered to do AA meetings while the case is pending every day if they want to be released on their own recognizance. Otherwise, the judge will make them post a bail and order it to stay out of custody. So, DUI's in California are very tough.
DUI Laws in California Has Caused People to be Charged with Murder
What a lot of people don't realize is that if you're drinking and driving and you kill somebody out on the road, the prosecutors in Los Angeles, and even throughout California, can and will charge you with murder. Second degree murder you'll be looking at 15 to life.
You'll have to serve 85% of 15 years before you'll be eligible for parole and in reality, you could never get out if the Parole Board didn't let you out. It used to be that drivers who killed people had to be proven that they knew or reasonably should have known that it's dangerous and people can die if you drink and drive.
So, they would have to prove to the prosecutors that those drivers took an alcohol course that taught them about the dangers of alcohol. All of the courts in Los Angeles and throughout California read first-time DUI people and even second-time DUI people an admonishment that says if you drink and drive and somebody dies, you will be charged with murder. This is called the Watson Warning.
It used to be that you had to have knowledge that you could kill somebody and then that would be used to supply the malice that is necessary for a murder case. In other words, you could apply that the person was malice because they just drove anyways with alcohol in their system.
Really, what they're trying to get you to do is think before you even start drinking, and if you're going to have to drive, set things up before you're in an intoxicated state so that you're not going to put yourself in a position to drink and drive and potentially injure or kill somebody.
Now, the shift that I'm seeing is that if somebody is drinking and driving and they kill somebody, the prosecutor's first move is to charge them with second degree murder. The theory they are using to do it is that everybody in society knows by now because of all the news media and just commonsense, that if you drink alcohol and drive you stand a good chance of getting in an accident, hurting somebody or killing somebody,
So, good people with no record who just went out to have a good time are being charged with murder. The sad thing about it is that a lot of times it's questionable whose fault the accident it is, but in DUI cases there's a further harshness of the California DUI laws, is that there is a presumption in the law that if you were drinking and driving and an accident occurs, it's presumed that you're the one who is at fault or caused the accident.
Now that presumption can be rebutted, but obviously your criminal defense attorney is going to have to use their skills to show that the accident was somebody else's fault. Therefore, the death or the injury was caused by another person or another event or another circumstance. That's how you get rid of these murder charges or felony DUI charges.