On Probation

On Probation

Hi everyone. Been a while, I know. Truth of the matter is that once you’re sentenced, you’ve done your classes, gotten rid of your interlock, got your license back, life continues where you left off. Sure, your insurance is still high, but there’s an end in sight.

You might not believe this, but there comes a time when you
hardly even think about your DUI.

It’s a good feeling. It’s a weird feeling.

Probation in CA lasts for three years. Throughout my journey with the DUI I kept getting different answers as to when it started. In my final assessment, my DUI class instructor told me that it started from the date of arrest. That made me feel better. It did not turn out to be the case. You’re on
probation as soon as you get arrested, but it doesn’t count towards your probation. Would’ve been nice if it did, but, alas, it’s just how things go.

My lawyer told me it would start from the day I was
sentenced. This seemed to make sense, but this, too, wasn’t quite the case. One day a few weeks ago, I decided to call up the DMV and double check (always a good idea) to make sure that my probation had passed like it should have. It did. Just my last day of probation was a month and a half later than I had calculated.

No idea why, and there’s really nothing I could’ve done about it. Can you imagine calling the DMV, “Hi, while I didn’t violate my probation, can you retroactively make my probation have ended earlier?”

If I had to do it again, which I’m trying my damnedest not to, I would’ve gotten my lawyer or called myself to find a definitive date that my probation was over. Would’ve had a small little celebration to myself when midnight ticked over on the clock when it happened (not drinking and driving, of course).

The probation you go on for your first DUI (and possibly others) is called “Summary Probation”, which basically means “don’t fuck up or we’ll throw the book at you”. There’s no expensive probation officer, which is probably the first time they let you not have another fee they could charge you. No PO, no checking in, nothing like that. Just don’t mess up.

Additionally you can't refuse a field sobriety test, and your odds of getting picked at a
DUI checkpoint raise if they're checking plates (although I cruised through two, sober, without being tested).

So what is messing up?

Some people believe it’s committing any crime, but that’s not quite it. My lawyer told me that he had somebody arrested for shoplifting while on DUI probation and the court didn’t care, didn’t consider it a violation. (
Update: I have been told in other states that this will trigger a violation, so best to keep clean as a whistle) While this blog does not condone shoplifting or any other crimes in any way whatsoever, you should know what scrutiny you’re under.

This probation deals with alcohol and driving - basically you can’t get caught with even a drop of alcohol in your blood when you’re driving or else you’ll face some consequences (and remember, you can't refuse a test). The common thing to say is that it’s another DUI even if you’re at .0001, but that’s not true either. They can only give you a DUI if you’re over .08 (.05 now in some places), otherwise it’s “just” a probation violation, which means more school, more money paid, more probation. If you’re above .08 you get a DUI on top of that. Not good.

Other traffic infractions are fine. This I can verify personally - I did receive a parking ticket, and an out-of-state speeding ticket (14 over on the highway, bullshit speed trap), and neither affected my probation or caused any additional consequences (and yes, I was sweating bullets when pulled over on that highway and very worried about if this counts as a violation. Next rest stop I did a lot of googling until I calmed down enough to continue on my trip.)

Any sort of aggravated driving, road rage, that sort of thing takes you into the “maybe” territory. It’s all up to a judge and the system, and by this point you know how it goes. If they can, they usually will. You might catch a break, probably not, depends on a lot of things out of your control, and how you handle yourself around them. Bottom line: I wouldn’t depend on anything.

Your Summary Probation basically comes down to two tenets:
  1. Don’t drink and drive
  2. Don’t be an asshole.

Seems easy enough. But three years is a long, long time. It gets harder and harder the longer you are from your DUI. Drinks after work, wine with a meal, beer at a ballgame. The temptations are everywhere. And if you’re like me, and haven’t quit drinking, you’ll eventually indulge yourself.

“A beer or two won’t hurt, not like I’m getting drunk, not like that night”

And then you wait a little bit, don’t get ‘one more for the road’, call it early.

And then you get in your car, and you head home. With just a little bit in your system. Nothing too bad, just a little bit.

And then a cop gets behind you.

And then you start sweating, worrying. Praying that your tail light is working, making sure your seat belt is fastened tight.

And the cop keeps following you, and you start worrying if he is playing games with you, you’re worrying that he somehow knows that you’re in violation.

You turn off the radio, you pay the best attention you can, and then eventually the cop turns down another road, and you let out a big sigh of relief.

Then two weeks later your friend asks you to happy hour.

And you start to sweat again, and think about what could happen.

This is what it’s like. It’s easy in that you don’t really have to do anything except not mess up. It’s hard in that our society practically pushes people to drink and drive. Odds are you’re reading this because you went to a social function, or did something that we’re told is how you relax. You felt fine because we don’t teach people how alcohol affects the body and it’s impossible to “feel” what your BAC level is. We make fun of people who use breathalyzers, and everyone condemns drinking and driving but nearly everyone does it.

You’re going to find yourself in a lot of situations where you will be tempted to violate your probation. I suggest
knowing your BAC by using a portable breathalyzer, or taking an Uber or Lyft.

Looking over your shoulder for cops all the time sucks.

Some lawyers will offer you a service to where they can reduce your probation, usually take off the third year. I didn’t go for this, they wanted a thousand dollars for it, and I’d spent enough. Instead, I went through the whole thing. The theory is they cite your fulfilling all your commitments and use your two years (one and a half in some cases) of not violating probation as evidence that you won’t violate it for the next. Works some times, doesn’t work others. I decided to stick it out, a thousand dollars buys a lot of Lyfts, and I can refuse one last round and wait it out.

And so I did.

And now I’m free.

Reader, I can’t tell you how good it feels to be free of the system to come this far. Now I just have to get past the 3-year anniversary of finalizing my suspension to get my insurance rates to fall to normal and then… it’s all behind me.

The journey is long, and it’s hard, but just take it one step at a time, and you can get through it. It costs a lot, and it takes up a lot of time, but you can get through it.

You can Survive a DUI.

Guest Post: Ways to Challenge Breathalyzer Test

I received an email via my contact page from John Adam, who wanted to wanted to give some perspective on how to challenge the Breathalyzer test. Interesting stuff - Tom

The use of breath to determine the blood alcohol level of a person is the most popular scientific method in DUI cases. There are many cases, when the wrong Breathalyzer tests cause the person, under suspicion of driving while drinking, face DUI charges. Breathalyzer results are inaccurate because of certain problems with calibrations or if there is an untrained police officer using the device.

The prosecuting party has to prove in the court that the defendant’s BAC was at or above the legal limit. In a few states, it is .10% while in others it is .08%. When the person is wrongfully charged on the basis of defective Breathalyzer tests, the defendant needs a
DUI attorney to challenge the Breathalyzer test in court.

The Burden of Proof in Challenging the Results:
Under the wrongful DUI charges, the defendant must prove that these charges are invalid for the conviction. This is possible when the attorney convinces the court that there is a lack of strength in evidence or it is insufficient to convict the accused. The defense team may focus on the witness statement and evidence without having the burden of proof. When the defense refutes the proof and demonstrates that the prosecution has not strengthened in the case, this may help in dismissing the
charges.

Use of Breathalyzer:
There are many cases when the Breathalyzer is not used properly. The police officer uses the device inaccurately given improper maintenance, training or calibration, which gives the inaccurate results. When the prosecuting party has Breathalyzer results as the only evidence, by only refuting this proof it becomes easy as well as effective to defend the person from the conviction. However, in this case, the defense team needs the help of an expert in these devices or understands well the proper calibration to give accurate results.

Training of the Police Officer:
In many cases, the police officer who pulls over the driver on suspicion of being under the influence of drug or alcohol, may not be properly trained to conduct a Breathalyzer test or use the device. The device cannot provide the results if the officer does not use it accurately. There are certain rules for this such as observing the driver for twenty minutes to determine whether the results are accurate or not. Moreover, the office is supposed to check the intestinal health of the accused or alcohol in the mouth.

Calibration:
Breathalyzers have settings as well as calibrations that need regular maintenance and understanding. In case the officer in charge is unaware of how to set the device and keeps it maintained, the device can produce the wrong results.

Few devices need to be repaired and parts replaced. In case of lack of knowledge about taking care of the device, there will be inaccurate results leading to wrong DUI charges. Not only one, but all or most of the arrest will be affected.

Challenging the Results Varies According to the Case:
In addition to the above-mentioned ways, there are other ways to challenge the Breathalyzer tests. For instance, the accused may have a special condition that could lead to the retention of the alcohol in his or her system that brings wrong results. This is another effective to challenge the results and refute the charges completely.

Other factors involved, the environmental temperature and pressure in the atmosphere, and the chemical composition of the person taking the test. This refers to the emotional stress and physical activity, hyperventilating, heavy breathing due to anxiousness.

Given these several factors, the results are inaccurately measured. This is the reason few of the DUI cases involve expert witness who gives the testimony about the inaccuracy of the device with incorrect results. The DUI attorney must present the valid argument based upon these facts and evidence.

Final Word:
The defendant needs the support of the lawyer to challenge the Breathalyzer tests, as the attorney is skilled in dealing with such cases and will guide according to the given circumstances.


3 Pieces of Evidence You Should NOT Give to The Police When You Are Pulled Over for Suspicion of a DUI

I received an email via my contact page from Brandon Leuangpaseuth, who wanted to share some tips to get through a DUI checkpoint. - Tom.

Getting pulled over for drinking and driving can be a stressful situation. Most of the time, you will be so nervous or caught up in the situation, you will oftentimes unknowingly give the police officer evidence for building a case against you.

Drinking and driving is against the law and should be avoided at all costs. The best policy to avoid a drunk driving citation is to drive with no alcohol in your system. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you have been pulled over and you are uncertain if you are above the legal drinking limit, do yourself a favor and do not help the officer by giving them evidence.

Here are 3 things you should avoid giving the police officer after you have been pulled over with the suspicion of drunk driving.

1. Answering Questions that Will Be Used To Build a Case Against You

Most of the time, when a police officer pulls you over late at night, they will ask you a series of seemingly innocuous preliminary questions such as:

Where are you coming from?... Have you had anything to drink tonight?... How much did you
have to drink tonight?... When did you start drinking?... When did you stop drinking?


First off, it is imperative that you are polite and courteous. Period. Giving a police officer attitude or being disrespectful will do nothing for you. It will most likely make matters worse so be friendly and respectful.

Only after you are asked by the police officer then you should provide your license, proof of insurance and registration. You are only required to present your license, your proof of insurance, and your car’s registration card at any time when a police officer requests you to do so and you are not obligated to answer any of their following questions.

When an officer asks you any of those questions above, you can politely and respectfully decline. Again, always be kind and courteous. A simple statement like this would suffice:

“Due respect, officer, but I do not wish and am not required to answer any questions. Am I free to go?”

If you were to answer any of those questions, the police will be recording all your answers and anything you say can and will be used against you in your police case. The police report will contain all the information you gave to the officer so it is best that you minimize that information by using your right to remain silent.

2. Refuse the Roadside Field Sobriety Tests

Most of the time, if the officer has a suspicion that you were drinking and driving, they will ask you to step out of your car.

Comply with the officer's request. The officer will then instruct you to do a series of roadside field sobriety tests.

Most individuals do not know that these roadside tests are
completely voluntary.

Let me spell it out for you. An officer is asking you to do tests to find evidence for your alleged crime. The last thing on earth that you want to do is give them any evidence to support your conviction. If you partake in the roadside field sobriety tests, these subjective tests will be used in the police report as evidence against your demise. Just say, “no, officer I won’t”.

Some people will think:
Oh, I feel completely fine. I will just act in accordance with the police’s orders to get this officer off of my back.

Again, these tests are subjective and any misstep or mistake will be used as evidence for proving your guilt and conviction. Even if you feel completely fine, chances are this will probably be the first time you will ever be doing these motions and you will most likely mess up. Don’t believe me? Go take a beginners dance class or some golf courses. You will see mimicking movements after watching someone do so is a difficult task if it is your first time doing so.

If the officer continues to insist that you take the tests, tell the officer you would like to take the test, but you would like to ask your
DUI lawyer first if it is okay. You can then pretend to talk with a lawyer. Afterward, tell the police officer that your attorney told you to not take the roadside field sobriety test because they are voluntary as well as they are designed for a person to fail.

In summary, refuse the police officers request for the roadside field sobriety test. The officer cannot use your results on the field sobriety tests if you refuse it. The officer will bring you into custody, but you would have probably been arrested anyway.

3. Decline the Roadside Breathalyzer Test

One of the last pieces of evidence you can give to the officer is the roadside breathalyzer test. It should be noted, that there is an immense difference between refusing a roadside breathalyzer test and refusing a breathalyzer test at the police station.

If you do not consent to a roadside breathalyzer test, the officer will believe that you are intoxicated and are a danger to yourself and the general public. By the implied consent laws, this will allow them to arrest you because you refused to take the tests.

This is okay. Oftentimes, these roadside breathalyzer tests are
susceptible to errors and should be avoided at all costs. Why put yourself in a situation where the results to an unreliable test are used to legally convict you?

When you are at the station, if you refuse the tests then, you are subject to getting your license suspended by the DMV for 6 months to a year depending on what state you are in. Although your refusal of a blood-alcohol concentration test may be seen in some states as an admission of committing the crime (that can be used against you in a trial), in all the states, if you refuse to be tested, the penalties will be far more harsher if you are convicted if you submitted the tests in the first place.

A quick tip is that when you are asked to take a blood-alcohol concentration test, ask for a blood test instead of a breathalyzer test in the station. The reasoning behind it is that blood tests take some time to analyze and receive the results. The police officer that has arrested you has to write their report and build their case with the evidence they have. Hopefully, you have provided them with no evidence such as the roadside breathalyzer test, answering their questions, or field sobriety tests.

Also, when building your defense, DUI blood tests are more prone to a variety of errors that can be disputed in court. These mistakes can produce an unreliable blood alcohol concentration result and can be fought in court.

Know Your Rights and Be Safe On the Road

Here are my tips for not giving a police officer 3 crucial pieces of evidence to convict you of an alleged DUI. Once more, the best way to avoid a drunk driving conviction is to drive completely sober! Know your rights and be safe on the road.

Guest Post: Getting Home Safely

Dale Vernor reached out to me via my contact page, and asked to share his thoughts on alternatives to driving drunk. He emphasized that due to the time of year, this information needs to be out there as much as possible, and I agreed. Dale is a writer and researcher in the fields of mental health and substance abuse. He enjoys discussions on politics. - Tom

It’s 2 a.m. The bartender has announced last call and you know you have to get home, but you’ve been drinking pretty steadily all night. Or, your friend’s party could be ending and you’re feeling a little buzzed.

In either case, driving home isn’t worth it. If you try driving home, you could get into an accident that hurts you or others or does serious property damage. Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid an accident, you could be charged
with a DUI or face other legal trouble.

December holidays and New Year’s celebrations can be particularly dangerous. Many people drink during these celebrations and might get behind the wheel when its dark, the weather can be bad, and roads can be icy. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation noted, “Nationally, over the past five years, an
average of 300 people died in drunk driving crashes the week between Christmas and New Year.”

So what can you do during the holiday season or any other time when you are out drinking to avoid getting a DUI?

  • Call a friend or family member. You would be surprised how many friends and family members would hop out of bed during a dead sleep to come and pick you up. Sure, it might feel a little embarrassing at first. Sure, you might feel guilty for waking them up late at night. But, a little initial embarrassment and guilt is far better than the pain and trouble you could experience if you cause a deadly accident or receive a DUI.

  • Assign a Designated Driver. If you have a group of friends that go out a lot for drinks, rotating the DD is the most fair way to go about this. Taking the time to call a friend, call a cab service or ride sharing company, or getting a designated driver could save you court costs, jail time or even court ordered alcohol rehab.

  • Call a taxi or ride sharing service. Yes, this cost money but compared to court costs a taxi or an Uber is way less expensive. Yes, it is inconvenient to have to go back and get your car the next day, but driving drunk and risking a DUI and staying the night in jail, if not longer is far more inconvenient than getting your car the next day.

You’re not the first person who has had too much to drink and needs a ride home. You won’t be the last. Drunk driving is not worth the risk, the consequences of accidents and DUIs are long-term. Don’t let feelings of bothering someone for a ride, or the cost of a taxi deter you from getting home safe.


The First DUI for Electric Scooters

So often when people try to contact me, they give me some questions like "Can you get a DUI on a bike" (yes, but general consensus if you have to be a real asshole to a cop to get one), to "Can you get a DUI on a horse?" (No), and more.

I haven't been asked if you can get a DUI on one of those electric scooters (Bird, Lime, etc.) that have been buzzing all around Santa Monica and other places, but now we have
the first conviction of somebody for a DUI on a scooter.

"
City Atty. Mike Feuer said his office had secured a misdemeanor conviction against Nicholas Kauffroath, 28, who was riding a Bird scooter on a sidewalk in West L.A. when he knocked a pedestrian to the ground and scooted away to a nearby apartment building without stopping to render aid."

Now, like I mentioned with the bicycle… you have to be kind of asking for it. So far they haven't been doing checkpoints for scooters besides issuing tickets for people riding them in restricted areas. Hitting somebody and zipping off… that's asking for it. That's a hit-and-run. That's more being buzzed on a scooter.

"
Kauffroath, who did not return a request for comment, was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $550 fine, Feuer said. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the victim, complete a three-month DUI program, and stay off scooters while drinking."

What's interesting is that while these scooters require you to have a drivers license… it doesn't look like Kauffroath will have a suspension or an interlock placed on his regular vehicle. He's getting a standard DUI class for a first offender, a higher than normal fine, and a normal probation. A big penalty for a stupid mistake.

So don't drink and drive and ride a Bird or Lime around. You won't catch me on one of those things, they go too fast and drivers are bad enough when you're surrounded by 2000 pounds of metal.

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