Drivers in California should take the current “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving” public safety campaign to heart, according to Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Kendric Rollins of Rollins Law Group. Although most drivers are aware that drunk driving can carry steep penalties, many don’t fully realize that driving under the influence can have significant legal consequences even if the offending driver’s blood alcohol limit is under the legal limit for intoxication.
“In California, a blood alcohol level of 0.08 is the threshold for a DUI arrest, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that drivers who have any amount of alcohol in their system can be charged with lesser alcohol-related offenses,” says Rollins. Penalties for first-time offenders can range from license suspensions to fines and even jail time. “Laws, fines and other penalties vary from county to county, and some counties mandate jail time for first-time alcohol-related offenses.”
The penalties grow in severity for those who have had previous DUI charges, according to Rollins. “You can be charged with a second time DUI even though you pled to a ‘wet reckless’ on your first case,” warns Rollins. He also counsels that drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer test when asked can face an automatic one-year suspension of his or her license, even if the DUI charge is successfully contested in court. Similarly, once you refuse to take a breathalyzer or field sobriety test, you generally cannot change your mind. Your privilege to drive will be suspended for a year.
Drivers who are facing DUI charges should make calling a qualified attorney a top priority, says Rollins. “The first step in the process is to schedule a hearing with the DMV to determine whether the driver will be allowed to keep his or her license. A driver only has 10 days to schedule this hearing from the date of arrest, so lining up an attorney during this period is critical.” Rollins also advises that drivers facing DUI charges should be as honest as possible with their attorneys. “If you are paying good money to an attorney and then lie to him or her about your situation, you are wasting your money, because the attorney is not going to have the information he or she needs to properly represent you,” says Rollins. “A good attorney is not going to judge you; he or she is there to help you.”
Ultimately, advises Rollins, there are a number of common-sense steps drivers can take to avoid possible DUI charges. “I always tell drivers who wear high-heeled shoes or flip flops to remove them while driving, because I’ve seen cases where a shoe gets caught in a floor-mat, leading to a minor collision or improper stop and subsequent DUI charges for the driver.” Rollins also advocates carefully obeying posted speed limits and all traffic signals and warnings. “Minor traffic violations can have substantial enhancement charges if the driver is found to be under the influence, which could potentially land the driver in jail,” says Rollins. Ultimately, the best way to avoid a DUI charge is for the driver to be certain that his or her blood alcohol level is at a safe limit. New technology solutions, such as plug-in attachments for smartphones that measure blood alcohol levels, can help drivers make informed choices as to whether or not they are safe to be behind the wheel.
Additional information about Kendric Rollins and Rollins Law Group is available at: http://rollinslawgroup.com.