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News reports frequently print stories about arrests of people accused of driving under the influence in California. The media accounts often relay police suspicions that led to a traffic stop, field sobriety tests and other common allegations found in police accounts--the media serves a role in publishing important information.

A California DUI suspect is often hauled down to the jail for processing in the media accounts, and frequently the court of public opinion kicks in after a story is published.

Our system of justice includes checks and balances to protect constitutional rights, including due process concepts such as the presumption of innocence. Criminal defense lawyers act to challenge the government to help protect statutory and constitutional rights--protecting the integrity of the justice system. Criminal charges are properly dealt with in a court of law, rather than in the court of public opinion.

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Last fall, an off-duty Petaluma Police officer crashed a motorized scooter on the fourth fairway of the Rooster Run Golf Club. The police department held a benefit golf tournament at the public golf course October 5. The off-duty officer who crashed a scooter had worked the graveyard shift the night before the tournament and reported in the morning to drive a golf cart transporting "pin-up girls" around the course during the tourney and other tasks related to the event, according to the Press-Democrat.

At some point, authorities say that the officer borrowed a motorized scooter from a fellow officer and reportedly took a run onto the course. That is when he allegedly crashed, suffering undisclosed injuries. Officers and police brass were all over the course for the tournament, but after the wreck, the off-duty cop was not asked to perform field sobriety tests, nor did he submit any breath or blood sample.

Someone at the golf course called 911, and the officer was taken to Petaluma Valley Hospital for treatment. About a month passed, and Petaluma Police reportedly contacted the California Highway Patrol to open a DUI investigation related to the incident. Petaluma Police claim that the department had been looking into the incident and desired to have an independent investigation opened.

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When a person is on probation for a prior conviction, authorities tend to seek ways to allege a probation violation. Many probation violations may involve technical violations of a term or condition. However, some people may face allegations of a violation based upon new criminal charges. When probation violations are alleged with new charges, a person may face criminal consequences arising from the alleged violation, as well as in the new criminal case.

That type of combination was involved in the recent drunk driving charges that Bobby Brown was facing. The singer was arrested October 24 on suspicion of DUI. That was Brown's second DUI arrest during 2012, and the 44-year-old singer was still on probation for a March 2012 DUI when he was picked up last October in Los Angeles, California on the new DUI allegations. Authorities also say that Brown's license was suspended at the time of the October DUI arrest.

The singer did not personally appear in court Tuesday. However, his criminal defense lawyer entered a plea on behalf of Brown to resolve the criminal issues involved. Brown was ordered to serve 55 days in jail, but the jail time actually is divided among several different issues. The judge reported imposed 10 days each on the new DUI conviction on the conviction for driving while suspended. The court also ordered Brown to serve 35 days for the probation violation on the prior DUI.

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Undercover police appeared at the courthouse in Tulare County Tuesday. The officers were not there to attend hearings, but to follow defendants into the parking lot after the specified defendant's had appeared in court. Visalia Police say that they decided to run an undercover sting to catch people appearing in court on drunk driving charges if they drove to the courthouse after a suspension of their driving privileges.

The Visalia Police say that they were targeting drivers who were suspended or revoked due to a DUI arrest. Law enforcement says that 10 people who appeared Tuesday in Tulare County Superior Court were followed from the courthouse. Officials say that the sting operation was used to ensure that drivers with allegedly suspended or revoked licenses were targeted to ensure that the individuals had found alternate means to appear in court on the DUI charges.

One man who was followed from the courthouse reportedly was arrested on suspicion of driving with a suspended or revoked license during the sting operation. Visalia Police say that the sting was set up using grant money from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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The use of ignition interlock devices in drunk driving cases has garnered attention across the country in recent years. Four counties in California are currently experimenting in the use of the devices in cases involving allegations of driving under the influence. The device is essentially a breath test machine that is installed in the car.

A driver must blow into the Breathalyzer before attempted to start the vehicle. If the device detects a specified level of alcohol, the car simply will not start. In most states, the driver must also periodically blow into the device while driving, and information from that breath test is recorded for download at specified times while the device is required after a DUI conviction.

Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board unanimously recommended that all 50 states pass laws to require the use of ignition interlock devices in all DUI cases.

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Tagged in: ignition interlocks
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