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Santa Cruz DUI defense attorney

No matter if you are a first time or repeat offender, getting charged with a DUI will have a huge impact on your life. How much it will affect you depends on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, such as who was in the car, any prior convictions, and whether any others were injured or killed as a result of driving while intoxicated. Even in cases without circumstances that would increase the charges, a DUI can lead to a license suspension, jail time (often, though not always, served in an “alternative to custody” program), and fines. 

When an officer pulls you over, they may have a suspicion that you were driving while intoxicated. However, even if you are pulled over for another traffic offense, such as speeding, you can still be arrested for DUI if the officer has probable cause to make an arrest that you are under the influence. An officer may determine probable cause by talking with you, observing you, conducting field sobriety tests, and/or administering a portable breath test. 

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Santa Cruz DUI defense attorney traffic stop arrestUnless it occurs at a sobriety checkpoint, a DUI traffic stop is often an unexpected incident for a driver. Getting pulled over can cause anxiety for anyone, but being pulled over for driving under the influence can lead to criminal charges, steep fines, and the loss of driving privileges. For many drivers, an arrest for driving under the influence is the first time they are in trouble with the law, aside from minor traffic tickets or parking violations. When you are pulled on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is important to be prepared for what will happen. 

The Process Followed in a Traffic Stop

When a police officer pulls a driver over, they must have reasonable cause to do so. This means that there must be a reasonable suspicion that a law is being broken. Reasonable causes for pulling over a driver include erratic driving or other traffic violations, such as speeding or running a red light. A traffic stop for a minor violation, such as a missing tail light, could lead to a DUI arrest if the officer suspects the driver is impaired due to drugs or alcohol. 

When asking for a driver’s license and registration, an officer will also take note of their speech and actions. If the officer suspects impairment, they may ask the driver if he or she has been drinking. While cooperation with police is often recommended, these questions are voluntary, and the driver has the right to decline to answer any questions. 

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Santa Cruz, CA drug DUI defense lawyerDriving under the influence of drugs can get a driver in as much trouble as driving under the influence of alcohol. In California, criminal charges related to the possession or sale of drugs can vary wildly, but when a person gets behind the wheel, they are likely to face serious consequences if they are intoxicated by any substance. Unlike alcohol, there is no legal limit for the amount of drugs a person can have in their system while driving, and if a drug test shows any amount of a controlled substance in a driver’s system, they may face DUI charges.  

The criminal charge of Driving Under the Influence refers to how a substance can affect a driver’s judgment and reaction time. The legal limit for a driver’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is .08%. For any BAC over that limit, a driver is presumed incapable of driving safely. While California law does not specify a legal limit for other drugs, including marijuana, a driver may be considered to be under the influence if they are intoxicated and unable to operate their vehicle safely. Controlled substances, prescription drugs, and even over the counter drugs can lead to a driver being considered intoxicated and charged with DUI, especially if these substances are combined with alcohol.

As with driving under the influence of alcohol, a first time offense for driving under the influence of drugs is a misdemeanor. A DUI conviction can lead to up to six months of jail time, fines well over $1,000, and driver’s license suspension for at least six months. This criminal offense will be on your record, which can be detrimental if your career requires driving in any way. 

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Santa Cruz first time DUI defense lawyerAnyone can be pulled over while driving, and if you are DUI of drugs or alcohol, a routine traffic stop can lead to an arrest. A DUI arrest can be a scary experience, and you may not know what to expect. However, understanding what will happen if you are pulled over and arrested for a first-time DUI will make the experience easier to handle. 

Even if you feel under control behind the wheel, if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is higher than .08% this is considered drunk driving, and you can be arrested on DUI charges. In many cases, a driver will be pulled over for a different reason, such as having a tail light out or speeding. If the police officer who pulls you over has reasonable cause to believe you are under the influence, they can ask you to take Field Sobriety Tests. These tests consist of being asked to get out of your car and performing tasks meant to assess your cognitive functions and ability to operate your vehicle safely, such as reciting the alphabet or walking in a straight line (whether these tests accurately assess alcohol influence is another subject altogether). You may also be asked to take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening, which is also known as a breathalyzer test. This test will measure your BAC, and it often determines whether an arrest can be made.  

If you fail (or as the report may state “did not complete as explained and demonstrated”) or refuse these tests, the police officer will likely arrest you for DUI, and you will be transported to jail or a sobering center and formally charged. You will be asked to take a chemical BAC test of your breath or blood. If you refuse the post-arrest “chemical test” of your blood or breath, or fail to complete it, this can lead to a lengthy suspension of your license – even if you are under the limit. The officer will likely take your driver’s license and issue you a pink temporary license, which kicks off an administrative process at DMV that is separate from the court process.  If you do not request an administrative hearing with the DMV within 10 days, your license will be automatically suspended.

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Santa Cruz marijuana DUI defense lawyerCalifornia law enforcement officers have faced a growing challenge over the past two years: how to keep the roadways safe from people driving under the influence of marijuana

Marijuana DUI Arrests Have Risen Since 2016

Two major events have led to an increase in marijuana use in California and a corresponding concern about driving under the influence of cannabis. First, Proposition 64, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, was passed in November 2016; this allowed individuals to grow and use marijuana for their own recreational purposes. Second, Proposition 64 also legalized the sale of marijuana to anyone age 21 or older, effective January 1, 2018.

Drugged driving arrests have risen significantly in California since the state legalized the use of recreational marijuana. The Orange County crime lab reported that requests to process blood samples related to marijuana DUI arrests rose 40% between November 2016 and June 2017. In addition, the California Highway Patrol reported that marijuana DUI arrests increased 31% from January to August 2018 and that injuries attributed to marijuana DUIs doubled.  

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Santa Cruz DUI attorney parked carDrinking and driving inarguably puts everyone’s safety at risk. Sometimes, a driver leaves an establishment after consuming alcohol, only to realize that their intoxication was more severe than they originally estimated. Safety-conscious drivers may decide to pull their vehicle to the side of the road, find a rest stop, or even park at a gas station to take a quick nap. Although this decision ultimately prevents a potentially catastrophic accident, it also invites curious police officers to investigate the situation. DUI charges are possible in these cases, even when a drunk driver is parked and sleeping safely inside their vehicle.

DUI in a Parked Car

It is possible to be charged with DUI while in a parked car. However, a police officer must typically be able to show that you voluntarily moved your vehicle before the arrest. Voluntary movement may include something as minimal as a car rolling down a driveway after disengaging the parking brake. Other possible evidence that may show a driver moved their car while intoxicated includes:

  • The engine is warm.
  • The driver is in the driver’s seat.
  • The car is in drive.
  • The vehicle is at the scene of an accident.
  • The keys are in the ignition.

Santa Cruz Camping Ordinances

If someone is sitting in their car and behaving normally, a suspecting cop may not have reason to detain a driver, preventing them from obtaining evidence of a possible DUI. However, the city of Santa Cruz, along with many other California cities, has laws restricting sleeping in public. Many of these laws prohibit owners of registered vehicles from sleeping in their cars, except when there is written consent from the land or business owner granting permission, or in a designated camping area. 

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Which Is More Dangerous While Driving: Drinking or Texting?

Santa Cruz, CA drunk driving defense attorneyFor decades, drunk driving was considered the most dangerous driving practice. However, in recent years, texting and cell phone usage give stiff competition for that top spot. Distracted driving leads to thousands of injuries and countless deaths every day in the United States. 

With today’s busy schedules, people often use their driving time as a prime opportunity to multitask. Distractions come from sources such as personal grooming, speaking to other passengers, and eating. Texting and other cell phone use is by far the most dangerous type of distraction. Given what we now know, considering both safety and the legal repercussions, which is the riskiest driving behavior: drinking or texting?

Safety Considerations

Overall, the prevalence of DUI is on a downward trend, while the frequency of texting while driving continues to rise. Although texting usually does not constantly affect a driver like driving while intoxicated does, it can cause a person to take their eyes off of the road for an unpredictable length of time. A distraction for even a split second increases the likelihood of an accident by 23%, a rate similar to the probability of an accident after drinking four beers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), both behaviors are equally impairing to a driver’s ability to drive. Consider the following statistics:

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