blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, cannabis, Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, Field Sobriety Tests

Got a DUI/DWI Ticket?

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Were you pulled over by the police under suspicion of driving impaired? Here are some tips to help you get through the arrest:

  • Stay calm and don’t become belligerent. If you are nervous, police officers may think that you are hiding something or are intoxicated. Remaining calm and being polite are good ways to ensure that police officers do their job efficiently.
  • Clean out your glove box. Fumbling through these compartments to find your registration or insurance can be easily misinterpreted as intoxication. Keeping the glove box or center console neat and clean allows you to swiftly grab your identification and present it to a police officer.
  • Follow instructions without challenging the arresting officer. Be aware that any evidence found in your car could be used to support a DUI conviction. This includes open containers, drugs and paraphernalia.
  • Take the sobriety test. Many DUI/DWI defendants have been found not guilty due to a malfunctioning breath analyzing machine or an improperly administered blood or urine test. The truth is, you yourself may not know how intoxicated you are, so the breathalyzer might result in blood alcohol levels and concentration below the legal limit.
  • Get a blood test after release. Alcohol detection devices can be unreliable and malfunction.  It is a good idea to measure your BAC with a blood test after arrest. At trial, your attorney can use that evidence to raise possible defenses. This won’t work for driving impaired under the influence of cannabis, as BAC tests do not register the THC poisoning in your blood since it is deposited in the body’s fatty tissues such as the brain.
blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, cannabis, Crashes and Collisions, Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, FARS, fatalities, Field Sobriety Tests, Legislative Affairs, marajuana, medical marijuana, NHTSA, Road Safety Research, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety, Victims of DUI

4/20 = a DUI will hit your wallet

marijuana_USA_March_2019

April 20th is known to many as 4/20, or “Weed Day”.  People around the world are celebrating the unofficial marijuana holiday by gathering for rallies, smoke-outs, policy discussions and thousands of other weed-centric events. The legal US cannabis market is currently valued at over $10 billion; “green stocks” are publicly traded, reporting strong sales since Canada legalized pot and several US states voted to approve recreational and medical marijuana use.

Cannabis has also gone mainstream thanks to big investments and partnerships between marijuana sellers and blue chip consumer companies. Experts are projecting it could grow to $100 billion in the US, and $1 trillion globally in the next five years. although prices have been dropping as competition has increased now that more states are legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use.  These include the overall prices for products such as ingestibles, topical creams, vaporizers/vape pens and pre-rolled joints.

The ‘‘Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018″, referred to as the 2018 Farm Bill,  legalized the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity while removing it from the list of controlled substances.  Industrial hemp is not marijuana, although it is a different variety of the same species. The bill listed hemp as a covered commodity under crop insurance and directed the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation board to streamline the process for developing hemp policies, and requires the secretary of agriculture to conduct a study of the hemp-related agricultural pilot programs and other agricultural and academic research on the subject, to determine the economic viability of a domestic hemp market.

Starting with Oregon in 1973, individual states began to liberalize cannabis laws through decriminalization. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, sparking a trend that spread to over 30 states by 2017. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. There still are no laws written specifically to address driving impaired while under the influence of cannabis and its associated products:

  • Marijuana is figuring into more fatal crashes overall. In 2013, drivers tested positive for the drug in about 10 percent of all fatal crashes. By 2016, it was 20 percent.
  • More drivers are testing positive for marijuana and nothing else. Of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 who tested positive for cannabinoids, more than 52 percent had no alcohol in their system. By 2016, it had grown to 69 percent.
  • The average age of drivers in deadly crashes in 2015 who tested positive for marijuana was nearly 35, with a quarter of them over 40.
  • In 2016, of the 115 drivers in fatal wrecks who tested positive for marijuana use, 71 were found to have Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in their blood, indicating use within hours, according to state data. Of those, 63 percent were over 5 nanograms per milliliter, the state’s limit for driving.

Both alcohol and marijuana can affect a driver’s ability to think and solve problems, coordination, reaction time, judgment, memory and mood. While science has figured out just exactly how alcohol impacts the body’s organs, systems and functions, the same cannot be said of cannabis. Results of field sobriety tests, including blood and urine sampling as well as breathalyzers, can tell if a driver’s blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. No test can tell whether a driver is too high to drive because of smoking or inhaling, popping pills, eating or vaporizing cannabis products. Unlike alcohol, the active ingredients that cause the cannabis high can remain detectable in the blood stream for days or weeks; unlike alcohol, the impairment does not wears off in a matter of hours, and no amount of food intake will change the effects. Law enforcement officials, prosecutors and public policy makers concede there’s still too little information about marijuana and how it is detected to understand just how much the drug is affecting traffic fatalities.

blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, Car insurance, Crashes and Collisions, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, Holiday Travel, Victims of DUI

Happy Birthday America – Avoiding a DUI

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Are you prepared for the biggest birthday bash of the entire year? Fourth of July holiday means picnics and beach parties where drinks are readily available – so know your limit and avoid going over the point where you are impaired to drive.

Lots of road trips are planned over the Independence Day holiday – kids are out of school, the weather is great, and the road conditions are optimal. According to AAA, a record-breaking 107 Million Americans to Celebrate Holidays Away From Home

This includes 97.4 million Americans traveling by automobile – so be prepared to experience travel times during the holidays as much as three times longer than the normal trip.

Last year, Americans spent an estimated $1 billion on beer to celebrate Independence Day, and beer will be served to many of the 64% of Americans of legal drinking age who are planning to attend a cookout of barbecue this weekend. According to WalletHub, a growing portion of that is craft beer, which continues to make impressive gains despite its higher cost.  More beer is sold on Uncle Sam’s birthday than on any other holiday,  including New Year’s Eve.

This beehive of activity means more drunk drivers on the road. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the Fourth of July is the worst day of the year for fatal car crashes – there are nearly 200 traffic deaths over the usual 4-day holiday across the country.

The costs of a DUI

Besides the criminal charges and possible victim impact an impaired driver might face, there are other costs that cannot be overlooked, starting with insurance.  A DUI can triple your car insurance premium for as long as five years. That extra money adds up fast, into the thousands of dollars. Once you have a DUI on your record, your car insurance company considers you a high-risk driver and will charge you a higher rate to offset the added risk.

Let’s add up the average costs associated with a first time DUI Arrest, which averages over $6000, not included lost wages:
– Court fines? Varies from state to state, but an offender can expect fines starting from an average $400 for a first DUI to $5,000-$8,000 for a third DUI
– Attorney – $1000+ for public defenders, much more for a privately-hired attorney.
– Alcohol and Drug Education – Again, these charges vary from state to state, but you’ll probably not find a DUI course for under $100, to a high of $360 for a Level 1 DUi course
– Victim Impact Panel – $50 average
– Drivers License reinstatement fee at the DMV – $100-$250
– Victim Compensation Civil Penalty – Depends on the jurisdiction
– SR-22 Certificate of Insurance – $150 – $250 for three years on top of increased insurance premiums averaging $800 per year
– A BAL of .18 at the time of arrest results in a mandatory alcohol evaluation that costs approximately $200Of course, the numbers vary by state and circumstance, but after you add in fines, court costs, and DMV fees, the average DUI costs between $5,000 and $25,000. Compound all that needless expense with the inherent dangers of drinking and driving — along with the fact that you could lose your life, take someone else’s, or wind up spending time in jail — and the reasons for staying smart and safe this weekend become more than evident.

Is that drink or drug before driving really worth it?

blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, cannabis, Crashes and Collisions, Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, FARS, fatalities, Field Sobriety Tests, Legislative Affairs, marajuana, medical marijuana, NHTSA, Road Safety Research, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety, Victims of DUI

Happy 4/20, Prepare for DUIs

420

Today, April  20th (4/20 or 420), is marjuana’s high holiday for the eight states and the District of Columbia that now allow recreational use of marijuana, and 30+ states that  allow its use for medical purposes.  There is even talk from Democrats about introducing a bill in Washington to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances. But today, cannabis is still a controlled illegal substance at the Federal level, it is still illegal to transport cannabis products across state lines, still produces effects on driving that can lead to a DUI or DUID arrest, and it still incredibly difficult to standardize for safety and quality controls. Cannabis is the most phyto-chemically complex plant on the planet. It is an impossible task trying to ensure all plants, even of the same cannabis genotype, have all the same chemical profile.

Some might make the comparison between alcohol prohibition and cannabis, both Federal legislative measures prohibiting the production, importation, transportation and sale of related products on a national level. History has shown that lifting alcohol prohibition has not eliminated the abuse – and resulting consequences – that leads to impaired driving. According to the NHTSA, in 2016 there were 10,497 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentration of .08 g/dL, the minimum legal limit for DUI nationwide for adults over 21. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System,  the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes testing positive for marijuana rose 88 percent from 2013 to 2015. A Denver Post  analysis of data and coroner briefings report the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana had risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time; state law, however, does not require coroners to test deceased drivers specifically for marijuana use in fatal crashes.

Starting with Oregon in 1973, individual states began to liberalize cannabis laws through decriminalization. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, sparking a trend that spread to over 30 states by 2017. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Have roads in these states become more dangerous since the drug’s legalization in its various forms? The Post’s findings include:

  • Marijuana is figuring into more fatal crashes overall. In 2013, drivers tested positive for the drug in about 10 percent of all fatal crashes. By 2016, it was 20 percent.
  • More drivers are testing positive for marijuana and nothing else. Of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 who tested positive for cannabinoids, more than 52 percent had no alcohol in their system. By 2016, it had grown to 69 percent.
  • The average age of drivers in deadly crashes in 2015 who tested positive for marijuana was nearly 35, with a quarter of them over 40.
  • In 2016, of the 115 drivers in fatal wrecks who tested positive for marijuana use, 71 were found to have Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in their blood, indicating use within hours, according to state data. Of those, 63 percent were over 5 nanograms per milliliter, the state’s limit for driving.

Both alcohol and marijuana can affect a driver’s ability to think and solve problems, coordination, reaction time, judgment, memory and mood. While science has figured out just exactly how alcohol impacts the body’s organs, systems and functions, the same cannot be said of cannabis. Results of field sobriety tests, including blood and urine sampling as well as breathalyzers, can tell if a driver’s blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. No test can tell whether a driver is too high to drive because of smoking or inhaling, popping pills, eating or vaporizing cannabis products. Unlike alcohol, the active ingredients that cause the cannabis high can remain detectable in the blood stream for days or weeks; unlike alcohol, the impairment does not wears off in a matter of hours, and no amount of food intake will change the effects. Law enforcement officials, prosecutors and public policy makers concede there’s still too little information about marijuana and how it is detected to understand just how much the drug is affecting traffic fatalities.

Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, fatalities, Victims of DUI, Wet Reckless

“Wet Reckless” same as “DUI”?

dui_vs_wetrecklessMost states have laws that prohibit prosecutors from reducing DUI charges for suspected drunk drivers. Under California law, however, a plea bargain can be negotiated for impaired drivers to  reduce DUI penalties in exchange for a guilty plea, or to reduce  charges from a DUI/DWI to wet reckless, even though there is technically no actual law on the books that defines what a “wet reckless” charge would be.  If you have been charged with a DUI, DWAI or OWI in Colorado, Florida, Texas or Wisconsin,  you may also be able to have the charge for driving impaired under the influence of drugs or alcohol reduced to wet reckless. In Washington State, DUI charges can be pleaded down to “Wet Negligent Driving” (Negligent Driving in the 1st Degree), which is a misdemeanor in that state.

A person suspected of driving under the influence may take advantage of a wet reckless charge when his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) is close to 0.08%. Prosecutors in states where plea bargains are permitted can also pursue a lesser charge of wet reckless if they have a weak case that can be lost at trial.  If someone pleads guilty to a wet reckless charge, they are pleading guilty to a charge of driving recklessly where a prosecutor may have stated for the record that alcohol or drugs were involved with the charge.  Other advantages of pleading guilty to a wet reckless:
–  Unlike a second and third DUI where progressive penalties become harsher, there are usually no mandatory sentencing enhancements for a wet reckless charge.
–  There is also a  shorter jail term associated with a wet reckless charge as compared to a charge of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
–  With a wet reckless charge, in most cases there is no automatic suspension of your license, although the DMV may still do so. Normally, in order for a person who is offered a wet reckless plea bargan to keep their license, they must win their DMV hearing.
–  Generally, the probation period for a first time DUI is anywhere from three to five years. The probation period for a wet reckless is generally one to two years.
–  Although the fines for a wet reckless charge are less than the fines associated with a DUI charge, the increased insurance rates and/or policy cancellations caused by either will be the same, as insurance companies treat DUI charges and wet reckless charges equally.

The consequences of a crash caused by an impaired driver are also the same, whether he or she is charged with a DUI or with wet reckless driving. The latest statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report that in 2016, there were  10,497 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentration, content or levels of .08  or higher.

Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DWAI, Repeat DUI offender

Drunk drivers reported driving impaired 80 times before their first arrest

According to Do Something, a global movement activating young people in every US area code and in 131 countries, on average, a drunk driver will drive 80 times under the influence before their first arrest. That equates to someone being killed in a drunk driving crash every 51 minutes in America alone.  Earlier this month in Colorado, a man notorious for driving drunk was sentenced to 10 years in prison when convicted of his eighth DUI.

The Daily News reported that Albano Bustillos, 53, was arrested on his first drunk driving charge over 20 years ago and has been picked up eight times since then. “In his most recent arrest, Bustillos had a blood alcohol level of .227.

Albano_Bustillos
Albano Bustillos 8x DUI arrests, now serving 10 years in prison – Weld County Sheriffs photo

He was found sitting in his car with his head down,” said Weld County (Colorado) District Attorney Rourke. In Colorado, drivers with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .17 or higher, even if it is the driver’s first offense, will be labeled a PERSISTENT DRUNK DRIVER (PDD) and
sentenced as strictly as a repeat-DUI offender.

In Colorado, DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) means driving a vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, affects the person to the slightest degree. A person DWAI is less able to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.  The Division of Motor Vehicles has the legal authority to suspend a driver’s license for DWAI regardless of any criminal charges a driver may face through the courts. These penalties, known as Administrative Penalties, can cause an automatic suspension of a driver’s license as well as fees and points, depending on the offense:

DWAI 1st Offense: 8 points toward license suspension; $200 to $500 fine; up to 180 days in jail; up to 48 hours community service.

DUI 1st Offense: Administrative license revocation for 9 months; $600 to $1,000 fine; up to 1 year in jail; up to 96 hours community service; alcohol education.

DUI/DWAI 1st offense under 21 years old: Drivers license suspended 3 months and 4 points added to driving record.

The penalties increase substantially for repeated offenses and, in some cases, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your car. The only way to challenge Administrative penalties is to request an alcohol hearing.

Alcohol Hearings

Drivers have seven days after receiving a revocation/suspension notice to request a hearing. You must go in person to the DMV to put in a request. You will also be required to turn over your license if you did not do so at the time of the violation. You may also be eligible for a temporary driving permit while you wait for your hearing.

An Arrest

  • If you fail the roadside sobriety test, which could entail anything from standing on one leg while answering a barrage of questions to touching your nose and walking a straight line, you will be read your rights.
  • You will be handcuffed and taken to a city or county jail.
  • A tow truck will take your car and impound it.

Criminal Penalties

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s HEAT IS ON brochure states that 30,000
motorists are arrested for impaired driving in Colorado each year at a cost of $10,270  for a first-offense DWAI:  $10,000 including lawyer fees, rising insurance rates, fees to get a license back, probation supervision fees, all the way down to the brain injury surcharge and court costs. This figure is based on the minimum fine.

It is easy to see that drinking and driving is not worth any cost.