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Survive A DUI

How to get through getting a DUI - both mentally, and legally.

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Guest Post: Having Hope - 4 DUIs and Moving Forward

I saw Branden post his story on Reddit's DUI board (there's also a SAD Reddit) and encouraged him to share his story in the hopes that it can help others out there. If you'd like to share your story, please contact me. There's a lot of people who are going through what you have, and a lot of people who have already gone through it and come out the other side. Together we can make this better for all of us - Tom

Having Hope



I received DUIs in November of 2014, January of 2016, September of 2017, and March of 2020 and this is my experience.

For the first, I went out with friends from my job, Uber-ed to my truck which was left at work, napped for a while in the truck, ate some food from a drive though at taco bell, and rolled through a stop sign while proceeding home. An officer was there in the dark, lights off. I spent the night in jail and lost that job opening a craft burger restaurant in a high traffic area in Orange County, California. Anyone with a first DUI knows it can be just a slap on the wrist. By one estimate, 1 in 5 California residents have a DUI and me being a young twenty-something year old kid didn’t think too much about it.

For the second, I went on a snowboarding trip to Big Bear with some friends, drank heavily the last night, and in the morning, I drove a friend’s car home. I was caught speeding down the mountain and because I had a prior, was breathalyzed. I did 30 days of SCRAM/house arrest.

The third happened at a DUI checkpoint. I had been at a friend’s birthday party with my girlfriend at the time. She had too much to drink and I wanted to leave early to get some rest for the following workday. I had been doing investment allocations for an aerospace company and I worked another restaurant job on weekends. I had a drink at this party, but when I took the turn and discovered the checkpoint, I knew it was over. I spend 30 days in Orange County jail.

For the fourth, COVID had struck. At this point, I was on the verge of becoming a heavy drinker. I relied on alcohol in social settings, going out and partying with friends, but this started spilling over to drinking sometimes in isolation. I was studying while drinking some wine before I decided to grab something to eat. I was lucky enough to get away with only the night in jail before checking myself into a treatment facility for 60 days and pleading into DUI court.

Before the fourth, I never thought I had an issue with alcohol. I simply thought I made some very idiotic decisions. My drinking typically involved only social situations, but I would party hard and often, slowly losing any control. The fourth was a wakeup call. My weekends of partying have now come to an end, and I haven't had a drink in nearly 500 days since.

Overall, people tell me I'm lucky. I can continue on to finish my business degree at a local university, I have a lot of freedoms, I'm not locked up, and most importantly I never hurt myself or anyone else. People would be right by saying all of this; however, it's so difficult to be optimistic or confident about anything sometimes.

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with the label society has given me. I think about obtaining this degree and being un-hirable. I think about this rigorous DUI court program and formal probation and what all that entails: 10pm curfew, no traveling outside state lines, no traveling outside the county without the POs ok to do so, weekly therapy with a court appointed counselor, weekly group therapy, several 12-step meetings per week (I'm really not a fan of AA but that's what everyone pushes), bi-weekly 3-6 hour court appearances, several random urinalysis tests per week, random home searches, etc. and I don't know how I'll be able to begin a career with it all, have any meaningful relationships or have what I consider to be a normal life. It's depressing.

People have said I deserve it. People have said I deserve much worse. And sometimes I agree. I realize what I’ve done is absolute insanity, it’s unethical, it’s dangerous and careless, and I agree. And I’m learning… I’m changing, I’m growing, I’m remorseful not because I was caught, but because I understand that my actions could have killed someone. Someone who has a life just like mine.
Some days are easier than others, but more often than not, I struggle to find hope. I tend to get really down on myself and as a result, my confidence and self-worth are all but gone. I feel like a shell of the happy, energetic, fun-to-be-around person I once was.

I've lurked a lot of comments and posts on internet forums, and I've seen some similar sentiment. For those going through similar bouts of depression, maybe you'll find some comfort in knowing you're not alone. This is the most difficult and challenging thing I've ever experienced and it's so hard to carry on at times.

I think I felt the need to have my story heard as a therapeutic rant/journal to make that point known to others as well as myself: you are not alone. This is hard. I think it gets better, I hope it gets better, it has to.

I've been spending my days now studying mostly. I received a 4.0 at my university last semester, I try to hit the gym 5 days a week, I read, I surf, I have a separate therapist I confide more in (and man, after writing this I think I need a session), I'm started dating someone who's been a good friend the past couple years and is extremely supportive of my path of continued self-betterment. I'm trying and I'm trying really hard and sometimes it's still overwhelming. Sometimes I still break down. Sometimes I still feel completely hopeless. And sometimes it's not so bad, and it's those times that keep me going because if it's not so bad sometimes, then maybe there is a possibility life can get even better. I just have to hang on to some hope, live one day at a time, and note the good things I have in the present moment.


Guest Post: How To Emotionally Recover After Receiving A DUI

Brandon emailed me again wanting to give some perspective on how to emotionally recover from a DUI. Decided it was a good idea to give an additional viewpoint other than mine about how to get through this. - Tom

How To Emotionally Recover After Receiving A DUI

By: Brandon Leuangpaseuth

“Pull over, I need to throw up!”

I quickly jerked the steering wheel to the right lane and my car drifted towards the exit. I exited from the freeway, pulled into the nearby gas station as one of my female friends hunched over and vomited in the trashcan by the gas pump. She spilled her guts outside of the car as I let out a deep sigh of relief.

I searched for a water bottle around the car but as I looked up into the rearview mirror, blue and red lights filled my eyes. My body froze stiff like a board as I stared into the mirror with disbelief...

This did not look good…

The officers stepped outside of their car with their flashlights on and shined them at my female friend whose face was buried in the trash can. Both lights immediately pointed in my direction as my head started spinning and my stomach began churning…

The next thing I know, I was calling my brother to come to bail me out of the drunk tank the next day. I had blown over a .08 in the sobriety tests at the station. I dragged my feet with shame and disappointment in myself as I walked out of the station...

The Emotional Torture After A DUI

First of all, I know I should have never driven in the first place. I hated myself more than anyone knows. I take full responsibility for my actions and I would recommend that nobody else drives with alcohol in their system. I spent approximately 16 hours at the station and I was so distraught.

Those 16 hours felt like years. So many thoughts flooded my head…

“Well, there goes my life, my career, and my self-worth…”

After my brother picked me up from the police station, I couldn’t eat or sleep for a week. I couldn’t believe the DUI charge even happened to me.

I have to say, if I didn’t have classes to go to, I probably would have laid in bed for the next 3 or so months…

Every day was torture. I wasn’t suicidal but every day I returned home from school I wanted to have a breakdown and punch some pillows out of frustration…

I was so mad at myself. How could I be so reckless?

It felt like my life was over.

All of my insurance bills went up... and I had to pay for all of those DUI classes. I was a college student barely affording to eat already so this really made money tight.

Not to mention I had to deal with the embarrassment of telling all of my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and friends about why I could not drive myself around. This was the worst part. Not telling my family and friends... but not being able to drive. It really does make you so dependent on other people and public transportation. Your schedule revolves around people and bus schedules. Ride-sharing applications add up and I just didn’t have the money to spend.

I can’t tell you enough.

Everything about getting a DUI is stressful.

Take It One Day At A Time

I had to live every day with the regret of drinking and driving but after a lot of time, I got used to it. I eventually fully accepted my mistake as well as the consequences and my life felt a little less stressful.

I’d recommend to anyone who was recently convicted of a DUI to take it one day at a time. Don’t stress about getting jobs, or thinking too much about your future but instead, to make the most of the day and take the best steps moving forward. Looking back, this was a really stressful time in my life but honestly, I simply made a mistake.

And we all make mistakes. This is not to lessen my actions or try to rationalize that what I did was okay, however, it just puts me back in perspective to not be so hard on myself.

I am human, you know.

My good buddy who is a freelance copywriter recommended that I keep a journal for emotional therapy. Keeping a log about how I was feeling on some of those days where I was feeling especially down really helped a lot. Just writing about the stress and struggles I experienced would help me feel less distraught.

I’m honestly really grateful for the experience because it taught me not to drive with any alcohol in my system and to really think of driving as a privilege. After all that time, I relied on people to take me places, I am so grateful to be able to drive now.

Just know that the charge does eventually go away on your record and you will be okay. I couldn’t work some jobs while I was in college because I had a DUI on my record, but for the most part, it wasn’t too much of a factor in my job searches.

Please think twice if you are about to drive home with alcohol in your system. Trust me, it blows to not be able to drive. You will get through it. Again, it’s going to be tough, but you’ll make it through. What really helped me was to hang out with friends or family members who knew I wasn’t a bad person. They know I just made a mistake and treated me like normal which really lent a hand to rebuild my self-esteem.

The best piece of advice for anybody out there who just recently received a DUI is to learn your lesson and move on. Not to sound like your parent but that’s really all that we can do in that situation. The past is the past and all we can do is focus on being better in the future.

Bio:
Brandon Leuangpaseuth is a freelance writer from San Diego, CA. You can connect with him on LinkedIn @ bleuangpaseuth

Guest Post: How To Avoid a DUI Tips Checklist

Brandon emailed me wanting to give some more tips to help everyone out. As always these are the guest's views, not necessarily mine. - Tom

Guest Post: How To Avoid a DUI Tips Checklist
By: Brandon Leuangpaseuth

Imagine you are leaving a bar after celebrating a good friend’s birthday.

You didn’t plan to stay long or to even drink, but you got caught up in the festivities and had one or two beers mixed with a couple of shots. After waiting a little while, you decide you were sober enough to drive home. You hastily trot outside, start your car, and drive off.

As you are driving down the road, you notice blue and red lights flashing in your rearview mirror. A cold shiver runs down the back of your leg.

What did you do wrong? Were you swerving? Speeding? Do I smell like alcohol?

A million thoughts flood through your head.

As your car pulls to a halt on the side of the road, you can feel the sweat on the palms of your hands as you grip the steering wheel tighter. The cop gets out of his car and after what seems like an eternity, approaches your car window.

Two loud thuds on your car’s glass as the cop signals for you to roll down your window.

You have never been pulled over before…

Not to mention, you are not sure if you over the legal drinking limit. You definitely cannot lose your driving privileges…

What do you do...?

If you have ever driven with any alcohol in your system, there is always that fear in the back of your head for getting pulled over by a police officer and convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) charge. Putting yourself plus others in danger, losing your license, paying to attend DUI classes, potentially serving community service, increasing insurance costs and hiring an attorney....is a headache of a scenario.

The only surefire way to avoid a DUI is to drive with absolutely no alcohol in your system. However, if you are pulled over and you have been drinking, here are some tips presented by a DUI attorney in Houston to help you avoid being convicted of a DUI or to lessen the penalty.

DUI Tips Checklist

Again, getting convicted of a DUI us a stressful situation so if you are planning on drinking, ride with a designated driver or use a rideshare application. The low cost of the rideshare far underweights the high price of dealing with a DUI. If you do drive and you have had a couple of drinks, here are some tips to lessen or avoid a DUI.

Before driving...

Make sure if you had a few drinks and you are about to drive, to always chew gum or breath mints and put some eye drops in your eyes. It is imperative to always carry these items in your car in case. The reason why those items are important is that it can prevent a cop from obtaining probable cause to test you for driving impaired.

Let me explain.

When cops pull you over, they are looking for any signs of impairment. If your breath smells like alcohol or your eyes are red from drinking, you will essentially give the cops a free pass to legally mandate you to tests for alcoholic impairment.

An officer will typically search for impairment signs by observing:
• bizarre or erratic behavior
• poor field sobriety tests performance
• the smell of alcohol
• bad driving/ blatant swerving
• slurred speech
• bloodshot eyes

You want to do your best not to provide the officer any evidence to give them the ‘go-ahead’ to mandate you to test for impairment.

If You Are Stopped...

If you are being stopped, it is important to put yourself in the officer’s shoes. Making the officer’s life easier could go a long way when interacting with them. Some helpful tips that the officer would appreciate are to:

Turn on your emergency headlights - Doing this lets the officer know that you know they are pulling you over. This is especially important when you have to drive a long distance to make a safe stop to the side of the road.
Pullover to a safe area - When you see an officer pulling you over, it is best to pull over as fast but as safely as possible. Parking lots and well-lit areas are great spots to pull-over to. You do not want to seem like you are making a run for it by driving fast so you would want to drive slowly.
Put your hands on the steering wheel - you want the officer to be able to see your hands at all times. You do not want to be scouring your car searching for your license and registration yet, because it can look dangerous or even suspicious.

Remember, it is important to not give the officer any evidence to build a case against your conviction. An officer’s job is to gather enough evidence to obtain probable cause and legal permission to test you for alcoholic impairment.

Here is how you can deny them acquiring evidence:

Respectfully Decline to Answer Questions

First off, the officer will ask you for your driver’s license and registration. Usually, the officer will follow up by asking you a series of seemingly innocuous questions such as:

“Where are you coming from? Do you know why I pulled you over? Did you have any drinks tonight?”

These questions are meant to construct a case against you for your conviction. The last thing you want to do is give the officer evidence to create a case against you! It sounds like common sense...but a lot of people forget or are unaware of the fact that the questions are optional.

It is best to respectfully use your 5th amendment and decline to answer any questions. Again, it is best to not be rude or impolite. Being courteous will make the whole interaction a lot smoother.

You may think your answers may harmless, but anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. It is best to politely decline to answer, keep your mouth shut and not risk giving away any evidence.

Politely Refuse Any ‘Tests’

A lot of people are unaware that the tests an officer will ask to administer to you are all voluntary--to an extent.

Here’s what I mean.

You can refuse:
• The officer’s roadside field sobriety tests such as counting, the balance test, etc
• The officers follow the finger or pen test
• The optional portable breathe test

Most people have the logic of, “well I don’t want to say ‘no’ because the officer will think I am guilty

There is a fallacy in that thinking because if you do any of the sobriety tests, you are giving the officer evidence for your DUI conviction...and more severe punishment.

Not to mention, there are a lot of holes or flaws in the tests that they administer. For one, all the tests such as the balance test and counting test are all based on their own opinions or judgments. This means they are subjective.

Not only do the observations of ‘passing a test’ vary from officer to officer...the field sobriety tests are plain difficult. It may sound easy and unintimidating to imitate movements such as walking toe to heel in a straight line, balancing on one foot or touching, reciting the alphabet backward...but they simply are not.

Don’t believe me?

Go try taking a golf class.

You’ll quickly see that imitating basic movements for the first time is extremely difficult.

The tests would be hard to do stone-cold sober.

So do yourself a favor and politely decline their tests and let them know that you would not like to submit to any tests.

This goes for the pen and eye tests too. Sure, this test is extremely simple to follow. However, that police officer is probably NOT an ophthalmologist or a trained doctor...so their perceived data will be biased, inaccurate and can lead be used against you int the court of law.

Also, don’t blow in a portable breathalyzer on the side of the road. The roadside breathalyzer test is optional. Think about this: do you know what the breathalyzer’s results will say?

I can tell you, you don’t know what the machine is going to say or if it will read the same number each time you blow into it. I repeat, do not take the breathalyzer.

Again, politely decline to do any of these tests which results can be misinterpreted and be used against you for a DUI conviction.

Quick Tips

If the officer believes there is enough probable cause that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they will arrest you.

After they arrest you and bring you back to the station, they will ask you to take a breathalyzer or blood test. This test you can NOT refuse. If you do, there will be some severe consequences such as getting your license suspended for a long period of time.

I would recommend that you take the blood test over the breathalyzer test at the station. There are a lot of steps involving humans in conducting a blood test that can leave room for ‘human error’. An experienced DUI attorney can argue for the results being contaminated or inaccurate because of a mistake from a person.

Also, if your license is taken, you have 10 days to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Checklist Recap:
  • Before leaving when driving: eat gum, breath mints and put eye drops in your eyes.
  • If you are stopped: respectfully decline to answer questions
  • Decline to follow the officer’s pen or finger
  • Decline the roadside sobriety test such as counting, balancing, etc.
  • Decline to answer any questions
  • Decline the optional portable breath test
  • You must take the required official breath or blood test at the station
  • You have 10 days to call the DMV if your license was taken.

Here’s to Avoiding DUIs!

There you are.
The checklist to help you avoid a DUI.

Driving while impaired is a common big problem that can put you and other people’s lives in danger. Remember, the surefire way to be safe and avoid a DUI is to drive with absolutely no alcohol in your system. Find a designated driver or use a ridesharing application to save yourself a lot of time and money if you are convicted of drunk driving charges.

If you do get pulled over and you had a few to drink, keep these tips in mind. They can help you avoid a DUI or lessen the consequences. Instead of giving away evidence to be used against you in court, let your DUI attorney fight in court over the fact that you refused to give up your rights.

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.

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.

Guest Post: 4 Tips to Survive A DUI Checkpoint

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

There has been a lot of controversy with the legality of checkpoints because you are protected by the 4th amendment from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, the Supreme Court evaluated the entire circumstance of DUI checkpoints. They determined that the state's interest in safe roads and the success rate of finding impaired drivers weighed against the average
delay of less than 30 seconds per driver meant that the search and seizure were not unreasonable. The U.S. Supreme court upheld the legality of DUI checkpoints.

The best way to survive a checkpoint is to be completely sober. However, if you had a few drinks and you encounter a police DUI checkpoint, here are 4 tips to surviving the checkpoint.

1. Use Your Right To Remain Silent

The majority of checkpoint encounters would start with the police officer asking you a series of questions to determine if you have been drinking. What a lot of people don’t realize is that you are not obligated to answer any of these questions. You are protected by the 5th amendment and have the right to remain silent and not have to contribute to your own potential demise. If an
officer asks you if you had any drinks tonight, you can just say “I respectfully decline to answer these questions, and I would like to talk to my defense attorney”.

Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a case if you are arrested. If you answered that you had a few drinks, the officer has some suspicion that you are potentially breaking the law. No matter how nice the officer may seem, they are doing their job - trying to get evidence to support a case against you.

2. Refuse the Field Sobriety Test and the Breathalyzer Test

Most people think that if they refuse the field sobriety test or the breathalyzer test, they will get their license suspended. This is a common misconception. The only time you will get your license suspended is if after you are arrested and you refuse to take a breathalyzer or blood test. If you decline the field sobriety test or the breathalyzer test before the officer has any probable cause to arrest you, you will be okay.

The officer is collecting evidence to determine if they have probable cause that you have committed a crime. Failed completion of field sobriety tests is used, in the officers eyes, as evidence that a crime has been committed. The field sobriety test is a difficult test to take even if you are completely sober. In a field sobriety test, an officer will administer three tests to determine if you are intoxicated: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test. It is in your best interest to not provide any excess evidence to allegations of you committing a crime.

3. Do Not Get Out of Your Car (Unless There Are Signs of Alcohol And You Have To)

Officers have no right to force you out of your car unless they have reason to believe that you are drunk. However, slurred words, an open container or the aroma of alcohol can be enough probable cause to make a case for a DUI. Going this route, the officer has to establish exactly what they are being arrested for a DUI.

Oftentimes, the police officer will ask you to step outside and you should always respectfully decline. Do not give the officer probable cause to arrest you.

4. Don’t drive through!

You do not have to drive through a DUI checkpoint. You can turn around and simply not drive through the DUI checkpoint. There are no laws forcing you to drive through a DUI checkpoint.

As long as you do not commit a crime i.e. an illegal turn or any other traffic violation, the officer does not have enough probable cause to pull you over and detain you. Oftentimes, DUI checkpoints can be a long line and you are not obligated to wait in the line.

If you have been out and drinking, and you do not want to deal with the hassle of a DUI checkpoint, just turn around legally and you will be fine.

Guest Post: How often are DUI cases expunged in California?

Robert Miller reached out to me to share a bit about the expungement process. It's not a part of gotten to yet (I'm still on my probation) but hope to do someday. Valuable information that I have found very useful in the hope of moving on. Hopefully Robert will help me out when the time comes. - Tom.

How often are DUI cases expunged in California?

dui criminal background check

If you have been convicted of a DUI, clearing your record is a worthy goal that most people will have. An expungement of a California DUI would help clear your criminal record. So you may wonder how often DUI cases are expunged in California.

As it becomes easier and easier for potentially employers to obtain digital records of convictions, and as the job market makes job applications more competitive, it is easier and easier for employers to screen out the candidates with a criminal record, which leaves those with a DUI with less and less available jobs to even compete for. For those reasons, if you have a DUI on your record, expunging it from your record is something you would want to accomplish as rapidly as possible.

What exactly is on my record after a DUI?
It’s important to realize that when speaking about a “record”, that in California, after a DUI conviction you actually have two different records that your DUI shows up on.

The first is your criminal record.
A criminal record will show your arrest, the case number, and the sentence (or what is called the “disposition” on a criminal record).

The second is the driving record.
The driving record will show points from a DUI conviction, whether a wet reckless or a DUI, or any accident or other related traffic tickets. Any alcohol related conviction will show as a notification on your driving record, and will show the date of offense, the date of conviction, and any DMV actions related to the DUI or alcohol related offense, and the also any filings of an SR22 for insurance purposes.

A criminal conviction stays on your criminal record for life, unless it’s expunged, or pardoned by the Governor of California. It never automatically “drops off”, like items on your credit report. It can only be used against you for purposes of alleging a prior DUI for ten years, but it’s still on your record, even after that ten-year period.

Any driving record notation also stays on your record for life. It can only be used to increase insurance for three years. The points from any tickets, accidents, or court convictions can only be used against you by the DMV for a three-year period to suspend your license. But the DMV keeps track of your lifetime points for their “negligent operator” program, which is used to pull the licenses of the most serious driving offenders. There is no way to expunge your driving record, only your criminal record.

What exactly is an expungement in California?
An expungement is a motion to the court that, once granted, retroactively dismisses your case from your criminal record. There are some things that by law, an expungement cannot help you with, namely preventing criminal charges for priors for future crimes, getting federal or state licenses, or contracting with the state or federal government.

How does someone qualify for an expungement of a DUI?
In order to get an expungement order granted, you need to first bring the motion. Most counties in California have a court form available online for applying for an expungement, and in addition to the form motion, you must also provide the order for the judge to sign (California has a form for these, Forms CR-180 & CR-181). A copy of your motion must also be mailed or delivered in person to the prosecutor.

You also must meet three requirements in order to get an expungement:

  1. You must be off probation. Either probation must have expired, or you must bring a motion to terminate probation early first.
  2. You must have completed all the terms of your sentence. The court will look at your court file and make sure that all fines are paid, all alcohol schools are completed, and any community service, or special classes or punishment have been finished.
  3. You must not have any other cases pending, and you must not have any convictions after the conviction you are seeking to expunge. Any convictions would be a probation violation.

What does California law state about an expungement?
California’s expungement law, Penal Code 1203.4(a)(1) states:

In any case in which a defendant has fulfilled the conditions of probation for the entire period of probation, or has been discharged prior to the termination of the period of probation, or in any other case in which a court, in its discretion and the interests of justice, determines that a defendant should be granted the relief available under this section, the defendant shall, at any time after the termination of the period of probation, if he or she is not then serving a sentence for any offense, on probation for any offense, or charged with the commission of any offense, be permitted by the court to withdraw his or her plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty; or, if he or she has been convicted after a plea of not guilty, the court shall set aside the verdict of guilty; and, in either case, the court shall thereupon dismiss the accusations or information against the defendant and except as noted below, he or she shall thereafter be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted, except as provided in Section 13555 of the Vehicle Code.” (Emphasis added)

So, how often are DUI cases expunged in California?
I have bolded the sections of the law that state “shall” in the law above, because those are truly unusual in law. In most cases, and in most laws, the law explicitly gives a judge a decision to make, by stating that the judge “may, in his or her discretion”.

The expungement law is different because the use of the term “shall” means that the judge doesn’t have that discretion. As long as the person seeking an expungement meets the three requirements above, the judge has to grant the expungement petition.

As a result, a high rate of DUI cases are expunged. The only way to not get an expungement is either to not qualify by not meeting one of the three requirements above, or to not apply for one at all.

Author: This article was written by Robert Miller, an Orange County DUI Lawyer at the law firm of Miller & Associates in Newport Beach, California.

Guest Post: Both Sides

I received an email via my contact page from David, who has seen both sides of receiving a DUI/DWI, both as an offender and as a victim. It's a really great perspective on everything we face. While this site does try to help get people through their DUI experiences, we do not endorse drinking and driving, and hope that everybody who goes through it learns their lesson and does not have a repeat offense. Thanks to David for this article, it was a harrowing read. - Tom.

My name is David. I am both a DWI offender and a victim of a DWI crash.

My DWI

Years ago, I had a bunch beers while enjoying a summer weekend with friends: I don't remember the exact number but it was at least 4 or 5. I stopped drinking at some point before I knew I had to leave.

I didn't stop soon enough. I didn't know that at the time. I thought I was ok to drive. I had driven home many, many times before in worse shape.

I was about a mile from home when I rear ended another driver at a red light. Fortunately, it was a minor fender bender and neither of us were hurt.

The cops came: I failed field sobriety tests, was arrested and taken to jail. I blew .09 at the station.

I was kept overnight in jail. I didn't sleep. My mind was racing with what might happen. All I could imagine was the worst.

The next morning, I walked home: my car was impounded and undriveable. My house keys were with my car; I had to break into my house.

That was a long, difficult summer and fall. I took the laws seriously: I sold my car after it was repaired. I rode my bike and public transportation every where I needed to go, including court.

I attended the driver responsibility training. During the driver responsibility training, I learned about the rate that alcohol metabolizes. I attended a victim impact panel.

I live in a state next to Canada: I haven't been to Canada since. I plan to request permission to go to Canada again soon.

Since then, I have tried to be responsible about drinking. I have gone long periods without drinking.

Being Hit By a Drunk Driver

Jump ahead a few years: my wife and I went out to dinner with one of her friends. We rode our bikes from our house to the restaurant, something we’d done many times before. It was a beautiful, late summer evening and we thoroughly enjoyed the weather and ride.

After dinner, my wife suggested we ride down to the waterfront. We had done so dozens of times before: it seemed perfectly safe.

We rode about 100 feet when it happened: we were hit. My wife and I were riding single file. She was riding behind me and the drunk driver hit her first. He hit me immediately after her.

Neither of us had any clue what happened. One moment we're riding our bikes, the next, we were flat on our backs, on the road. We were thrown from our bikes on to the road.

I couldn't move but I tried to pull myself up. I must have been unconscious briefly because someone was already with me and told me to lay still. I didn't know where my wife was or if anything had happened to her. I didn’t really know what was going on around me: I tunnel vision that limited what I saw and experienced.

Meanwhile, the driver who hit us took off. My bike was under the front of his SUV. He stopped after about 500', got out of his SUV and tried to pull my bike out from under his car.

By that time, people running after his car caught up to him. Moments later, the police showed up. He refused the breath test and was arrested.

An ambulance showed up and took me to the local emergency room. When I was unloaded, I heard the emergency room personnel say that one of us would go in one room and I to another. It was at that point I realized my wife was hurt. I didn't know just how badly she was until later that night.

We were hit around 9:45pm. I spent the entire night in an emergency room, wide awake.

Around 11pm, a police officer came to ask me if I knew what happened. I had no clue, so he filled in the details. And he told me what had happened to my wife: she had a broken leg, fractured ribs, fractured vertebrae and a broken collarbone.

I was a lot more fortunate: mostly scrapes and bruises. My back was torn up from landing and sliding on the road. Because of that, I didn't see a doctor until about 6am.

When the doctor released me, I couldn't walk. The trauma of being hit took its toll on me. The doctor gave me a cane and sent me on my way. I mustered all of my strength and, quite literally, dragged myself to my wife's room.

When I finally got there, I was never so happy to see someone in my life. She was battered and clearly injured but she was alive.

My wife had surgery to fix her leg later that day. Doctors put a rod in her leg to put it back together. That sounds like a simple thing but in reality, it is a very violent surgery. The rod has to be hammered in. Go look up inter medullary rod surgery on YouTube. There are plenty of videos showing how it's done.

My wife stayed on the surgery floor for for a couple days and was then transferred to the rehab floor.

She spent two weeks in rehab, learning how to walk again, how to get out of bed. When you are hurt that badly, your body shuts down. Nurses get you out of bed to go to the bathroom... after they take your catheter out. You have no independence: you have to retrain your body to do basic functions.

Over the course of two weeks, my wife progressed from not being able to get out of bed to a wheelchair to a walker and finally to a cane. She was released from the hospital wearing a cervical collar, which she had to wear another 12 weeks.

She lost her independence during that time. She could not drive. Me, my family, our friends took her to the many follow up appointments. She had to go to physical therapy for weeks afterwards.

While my wife was being put back together in the hospital, getting rehab, trying to recover from this incredibly violent assault, the driver was at home, sleeping in his own bed. Going about his daily life.

While she was in the hospital, I struggled through daily existence. I couldn't walk without a cane for several weeks and was dependent on friends to get me to the hospital and back. My wife missed the start of our son’s school year. She missed the start of his soccer season. She didn’t go to the school’s open house.

My mother came to stay with us. She drove me everywhere and, when my wife got out of the hospital, drove her many places.

Slowly, we recovered from our physical injuries. The rod in my wife's leg made it impossible for her to lay on that side and, a year later, she had it removed.

We both have constant reminders of the crash. My wife has scars on her leg from the surgeries. Her collarbone never healed properly. Her doctor told her she faces arthritis in the bones that were injured.

I have scars on my back. I developed tinnitus, probably from hitting my head on the SUV and/or road. I have a constant, high pitched ringing in my ears: it never stops and it never gets better.

Those are the physical scars. My wife didn’t want to ever ride a bike again. She did get back on a bike but she won’t ride anywhere except the neighborhood. We used to enjoy exploring the city, going places, doing things on our bikes. That joy is gone for my wife: every car that passes makes her nervous. She won’t ride at night. That I ride when it’s dark makes my wife very nervous.

After The Crash

After the crash, we had to deal with all sorts of issues.

The person who hit us ran. He left us for dead. Running sends a very strong message to victims about the value of their lives: it says that we are worth nothing. A human would stop, if for no other reason to see if we were ok.

Running makes the driver a monster. It makes him inhuman.

We suddenly got sucked into the insurance system. We live in a no fault state and the hospital and doctors dealt with the insurance company directly for the most part. There was a long, tense period where the insurance company was “deciding” if we shared any responsibility (we didn’t).

We wondered if there were going to be medical bills not covered by the insurance. We worried about how we would have to pay those if it happened.

We also got sucked into the criminal justice system. A victim advocate and the district attorney came to see us in the hospital. We were, to say the least, skeptical about what would happen.

The person who hit us was charged with a variety of things. It wasn’t his first DWI, either: he had a prior DWI conviction 7 years earlier that resulted in a 3 year probation. Clearly, he didn’t learn anything from that experience.

By the time we got to the arraignment (yes, victims can and will attend your arraignment), the driver had agreed to plead guilt to the top offense (hitting and injuring my wife while intoxicated). No one ever came right out and told us but the other charges were dropped. The driver was not prosecuted for hitting me.

We had to wait months while the criminal justice system did what they needed to do: talk to the driver, write sentencing recommendation reports et cetera. When it came time for sentencing, we were given the opportunity to make statements to the court. We were also encouraged to gather statements from our family members and friends about the impact on them (more on that below). In our statements, we could ask the judge to give a certain sentence.

The driver who hit us faced a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison. The sentencing guidelines in our state aren’t great, from a victim’s standpoint. For the crime, any given sentence seems like a joke.

My wife and I both read statements we’d prepared. We asked the judge for a split sentence: some jail time and five years of probation. We wanted the driver under close supervision for the maximum amount of time. A prison sentence might have been more punitive in the short term but would have, overall, resulted in less supervised time.

The judge was surprised by our request but understood the logic and agreed to it. He also made it abundantly clear to the driver that, if he violated probation, he would sentence the driver the maximum he could.

The driver and his lawyer attempted to show the judge he had started to turn his life around. He may have tried to apologize, I don’t know. I don’t recall anything that sounded even remotely like a sincere apology.

I mentioned the impact on our families above. One of the things you have to when something like this happens is tell everyone in your family before they find out some other way. We were lucky in that respect: our families didn’t have police officers showing up to tell them we were dead.

Almost all our family members live far away: my wife’s dad lives at the other end of the state. My dad lives in the south; my mom was in an airport somewhere. My wife’s brother lives overseas. Only my sister lives in town.

I had to call my wife’s father and tell him what happened and that we were ok. I couldn’t reach my mother: I had to message her through Facebook. Same thing for my dad.

I had no idea how to reach my wife’s brother: I’d never called him. So I took her phone and texted him. I wasn’t thinking about how any of these people would receive the message: I just needed to tell them as quickly as possible.

It wasn’t until months later that I found out about the impact of those messages. My wife’s brother said (in his impact statement): “I chat online with (my sister) quite frequently. Seeing her name popup in the message list on my mobile phone is a regular event. I know, when I see her name, that I am communicating with my sister. However, on the afternoon (after the crash), I received a very disturbing message. The message was delivered from Roberta's mobile phone, however it was made quite clear from the onset that it wasn't my sister who was writing.”

“Seeing that someone very close to my sister, but not my sister herself, was writing to me from her phone sent an immediate and shocking chill through my body. My immediate fear was that my sister had died somehow, and this was the method by which I would receive the news. He ultimately told me they were both alive and will survive, but I will never forget that cold chill shock. I will never forget that moment of feeling that I might have just lost my sister forever.”

I choke up and tears come to my eyes every time I read that. It chills me to the core: I don’t want anything like what happened to us to happen to any of my friends or family members.

The driver received a split sentence. He served his jail time and is currently service his probation. He wore an ankle monitor for six months or so. While he’s on probation, he must live under a long list of restrictions. He can’t leave the county. He can’t go anyplace (restaurant, bar) that serves alcohol (that includes Chucky Cheese). He faces random inspections. There can’t be any alcohol where he lives.

If the DMV agrees to let him have his license back (an uncertainty considering the prior DWI and the violence of the 2nd), he’ll have to put (and pay for) an interlock in every car he has access to in his household.

He has a felony conviction, which makes certain job opportunities unavailable to him.

We understand he paid his lawyers $10,000. For two court appearances. Actually, he didn’t pay it: a family friend did. I assume he has to pay it back.

Final Thoughts

As part of the civil side of a DWI crash, your victims will find out a lot about you. We found out the driver who hit us had declared bankruptcy and had tens of thousands of dollars of outstanding debts. He didn’t have any assets.

You might want to think about that if you’ve had one DWI. The reason a victim’s lawyer looks into your assets is to see what can be recovered for the victim.

We were fortunate that the driver who hit us carried reasonable insurance coverage. It covered all our medical expenses. There are limits to the coverage, however. That largest number (bodily injury liability) is a policy limit: all victims split it. So, if you have $300,000 (which is common), that’s the max the insurance company will pay out to all victims, combined. If those victims obtain a judgement against you, the balance comes from your assets.

The penalties for DWI, especially for a DWI that doesn’t involve other victims, can seem harsh. To the victim, they seem laughable. Having been both, I understand the point: they are intended to deter drivers from repeat DWIs. In our part of the state, all DWI drivers have to attend driver responsibility training and a victim impact panel.

At the victim impact panel, people like my wife and I, and other people, who’ve lost children, husbands, wives, parents, tell their story. They talk about the impact it had on their lives. We have a couple of people who’ve had multiple DWIs and made victims of themselves who present.

It is a terrible club to be in. Everyone there is because of heartbreak. For the victims, it doesn’t ever get better. There is not a day that goes by when we don’t think about what happened, what someone else did to us.

And in so doing, how cheaply they did it. How little value they place on our lives. We know our lives could have been, the lives of loved ones were, taken away for a few drinks.

Depending on where you live, the recidivism rate is somewhere between 11 and 69%. A DWI arrest is a predictor of another arrest. And, from what I’ve learned, the 2nd and later offenses will be worse. It is not a matter of whether you will be involved in a crash, just a matter of time.

Every one of the victims I present with has the same message: we don’t care if you drink. If you have a problem, we want you to get help. But if you want to drink socially, we’re not trying to discourage you. We just want you to do everything you can to stop yourself from drinking and driving. We want you to have a plan and to stick to it: once you’ve started drinking, your decision making ability is impaired and you will not make the right decision.

Guest Post: Can the Police Use Social Media in Your DUI Case?

I reached out to Attorney Robert Miller, a fellow DUI blogger to get some insights on DUI from a lawyer's perspective. He alerted me to a growing trend that is downright scary - Tom.

Social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+, are rapidly being incorporated by law enforcement agencies for use in gathering evidence of drinking, intoxication, and to otherwise investigate crimes by spying on suspects and individuals on probation or parole.

These techniques are slowly catching on across the country, and are increasingly a hot topic for law enforcement agencies. In a 2012 survey of 1,221 federal, state and local law enforcement who use social media, four out of five officials used social media to gather intelligence during investigations. Half said they checked social media at least once a week, and the majority said social media helps them solve crimes faster.

People use social media networks to share various amounts of personal information. Some criminal suspects and convicted felons have been known to share photos and videos of criminal activity on Facebook.

The week this article was written, four suspects in Chicago filmed themselves torturing a disabled man on Facebook Live. In an Orange County example, the Huntington Beach Police used social media to arrest a juvenile for threats made recently.

In another state, a 22-year-old named Colleen Chudney was on probation for a 2012 drunk driving offense. Part of the terms of her court imposed probation required her to refrain from consuming alcohol, which is a common term of DUI probation. After St. Patrick's Day, Chudney was required to take a breathalyzer test in Westland, Michigan. She passed the test. However, she later went on Facebook and posted information to her profile stating that she had been drinking.

"Buzz killer for me, I had to breathalyze this morning and I drank yesterday but I passed thank god lol my dumbass."

Information about the Facebook post got back to Chudney’s probation officer. Thus, she had to return to court to discuss her Facebook statements with the judge. She is facing jail time for the DUI probation violation. If she had never posted that information to facebook, she would never be facing a probation violation in her DUI.

What techniques are the police using to investigate criminal conduct on social media networks? A popular tool is social network analysis, known as SNA. It is an analytical tool that was initially used by the FBI to map and analyze social media relations. Law enforcement agencies can use the tool to analyze the social media networks of suspects, and their interactions with each other.

This type of analysis provides a systematic approach for investigating large amounts of data on people and relationships. It improves law enforcement effectiveness and efficiency by using complex information regarding individuals socially related to suspects. This often leads to improved clearance rates for many crimes and development of better crime prevention strategies.

SNA serves as a valuable tool for law enforcement. While technologically sophisticated, SNA is easy to employ. Using available data, police departments structure the examination of an offender's social network in ways not previously possible, and search for violations.

If you are being prosecuted for or are on probation for drunk driving in Orange County, California, we urge you to refrain from making any statements on social media networks. Any statements may be used against you later by the prosecution or probation officer. Contact Orange County DUI attorney Robert Miller for legal advice regarding any drunk driving charge(s) you may be facing.