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Survive A DUI

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

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New Year, New Laws - 2021

(Hey there, everyone - I first sent this post out via my newsletter - feel free to sign up for more updates like this. - Tom)

Hello, Happy New Year! Hope this one is treating you well.

2020 was a rough one for sure. What's nice about it is, when things hit the bottom, the only place they can go is up. That was my experience getting a DUI, and that's the attitude I'm taking with me into 2021. We'll see how long it lasts.

Changing Laws

The first day of January usually involves a lot of changing laws, more often than not bringing the hammer down on DUI offenders harder, but that wasn't the case this year. As legislatures were unable to meet or otherwise occupied by the pandemic, DUI offenders weren't in the crosshairs for once. A nice feeling.

Instead the theme of this year's new laws: Justice Reform.

After the George Floyd incident and protests the tide shifted in this country, whether you agree with those sentiments towards police or not, and legislators acted in response (it was an election year, after all).

(Again standard legal disclaimer here: I'm not a lawyer, and I'm definitely not your lawyer, any analysis of this is me just trying to piece things together from the news/bills and I don't know the full ins-and-outs of how all this goes down. I'm giving you my best idea, however)

Arizona

Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.

California

AB 3234 - Allows misdemeanor DUIs to become eligible for diversion. Once diversion is completed, the crime doesn't stick to your record.

I haven't gotten into the nuts-and-bolts of this one (these types of programs aren't laid out beforehand), but I'm guessing it's a lot like other programs - fines, probation, meetings - a lot of what you already do when convicted - and they seal your record automatically once it's done. No longer does a non-expunged DUI hang over your head for ten years. I'm guessing it'll still be prior-able since they love to be able to still stick it to you when they have a chance, and it'll stay on your DMV record so you're not getting a break on insurance.

That said - it's a great step forward. A DUI doesn't need to ruin somebody's life, it needs to teach them a lesson. Most of us have learned ours from the feeling of seeing police lights in the rearview.

The big caveat of this: It won't apply to a DUI you already have. If you've been convicted you'll still have to apply for an expungement the old fashioned way.

AB 1076 - Under this law, the state will automatically clear records for arrests that did not result in conviction after the statute of limitations has passed, and those around probation and jail once the sentence is completed.

This goes hand-in-hand nicely with the other law - if you don't receive diversion (it's up to the judge) and get convicted as you would have prior, your records will be sealed as if you got an expungement. This saves you the time and money of the process (which was difficult for me, and I plan to write about soon).

It's also nice to see a clearing of the arrest that doesn't lead to convictions - a lot of people think that if they get off then everything is fine, but an arrest still shows up on your record. That will no longer be the case.

However, like before, this only applies to arrests/and convictions after Jan 1, 2021.

Prop 17 - If your previous DUI was a felony, you may be eligible to regain your right to vote (it's insane that we take away voting rights like this in the first place).

Montana

Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.

New Hampshire

Commercial truck drivers - or anyone driving a vehicle weighting 10,001 lbs or more, will automatically have their DWI upgraded to an Aggravated DWI, which carries a larger fine (up to $750 from $500, but don't think that's what you'll be paying) and a mandatory minimum of 17 days in jail (12 days will be suspended if the driver submits to a substance use disorder evaluation). Additionally, those commercial drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer will have their commercial license suspended immediately instead of having that little bit of wiggle time before it was suspended.

Harsh. Commercial drivers used to be subject to the same laws as ordinary drivers, but no longer.

New Jersey

Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.

Pennsylvania

A "Move Over" law was enacted - if an emergency vehicle is at the side of the road, you need to move over a lane away from them or slow down to 20 MPH under the speed limit. Give them some space or police will have a reasonable cause to pull you over.

South Dakota

Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.

Virginia

As of 1/1/21 - You can't drive while holding a cell phone. Only related to DUIs because it gives a reasonable cause to pull somebody over.

Traveling

Tangentially related to DUI issues is the Real ID card - it was supposed to be required to fly this previous years, but in interest of keeping DMVs less crowded and/or closed, they delayed it until October. You'll need a Real ID compliant license to step on an airplane. So, if your license was suspended you'll either need to use a Passport, or get a Real ID state ID card to get on board. If you are getting a new license after suspension, be sure to get a Real ID compliant license. If you've just gotten one, then you either need a passport or have to go through the renewal process/fee again.


These are all the ones related/semi-related to drinking and driving that I could find. Has your state issued one I missed? Let me know!

Tom.

Getting Booked

So one of the weird little… quirks… of my arrest was they didn’t actually process me. It seems to happen about 50% of the time. Anecdotally the biggest factor seems to be when you catch the police officer in their shift (although some argue if you catch them at the end of their shift that they’re more likely to issue a warning and let you go).

So after you’ve plead out or otherwise received your conviction you’ll be given a wealth of paperwork, ordering you to take the DUI classes, conditions of your probation, etc. If you haven’t been booked you’ll receive a document ordering you to go to a certain police department and turn yourself in.

When you receive this document you will not have long to turn yourself in - only seven days, and it’s not something you want to mess around with. If you fail to go in for booking you will have another court appearance and it’s generally not advisable. You don’t need to push them any more, you’ve lost, get things taken care of.

Booking offices are open 7 days a week, but may have limited hours due to budget cuts, holidays, and other reasons. Get it over with quickly in case you end up at the precinct and it ends up being closed.

When going to book yourself you’ll need your booking order, a photo ID (passport or state-ID works). I brought along my sentencing memo (the long form) just in case, but didn’t end up needing it. Better safe than sorry. I didn’t want to come back.

I had to book myself while on the hard no-driving-whatsoever suspension. Fortunately, downtown and the central government buildings are the most covered by public transportation. In any major, or large city, there should be many ways to get to your booking office.

Finding the place was a little bit difficult. The address given on my document was closed up. Doors barricaded, empty inside. I had to go to the place next door, that was labeled as a different part of the police. Again, give yourself ample time. Budget cuts have really messed with local government infrastructure. The area around these big police departments have a heavy feel. There’s hotels built just so family members can see loved ones in jail. Don’t think you’ll be able to stop in somewhere and use the bathroom - everything is on lockdown.

A friend of mine thought the idea of getting booked was really cool and wanted to take me down to get booked. They wanted to hang out, drink police coffee, and hear stories from the cops. I declined their offer, and glad I did. They won’t let anybody go into the building with you.

Walking into the building, you just get a heavy feeling. You’re looked upon as a criminal. Your mind starts to flashback through all the stories you’ve heard on the news where a typo means that they hold a guy for years wrongly, and stuff like that. Don’t worry. Again, like most of this process, your nerves will be the worst part of it. It’s a quick and easy process.

Don’t bring a bag with you, don’t bring weapons with you (as stupid as it sounds, it happens), don’t bring anything that can get you in trouble (again, it happens), and if you have any warrants out, well, this is your reckoning. You go through the metal detector and then are given forms to fill out about yourself - height, weight, address, basic stuff. Fill this out accurately as this stuff will be part of your criminal record. There’s a place for your occupation. I filed mine out, but the cops didn’t understand what I did, so they put “sales”. Apparently this is routine. It was nice to have a light, funny moment during this heavy moment for me.

You’ll be taken to a back room where you’ll have your hands scanned. What’s nice about this process is that you won’t be given the oily, difficult to remove ink when you’re usually fingerprinted by cops, instead you put your hand on a scanner that has a roller on it, and it scans your whole handprint. You can see how your handprint shows up on screen. It’s actually kinda cool.

Then comes the big moment - you have to remove any hats, glasses, earrings, facial piercings, and other accessories (best not to bring them in the first place if it can be helped) and look at a certain place on the wall for your mugshot. It’s not like it is in the movies anymore - you don’t hold up a thing with your booking numbers, you don’t turn to the side - you just look a little bit to the side. There’s no flash, it’s done by just a little webcam sized thing mounted on the ceiling.

In LA County, where I got mine, mugshots are not made available to the public. Which was nice to know that I’d never have to worry about a friend randomly googling around and coming across it, or anything like that. Kind of a bummer that I could never see it. Seems like most places are shifting away from immediately publishing mugshots on the web to prevent the business where people publish mugshots with SEO words and personal information and hold convicted people hostage - demanding money to take it down. Seems they don’t like anybody making money off of the system unless it’s them. But it’s nice to know that it’s generally becoming something that you won’t have to worry about.

After you’ve gotten your mugshot you’ll be sat down in the waiting room again, and after a few minutes you’ll be given a pink form - your prisoner’s receipt. Generally this is for having a record of your possessions when you get booked, but since you’re not actually ingested into prison, it’s just a record that you actually checked yourself in. Hold on to it just in case anything happens to where the court loses documentation on their end (it happens).

Leaving the police station, even without staying too long, felt like a big relief. It wasn’t a place I wanted to stay around. Things felt different, though. I’d been booked, handprinted, and my mugshot taken. I was a documented criminal. It’s a weird feeling to process.

I ended up hanging out in that part of town for a while. I had nowhere to be, I’d taken a personal day to get booked. Might as well explore, try out a new restaurant, hope that I wouldn’t ever return.