“My B.A.C.” Program Seeks to Prevent California DUIs

The San Diego Police Department sought to prevent drunk driving this past weekend by providing bargoers a chance to take a breathalyzer reading without any consequences, as hard as that is to believe. 
In an outreach program entitled “My B.A.C.,” which is part of the California Office of Traffic Safety’s (OST) Know Your Limits Program, the San Diego Police Department offered a breathalyzer reading to bargoers in one of San Diego’s drinking hot spots, Pacific Beach.  
The objective was to reduce drunk driving and California DUIs by informing people of what their blood alcohol was before they got into their vehicles. Additionally, the program was intended to remind people that they cannot estimate their blood alcohol content after drinking. 
CBS8 coverage on the “My B.A.C.” program included on-scene reporting which showed a participant who believed he was only at the legal limit of 0.08 percent blood alcohol content. The participant was shocked to discover that he was more than twice the legal limit. 
To add impact to their message, the participating officers included a crushed vehicle to the backdrop of their operation to remind passerbys of the consequences of driving drunk. 
If the participating officers were true to their word in keeping the program consequence free, I’ll give them rare, but deserved credit. 


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Study: Mixing Alcohol and Marijuana Doubles Odds for Driving Drunk

Big surprise. A new study from the Alcohol Research Group, a program of the Public Health Institute, has concluded that mixing alcohol and marijuana doubles a person’s risk of driving drunk. The study, which will be published in the May, 2015 edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, confirmed what most of us suspected anyways.
Researchers analyzed data from 2005 and 2010 national surveys from nearly 4,104 men and 4,522 women in the United States. Those surveyed were divided into three categories; those who only drank alcohol, those who used marijuana and alcohol together, and those who used marijuana and alcohol separately.
Responses to questions in the survey indicated that those who drank alcohol and used marijuana simultaneously were more than twice as likely to drive drunk than those who just drank alcohol.
"If cannabis use becomes more prevalent as U.S. states and other countries continue to legalize it, then we need to be prepared to advise people appropriately," cautioned lead author of the study, Meenakshi Subbaraman. "If you use both substances together, your risk of drunk driving, and possibly other consequences, may be higher than if you stick to using one at a time."
According to the study, those who used marijuana and drank alcohol simultaneously were also three times more likely to suffer social consequences such as fights, arguments, relationship struggles, career problems, legal issues, and drinking-related accidents.
The researchers have suggested, in states that have legalized marijuana, requiring "distributors to include warning labels communicating risks (especially regarding driving) associated with combining alcohol and cannabis on all cannabis packaging."
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What is a California Wet Reckless Reduction?

Many of my clients who have been arrested on suspicion of a California DUI ask whether it is possible to get their charges dropped to a California wet reckless. What is surprising is that most of these people don’t even know what it means to have a California DUI reduced to a California wet reckless other than the fact that it is a reduction. 
Let’s start with what people know about a wet reckless. It is a reduction from a DUI charge. In fact, it is one of several reductions that may be offered. When the prosecution recognizes that they have a weak case, instead of pursuing a DUI conviction, they may offer a wet reckless, a “dry reckless,” or an exhibition of speed charge. The wet reckless is the first of these reductions.
The wet reckless is unique in that it cannot be charged, but only offered as a reduction of a California DUI when, as I previously said, a prosecutor views their case as weak. This usually occurs when a person’s blood alcohol content is close to 0.08 percent or when there are other weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Rather than lose at trial, prosecutors will offer the wet reckless to secure a conviction. 
If a wet reckless is offered, and a person decides to accept the offer, that person will plead guilty or no contest to California Vehicle Code section 23103 pursuant to 23103.5. This essentially means that the person will be convicted of reckless driving involving alcohol. Advantage number one to the wet reckless is that it is not a DUI conviction. 
The second advantage to a wet reckless reduction is that, unlike a DUI, there are no mandatory sentencing enhancements for a wet reckless conviction. Following a first-time DUI conviction, each subsequent DUI conviction within a 10-year period carries enhanced mandatory minimum jail sentences; 96 hours for a second DUI, 120 for a third. However, if a subsequent DUI charge is eventually reduced to a wet reckless, there is no mandatory minimum jail sentence.
While the wet reckless doesn’t carry enhancements, it does however serve as a “prior” to enhances sentences for future subsequent DUIs. 
Some of the other advantages to a wet reckless reduction are that he probationary period for a wet reckless conviction can be shorter than that of a DUI, the fines and fees lower than a DUI, and DUI school shorter than what would be required for a DUI conviction. 
Lastly, there is no automatic suspension of a driver’s license with a wet reckless conviction. When someone is found guilty of a California DUI, their license is automatically suspended. This is not the case when someone pleads guilty or no contest to a wet reckless. Although there may be no suspension stemming from the conviction, the DMV may still issue a suspension if the person loses their DMV hearing. Therefore, in order for someone who is eventually convicted of a wet reckless to keep their license, they must also win their DMV hearing.
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Cop Fired After Fixing DUI Investigation of Fellow Cop

Ohio State Trooper, Tammy Soto, who has developed a reputation for her hard-nosed approach to DUI investigations, was fired for fixing the investigation of a local police officer.
Soto responded to a call that a driver was driving the wrong way on an interstate. 
After initiating the stop, Soto recognized the driver as William Lachner. Lachner was a member of the nearby Lorain Police Department and a colleague of Soto’s husband, Ed Soto, who was also a member of the Lorain Police Department. 
Following the stop, Soto’s dashcam captured Soto leading Lachner, who was allegedly intoxicated, to her patrol car during which time Soto it is clear that Soto recognizes Lachner. 
“Lachner, right?” Soto can be heard asking in her dashcam video. “Yes,” Lachner responded.
Soto then appears to coach Lachner telling him, “Don’t say anything.” Lachner responds by saying, “Alright, I will not.”
I use the word “coach” because, in my experience, most arresting officers at DUI stops want the drivers to talk as much as possible to obtain as much evidence of intoxication as possible. 
Then without explanation and against Ohio State Highway Patrol policy, Soto turns off her recorder.
Official reports indicated that Lachner refused field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer. However, we’ll never know whether Lachner actually, himself, refused the tests or if that decision too was influenced by Soto because she deactivated her recording device before the alleged refusal.
What’s more, Soto altered the citation that was issued to Lachner a few days after the arrest so that his case would be heard in a different jurisdiction than where the stop took place. 
According to the Chronicle-Telegram, Soto denied fixing Lachner’s citation to cut him a break telling investigators, “No, it wasn’t to look out for [Lachner] other than, like I said, that at least I know he would get a fair shake.”
Hmmm…I wonder how many other “fair shakes” Soto has given DUI suspects in a career for which she has developed a reputation for zealously investigating instances of drunk driving. 
Soto’s change in jurisdiction on Lachner’s citation didn’t matter much as he was, nonetheless convicted of OVI (operating a vehicle impaired), Ohio’s equivalent to California’s DUI. 
Meanwhile, Soto has appealed her termination. 
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Judge Convicted of Fixing DUI Case

Former Fayette County, Pennsylvania judge, Dwight K. Shaner, 71, entered a guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge of hindering apprehension that stemmed from an allegation that he "fixed" a DUI case for the nephew of a former assistant district attorney.
It was alleged that Shaner improperly dismissed the DUI case of 31-year-old Robert L. Rudnik, who is the nephew of Judge Linda Cordaro. Cordaro, at the time, was the former assistant district attorney.
On the morning of the preliminary hearing, Cordaro recused herself from prosecuting the case. The grand jury said that Shaner should have also recused himself due to his "longstanding relationship" with Cordaro. Shaner, however, proceeded with the hearing.
The case was dismissed when the officer who filed the charges could not produce any witnesses at the hearing, even though witnesses are not typically required at preliminary hearings, and a continuance was not granted to allow the trooper to produce the witnesses.
"[The trooper] testified…Shaner told him, ‘Hey, trooper, I hope you understand. I’m catching some heat from Linda (Cordaro) because that is her nephew,’" the grand jury said in its report.  
Prosecutors agreed to drop obstruction and perjury charges in exchange for Shaner’s guilty plea on the charge of hindering apprehension. Convictions of either obstruction or perjury would have jeopardized Shaner’s pension under the state’s Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act.
Shaner’s attorney, George H. Matangos, told the judge that this incident was “out of the ordinary, not a pattern of behavior.” 
Shaner was sentenced to 18 months of probation and ordered to complete 150 hours of community service.
Prosecutors refiled DUI charges against Rudnik, who eventually pleaded guilty in February of 2014.
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