13-Year-Old Designated Driver was Also Drunk

A Sheriff’s officer from Santa Fe County, New Mexico was in for a shock when he pulled over an erratic driver last week. Expecting to see a drunk adult driver, instead he found a 13-year-old driver who appeared to be intoxicated.

The teen was driving his grandmother, Sanjuana Mercado-Mendez, who was intoxicated and his 15-year-old sister who was sober.

In addition to admitting to drinking a beer that found on the front floor boards of the car, officers had the boy perform field sobriety which he failed. A subsequent breathalyzer revealed that the teen had a blood alcohol content of 0.14.

Mercado-Mendez is facing several charges including child abuse. According to KRQE, police said that Mercado-Mendez has a prior criminal history which includes a 2015 charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license and 2014 charges of larceny and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In the latter incident, it was alleged that she took her two sons along with her to steal scrap metal.

"The child will be facing DWI — aggravated DWI — because he failed to perform the field sobriety test for the officer. And traffic laws, which are roadway lane for traffic, so basically not staying within his lane. And also driver to be licensed. He’s 13 years old. He can’t possess a valid New Mexico driver’s license," said Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Captain William Pacheco.

When the suggestion is made to find a designated driver after having too much to drink, it does not mean find someone who is just as, if not more, intoxicated than yourself. And it certainly does not mean having someone who isn’t even old enough to drive, let alone drink, drive you home.

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Repeat DUI Offender Arrested After Being Found Asleep at Wheel

Earlier this month, South San Francisco police arrested 53-year-old William Aguero on suspicion of a California DUI after they found him asleep behind the wheel of his vehicle.

Aguero’s vehicle was halfway up on the sidewalk with the engine running and in gear. Police and paramedics attempted to remove Aguero from the vehicle when they noticed that he could not walk unassisted. It was then that police suspected that Aguero was driving under the influence.

Police also learned that Aguero was on the California Department of Motor Vehicles and California Office of Traffic Safety’s DUI Hot List. The list was created as a California DMV program intended on discouraging repeat DUI offenders whose licenses are suspended from driving.

Aguero’s case raises a question often asked regarding the California DUI: Can you be arrested, charged, and convicted if the police don’t actually see you drive?

California is unlike other states in that it actually requires driving, or slight volitional movement, of the vehicle. Other states only require that a person be in “dominion and control” of the vehicle with the mere ability to drive the vehicle.

Unfortunately, California’s driving requirement can be proven through circumstantial evidence of movement.

Circumstantial evidence doesn’t by itself point to guilt, but allows the jury to infer guilt through the circumstances surrounding of the arrest.

Although the officers did not actually see Aguero drive his vehicle, the circumstantial evidence they will use to prove he drove will likely be the fact that his vehicle was up on the curb, the fact that his vehicle’s engine was on, and the fact that the vehicle’s transmission was in gear.

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The Country with the Most DUI-Related Fatalities Is…

I’ve talked a number of times on the worst states in terms of drunk driving. I’ve also talked about the worst California counties for drunk driving. But I don’t think I’ve ever talked about the worst countries. And, well, if you thought the United States would be the worst, you’d be wrong.

According to the WHO’s Global Status report on Road Safety for 2015, South Africa is the worst country in terms of fatalities from drunk driving. According to the report, South Africa suffers 25.1 vehicle-related fatalities per 100,000 people per year. What’s more, nearly six out of ten vehicle-related fatalities were the result of drunk driving. That amounts to a whopping 58 percent.

Second on the list? Our neighbors to the north. Of all deaths on Canadian roads, the rate of DUI-related fatalities in Canada is 34 percent. This number is down 43 percent since 2000.

The United States came in third with 31 percent of its traffic fatalities coming from drunk driving. Australia is fourth at 30 percent. France is fifth at 29 percent. Italy is sixth with 25 percent. The United Kingdom, excluding Northern Ireland which was at 17 percent, was seventh at 16 percent. South Korea was eighth at 14 percent. Germany was tenth at nine percent. India was eleventh at five percent. Last, but not least, China came in twelfth at 4 percent.

Coming in at the very bottom are Costa Rica and Oman with less than one percent.

Only 53 countries test drivers who have died in a traffic accident for alcohol. Only 95 countries have any data on the proportion of DUI-related traffic deaths.  

The study concluded that more needs to be done to collect data on drunk driving.

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Back to the Basics of a California DUI

I spend a lot of time trying to find DUI-related topics to talk about, from DUI laws to drunk driving research to recent drunk driving arrests. It occurred to me that in all of the writing and searching for unique topics, that the basics of a California DUI have been long since talked about.

So here’s the gist:

Officers need probable cause to arrest a person on suspicion of a California DUI. Following a traffic stop, they likely do not have the probable cause to believe a person is driving drunk. However, they obtain the probable cause using their observations (slurred speech, smell of alcohol, and blood shot, watery eyes), field sobriety tests, and a pre-arrest breathalyzer.

Once arrested, the officers must advise the DUI suspect that they must submit to either a breath or a blood test.

After the arrest, law enforcement sends their report to the appropriate prosecuting agency who then makes a decision to file criminal charges. If a DUI is charged, it will typically be under California Vehicle Code section 23152(a) and/or 23512(b). Simply put, Vehicle Code 23152(a) makes it illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol and Vehicle Code 23152(b) makes it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher.

If a person is arrested having been suspected of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant other than alcohol, they will likely be charged with California Vehicle Code section 23152(e).

The filing of charges triggers a criminal case in the appropriate courthouse. The court will schedule a hearing called an arraignment. At arraignment, the DUI suspect, who is now a DUI defendant, will enter a plea, be advised of their rights, and the charges pending against them.

Following the arraignment, there may be several or no pretrial hearings to allow the prosecutor and any defense attorney, either private or a public defender, to assess the merits of the case negotiate a plea deal. A plea deal may include a reduction in charges to a “wet reckless,” “dry reckless,” or some other lesser charge. It may also include a reduction in sentence.

If no deal can be reached, the case proceeds to a trial where the prosecutor will have to prove to a jury that the DUI defendant drove a vehicle either under the influence of alcohol, under the influence of a drug, or with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher.

If the jury finds the person not guilty, they suffer no legal penalties. However, if the finds the person guilty, they face a minimum of three years of summary probation, a fine between $390 and $1,000 plus penalties and assessments, and a three-month drunk driving program known as AB-541, and up to six month in county jail.

This is a mere scratching of the surface. However, as you can see, it is not a simple process. I never suggest that people who have been suspected of driving drunk attempt to navigate the process on their own. Do yourself a favor and hire a California DUI attorney.

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The Impact Of Uber

Uber “saves lives”. Since the launch of Uber, it is said that the car hailing app has reduced the number drunk drivers in the streets. Why wouldn’t you believe it? Ride share popularity is immense and everyone is using it. The moment you leave the bar after a night out, you see Ubers, Lyfts, and taxis lined up ready to take you home. According to a new study by the American Journal of Epidemiology, there is no correlation between the ride sharing apps and the reduction of drunk driving.

Researchers Kirk and Noli Brazil conducted a study on 100 metropolitan cities in the United States and came to the conclusion that the introduction of Uber did not reduce the number of people who were drinking and driving.

According to the study and CNN.com, the researchers gave the following explanations as to why Uber might not be as successful in reducing drunk driving as they claim:

  •  People are actually not drinking and driving but they are choosing alternate choices to Uber. People can choose to take Lyft, taxis, public transportation, or they chose to be picked up by someone who is sober such as a relative or close friend 
  •  Drunk patrons tend to be a bit stubborn when they have a little too much to drink. So they sometimes chose to get behind the wheel. They would rather not pay for Uber when they can just drive home for free.
  •  Lastly, the ratio of drunk drivers to Uber drivers is far too small for Uber to make a significant impact in reducing drunk driving. 

This isn’t to say that these ride hailing apps are not good. They are good and they provide people who go out with options to get to and from their destination safely. The researchers want to revisit this study in the future “assuming that Uber has a greater presence in the US”.


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