Bam Margera Pleads Not Guilty to DUI

On Wednesday, Jackass and Viva La Bam star Brandon Cole (Bam) Margera entered a not guilty plea to his DUI charges from last month. Margera was charged with his first DUI on January 7th. He is facing one count of driving under the influence and one count of driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.

California Highway Patrol officers pulled Margera over last month in Los Angeles when they saw him driving while on his phone. Then, they observed a strong smell of alcohol and conducted a field sobriety test. Officers arrested Margera for an alleged DUI. The reality star was released later that day after posting $15,000 bail.

A few weeks after his arrest, Margera shared on social media that he had checked himself into rehab. Reportedly, he has now checked out of the facility.

On Wednesday, Margera had a court date for the charges from his January arrest. His father, Phil Margera, said that Bam “didn’t have to appear. Just his attorney appeared.”

According to a Los Angeles County court docket, Margera’s next court date is set for March 12 for a pretrial hearing.

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Will Your DUI Case be Dismissed?

Whether it’s with my own clients or answering questions on DUI law forums, people always ask whether it’s possible that their case will be dismissed.

In short, yes, a person can get a case dismissed. Is it likely? Unfortunately, not.

I’ve been a DUI attorney for quite a while now and I can say that many prosecutors would rather go to trial and lose than to outright dismiss a DUI even if their case has holes in it. If the prosecutor budges at all, it’ll be with a reduction to a lesser crime such as a “wet reckless,” a “dry reckless,” or an exhibition of speed. But don’t expect the prosecutor to just dismiss a charge.

Remember, it doesn’t take a prosecutor much to prove a DUI case. They either need to prove that a driver was above a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content or that a person was “under the influence.”

If a driver is above a 0.08 percent, then the prosecutor has everything they need to convict. Even if there are problems with the chemical test, be it a blood test or a breath test, the prosecutor would rather take the case to trial and leave it to the defense to dispute the test results than to dismiss the case. Although the law requires that the prosecutor bears the burden of proving that the driver was above a 0.08 percent beyond a reasonable doubt, when it comes to DUI’s, that simply isn’t the case.

Even if a driver is below a 0.08 percent, as long as the prosecutor can prove that the driver was “under the influence,” they have what they need to convict. To prove that a person was under the influence, the prosecutor might introduce the driving pattern of the defendant, the performance of field sobriety tests, or the arresting officer’s observations of the driver. Even if there are few facts to suggest that the driver was “under the influence,” the prosecutor would rather take the case to trial and leave it to the defense to try and argue that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that the driver was under the influence.

Not all hope, however, is lost, which is why hiring a DUI attorney is of the utmost importance after a DUI arrest. Although an outright dismissal is unlikely, if there is a possibility of a dismissal, the attorney will push for it. If a dismissal is not a possibility, a DUI attorney should fight for the best possible outcome which may include a reduction of the penalties or the charges themselves.


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Kansas Considers DUI Legislation Overhaul

This week, Kansas senators began overhauling existing drunk driving legislation. The goals: write new laws that are more stringent on offenders and replace a defunct law after a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding the constitutionality of state-compelled blood tests.

In 2016, the US Supreme Court ruled that a Minnesota law allowing warrantless breath tests was valid, but a blood test without a warrant was unconstitutional. Consequently, Kansas must come up with new legislation because the state’s law dictates that driving a vehicle counts as implied consent for getting one’s BAC tested without a warrant.

Kansas City Democrat, Senator David Haley, stated that the purpose of a proposed overhaul DUI bill is to find a way to compel suspected drunk drivers to take a test without overstepping the right to privacy.

Haley said, “I think the problem with this entire topic if you look at the big picture is to find a way to balance public safety within the definitions of driving impairment laws and the rights to privacy that no one gives up just because they have a driving privilege. That’s the balance that’s trying to be struck here.”

Another facet of the proposed overhaul bill is to count offenders’ prior infractions in other states. It also would instate a zero tolerance policy for driving under the influence of controlled substances, in which a driver could be charged with a DUID for any amount of a controlled substance, not just an intoxicating level.

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Tennessee DUI Fees Ruled Unconstitutional

A landmark decision came from the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals on Tuesday with the opinion that Tennessee’s DUI conviction fee system is unconstitutional. The fee system awards $250 to the Bureau of Investigation for every successful DUI conviction.

The appeals court wrote in their statement, “We cannot ignore that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) receives a fee for each conviction where a blood or breath test is preformed but does not receive a fee if a defendant’s charges are dismissed or reduced or if the defendant is acquitted.” The court concluded that the fee system violates a defendant’s rights to a fair trial in cases that use blood or breath tests.

Chattanooga Attorney Jerry Summers and his client Rosemary Decosimo challenged the court in Decosimo’s DUI case. Decosimo was arrested for DUI in 2012 and pleaded guilty in 2017. Summers argued that the TBI had an incentive to produce positive test results. The TBI refuted a conflict of interest, as did prosecutors who rely on blood and breath test evidence during most DUI cases.

Fees for blood and breath tests began in 2005, when the legislature introduced a $100 fee. The fee increased to $250 in 2010 after a proposal from the TBI. The TBI collects approximately $3 million annually from the fee.

After the challenge from Summers, the judges agreed in a joint decision that the fees did form a “fee-dependent system” but stated that the blood and breath tests for DUI cases should not be suppressed.

Consequently, Summers appealed the decision, arguing that a high proportion of people plead guilty to their DUI charge because they don’t have sufficient resources to get their blood independently tested. According to Summers, this violates the right to a fair trial and creates due process concerns.

The appeals court did agree with Summers on this issue: “Under the scenario suggested by the state, the defendant is forced to obtain an independent test, to pay for an attorney to defend him, and to hire an expensive expert to challenge the [blood alcohol content] result in order to do what an unbiased TBI forensic scientist should have done from the beginning.”

It’s not clear if this ruling, which will influence many Tennessee DUI cases, will be upheld. Prosecutors could still appeal the ruling and bring the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

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Long Beach Bartender Killed in DUI Crash

Over the weekend, a 49-year-old Long Beach woman was killed in a crash with a suspected drunk driver. Bridget Ingham, a long-time yoga teacher and Seal Beach bartender, lived on Fourth Street in Long Beach. “Probably one of the most outstanding characteristics about her was her dedication to people,” said her uncle, Tom Ingham.

Ingham was well known as a bartender at the Seal Beach Irish pub, O’Malley’s on Main, where she worked for more than twenty years.

Long Beach police reported that Ingham was driving through the intersection of 8th Street and Euclid Avenue when a suspected drunk driver in a Toyota Tacoma broadsided her car around 7:50 p.m. The driver, 50-year-old Richard Roberts, was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Ingham was on her way to a friend’s house for a movie night, and was just a few blocks away from her destination when the crash occurred. According to her uncle, her friend went outside to look for Ingham after she was late. The friend initially thought Ingham was stuck in traffic from the crash, walked closer, and then saw rescuers taking Ingham out of her vehicle. Paramedics took her to the hospital, where she passed away.

On Monday, O’Malley’s paid its respects to Ingham on its website and social media: “Our sadness and sense of loss cannot transfer across mere words, but our heartfelt condolences go out to her family and all of her friends, of which there were many. Bridget was a familiar sight in Seal Beach before O’Malley’s first opened its doors and was a bright smile and friendly word behind the bar since.”

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