Pittsburg Man Pleads Guilty to Murder Charge in DUI Crash

On March 23,2018, a Ford Escape was driving eastbound on Highway 4 when it crashed into a barrier and then into another car. Police suspected that the driver, Jose Amaya-Rivera, had been drinking prior to getting onto the road. His two other passengers sustained considerable injuries and needed to be hospitalized. One of the passengers, Yvonne Magdaleno died of her injuries a few days later.

Amaya-Rivera reportedly took three blood alcohol tests, with all results exceeding well past the legal limit. His first test detected a level of 0.27 and the last resulted in a 0.15, all taken within three hours of the reported crash. After being treated for his injuries, Amaya-Rivera was transported promptly to Martinez jail. At the time of his arrest, police charged him with murder, drunken driving with a prior DUI offense, and driving with a suspended or revoked license.

The prosecutor for this case, deputy district attorney Derek Butts, and his team charged Amaya-Rivera with murder instead of a lesser vehicular manslaughter charge. In considering the indictment, they reasoned that his prior DUI conviction and arrest in 2012 necessitated an increased sentence. Prosecution argued that the defendant would and should have known the repercussions of driving while intoxicated, due to his prior sentence. Therefore, his recent actions thus showed implied malice.

For second-degree murder, a person can reasonably face 15 years to life in prison. In Amaya-Rivera’s case, the defense team pleaded no contest to the charge of second-degree murder on Monday, July 15th. It was just days before his trial was scheduled to start that they accepted a lifetime prison term with the possibility of parole in 15 years.

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California Drivers Ranked High in Worst Drivers Ranking

For those of us who live in California, we are used to the questionable driving that we often see on the roads. So, it may come as no surprise that Californian drivers rank as some of the worst in the nation.

In a recent study by the financial website Smart Asset, California ranked third worst in the category for overall drivers. Mississippi and Alabama topped the list, coming in at first and second respectively.

Smart Asset “looked at the percentage of drivers who are insured, the number of driving under the influence (DUI) arrests per 1,000 drivers, the number of fatalities per 100,000 vehicle miles driven and how often residents google terms like ‘traffic ticket’ or ‘speeding ticket.’” The data for these metrics were pulled from a variety of sources, such as the Department of Transportation. From these numbers, the average rankings were calculated and then used to create the states’ final scores.

According to Smart Asset’s research, California placed 15th highest for DUIs, with 4.59 DUIs issued per 1,000 drivers. It also ranked as the sixth-highest in searches for speeding and traffic tickets. Looking at these statistics, it would be wise for California drivers to be extra careful when out on the roads.

Compared with the DUI data from Insurify, there were some slight discrepancies between the two sites. Insurify listed North Dakota as having the highest history of drunk drivers (see States With the Most Drunk Drivers), however, Smart Asset listed South Dakota as having this position at 12.99 DUIs per 1,000 drivers. Instead, South Dakota ranked third in Insurify’s data. It would be interesting to delve into the differences in methodology between the two studies.

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DUI Arrests More Than Triple Over July 4th Weekend

The Fourth of July weekend is notoriously known for being one of the most dangerous times to drive on the road. During this period, people are often partying, setting off fireworks, and drinking alcohol in celebration. Much like Memorial Day weekend, this means that there was strong police presence on the roads in an effort to keep the public safe.

According to the CHP, over 1300 people were arrested statewide for DUI during this Fourth of July weekend. Compared with the 389 people that were arrested last year, the number of DUI arrests more than tripled during this time period. The CHP also reported 32 fatalities over this four-day enforcement period, up from 18 last year. About a third of the people who died were not wearing seatbelts at the time of their accidents.

The best thing to do during celebrations like this past weekend is to understand and practice safety. “Have a plan. If you are going to drink, designate a sober driver, use a taxi, or use a ride-share service,” CHP officials stated in their release. By prioritizing safety, you can help keep yourself and others safe.

In addition, it is important to remember that being nervous while at a DUI checkpoint will make you look suspicious. If you end up getting stopped at a DUI checkpoint and have the lingering scent of alcohol on your breath, remember to stay calm. You have the right to remain silent. In this instance, silence can be your friend. Giving the police too much information about yourself may cause the officer to question your sobriety. On the flip side, you also can’t just sit there and refuse to answer the officer’s questions; this will rouse suspicion. Keep to the point and only say what is necessary in telling your story. You don’t need to include anything about how you just left the bars with friends or was on your way home from a party.

It is important that people be very careful in executing their rights at a DUI checkpoint. Like we talked about in What Are a Persons Rights at a DUI Checkpoint?, there are certain things that you can say and do in checkpoint situations. Be aware of what your best options are.

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Last Call in California to be Extended?

An issue that has been debated and dismissed numerous times in court is the extension of last call in California. The issue made its journey back to court this year and state policymakers are pushing for a 4 a.m. call.

Currently, California’s last call is set for 2 a.m., an hour longer than some other states across America. However, New York boasts a later call set at 4 a.m., and bars in Nevada never close.

Senate Bill 58 will be heading to the Assembly this summer, and lawmakers are hoping that this year will be a success. They hope that Governor Gavin Newsom’s business interests will motivate him to keep an open mind and help push the bill through. Newsom is known to have interest in a collection of wineries and hotels under the PlumpJackGroup.

Last year, a similar bill labelled Senate Bill 905 came close to being accepted. It went all the way to the final sign-off by then-Governor Jerry Brown. However, Brown did not sign off on the request, stating that “we have enough mischief from midnight to two without adding two more hours of mayhem.”

What is interesting to note about this year’s attempt is that only a few months ago, legislators were trying to lower the current BAC limit from 0.08 to 0.05. Not that extending bar hours will always cause a person to have a higher BAC limit as he walks out the door, but is this asking for more trouble?

If lowering the BAC passes, it will be hard to imagine that the same group will also then allow for a bar hours extension. The two issues seem to be in conflict with each other. However, it will be interesting to see how economic and prestige factors come into play in getting the nightlife hours in California extended. And even more interesting to see how that may affect our DUI numbers.

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Outreach about Expungement and Record Sealing

The Hampden County District Attorney’s Office hosted a workshop about expungement and record sealing at the Gandara Center in Holyoke, Massachusetts. According to its website, the center helps promote “the well-being of Hispanics, African Americans, and other culturally diverse populations through innovative culturally competent behavioral health, prevention, and education services.” By providing these workshops, the office intends to train local staff members, so they can provide counselling to the community.

The seminar was held for the employees who work directly with the substance abuse and recovery counseling services. Because criminal history can hurt a person’s employment prospects, it is helpful for the community to learn about what things can be legally withheld from their history. The workshop presents information about the types of offenses that can be expunged or sealed and how it works.

Considering most people may not know about expungements of DUI records and what goes into it (see https://www.duiblog.com/2017/03/08/can-i-expunge-a-california-dui-conviction/), this seems like something that would help communities everywhere.

Numerous DA offices around southern California make rounds in their local communities, disseminating information about procedures and advice. They travel all over, including those of low income and high diversity areas. By doing this, they help teach the community how to try and turn a blip in their criminal record around. Maybe even local criminal defense lawyers could join in and offer free seminars of a similar nature. Perhaps these efforts could get the word out that all hope is not lost.

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