Amended Last Call Up for Approval

A few months ago, we mentioned Senate Bill 58, a bill that hoped to extend California’s last call to 4 a.m. After previous attempts have been thwarted, it comes as no surprise that the bill in its original state was barred by the Assembly. However, a recent revision of the bill holds promise.

Backed by Senator Scott Weiner, the revised bill proposes a pilot program for a period of five years – from 2022 to 2027 – allowing bars in 10 different California cities to extend their last call to 3 a.m. Although it is not the 4 a.m. call as originally presented, this offers an hour extension of the current last call time. The 10 cities that are considered in the revised bill are Cathedral City, Coachella, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Palm Springs, Sacramento, San Francisco, and West Hollywood.

Through the program, the California Highway Patrol will frequently produce reports for each of the participating cities. These reports will include data such as DUI rates and alcohol-related accidents. To allow Congress a way to asses changes and trends, each city will create and send out annual reports.

Supporters tend to highlight the positive impact on the economy that could come from extended bar time. By extending call, there is more time for patrons to spend their money on drinks. Extra time also allows for a more active nightlife, giving the city a more attractive atmosphere. With more money flowing into the restaurants and bars, the bartenders and servers will have the opportunity to work additional hours.

On the other side, members like Assemblyman Tom Lackey emphasize the idea that extended drinking time will likely increase the possibility of drunk driving. People will have to be even more vigilant in preserving public safety and protecting themselves. In regard to this, Lackey stated, “Having spent 18 years as a CHP officer working these hours, I have direct knowledge of the tragedy that’s associated when alcohol-impaired driving is coupled with the extreme fatigue that we also see in drivers between 2 and 4 a.m.”

The vote is expected to occur before the end of this legislative session.

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Practice What You Preach

A good criminal defense or DUI lawyer should possess the necessary skills to defend his client’s case and reduce the charges. But obviously, the best way to avoid a DUI charge is to be smart and not drink and drive.

Unfortunately, not all DUI lawyers seem to practice what they preach. Over in Nevada, a DUI defense-focused lawyer was arrested on suspicion of DUI on August 30, 2019. This lawyer, Garret Ogata, had crashed his car in the southeast Las Vegas Valley in the early hours of that Friday. Perhaps, this is his twisted way of proving that he has the skills and experiences needed to benefit his DUI clients.

Whatever the reason, this is now Ogata’s third charge he has faced on suspicion of DUI.  Although he has been arrested three times now, he will only be charged with a second-offense DUI because his first arrest was dismissed in court. This DUI charge and arrest happened back in 2003.

Currently, Ogata is licensed to practice law in Nevada, California, and Utah. Oddly enough, the Utah State Bar website lists him as “inactive”, but none of the Bar websites list any disciplinary actions that were taken.

So far, there is no news as to whether Ogata will defend himself in this case. It will be interesting to see what his next move will be. Ogata has been released from Clark County Detention Center of his own recognizance and has a scheduled court date for October 29th.

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New Funding for A Marijuana Breathalyzer

A few years back, we talked about our hesitation on the introduction of a marijuana breathalyzer in California. This was about three years ago, and since then, more researchers have continued exploration into the product.

With recreational marijuana use being legal in California, we have probably all heard about how THC stays in the bloodstream for days or even months after it has been consumed. As the psychoactive component in marijuana, THC is the substance responsible for making people feel high. The proposed device created by Hound Labs isolates THC from the breath sample and then analyzes its concentration. Oddly enough, THC makes its way into a person’s bloodstream and then comes back out through the breath to some extent.

Current studies found that the THC high reaches a peak around 15 minutes after marijuana has been consumed. Then, it typically appears on one’s breath within two to three hours. With the assistance of UCSF, Hound Lab presented research on THC levels, finding that there is a great risk of impairment from THC in the first two to three hours. As such, they have been trying to understand how this impairment affects people’s abilities and coordination.

Recently, Hound Labs secured $30 million in funding to move forward with their product designs and move into the manufacturing phase. They plan to send out the new gadgets to several law enforcement agencies across California by the end of the year.

Like we expressed before, we have reservations about THC presence alone being used as an accurate indicator of impairment like alcohol. Despite the progress that has been made with BAC measurements, there is still a lot that needs to be improved on that front. If we haven’t ensured high accuracy with BAC indicators, how does the risk of THC impairment compare to the numbers we have for BAC?

Of course, we want to reduce the risk of danger to the public in any way that we can. Safety is of the utmost priority. But, to arrest a person for having smoked a joint 3 hours ago and on that fact alone? That seems to go too far. We already know that field sobriety tests aren’t always accurate or objective either, so it doesn’t seem fair to arrest someone based on how recently they consumed marijuana.

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Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign in Newport Beach

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration kicked off their enforcement mobilization campaign last Friday and plan to continue through Labor Day Weekend. The national initiative, cleverly named “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over”, has drawn attention and interest from law enforcement agencies around the country. From the beginning, Newport Beach Police Department joined in and will be having additional law enforcement officers on the road during the period. They will be looking for any drivers suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

According to the Traffic Safety marketing site by the Department of Transportation, the campaign focuses on stopping drunk drivers and keeping the public safe. It “highlights a constant police presence searching for drunk drivers as a way of deterring people from drinking and driving.”

With Labor Day serving as a reminder that summer is about to end, it is important that people get prepared. Traditionally, the holiday weekend has had some of the highest DUI numbers of the year. The NHTSA website shows statistics from 2017, stating that 37% of drivers who died over the 2017 Labor Day holiday were drunk at the time of the crash. In addition, 36% of the 376 people total who were unfortunately killed during the holiday period were involved in a crash with a drunk driver.

As a heads-up, Newport Beach police have already announced that there will be a DUI/driver’s license checkpoint on August 23rd, 2019 from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. in an undisclosed location in the city. Like any other day of the year, drive safely and be aware of your environment.

Since the campaign is nationwide, many other law enforcement agencies are expected to ramp up their patrols from now through September 2nd. Keep this in mind as you get ready to celebrate the holiday. “Drunk Driving is a deadly epidemic that takes the lives of more than 10,000 people each year on average. Remember to Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

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When the Law Doesn’t Feel Like Enough

Losing a loved one is an experience that no one wants to go through, and it’s even worse when the tragedy could have been prevented. That’s the reality that the Rodriguez family had to face when they were given the news that Anna Rodriguez unfortunately passed away in a car crash.

On December 31, 2018, Ms. Rodriguez had been out with her boyfriend Edwin Sebastian and some friends celebrating Sebastian’s birthday. In celebration, he had some drinks and was getting noticeably affected by the alcohol. Rodriguez got upset about his drinking and even offered to drive the pair back.

However, Sebastian refused and decided to drive the both of them. Soon after, he ran a red light at Golden State Boulevard and American Avenue, and the car rolled. Unfortunately, Rodriguez did not survive the accident.

The defense team tried to ask for probation and no prison time, stating that Sebastian is admitting to alcoholism and seeks treatment.

In addition, he would plead guilty in order to spare Rodriguez’s family the pain of going through a trial. During the hearing, Sebastian said that he was sorry and asked for forgiveness from the family as well as from God.

Prosecution instead pushed for prison time, which Judge Jon Kapetan eventually granted. In line with state sentencing laws, Sebastian was given a six-year prison sentence for gross vehicular manslaughter. Even the judge apologized for not being able to send him away for a longer period of time and stated, “I agree the law is not sufficient.” State sentencing laws only allow for a maximum sentence of six years for this particular circumstance of case.

In giving out sentences, it is important to remember that state laws are there to make sure that those convicted are judged fairly for their crimes. But, when a judge apologizes to a family of young children because he knows that’s not enough, it makes you wonder what is fair?

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