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California Man Gets Life in Prison for DUI Murder Involving InfantA 51-year-old man from Porterville, California, was recently sentenced to life in prison following his conviction for an incident of driving under the influence of alcohol that resulted in the death of a 1-year-old boy. A Tulare County court had previously found the man to be guilty of second-degree murder, which is the most serious criminal charge someone can face when they are accused of a DUI fatality in California. As opposed to DUI manslaughter, a DUI murder conviction requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant acted with malice. A second-degree murder conviction has a minimum of 15 years in prison. There are several aggravating factors that likely caused the defendant to receive the maximum prison sentence allowable for this conviction under California law:

  1. Reckless Driving: According to reports of the incident, the defendant caused the crash by attempting to pass the victim’s vehicle. He was driving at a high speed and crossed over two solid, yellow lines in order to use the left lane of oncoming traffic. At the same time, the victim’s vehicle was making a left turn into a private driveway.
  2. Hit-and-Run: Following the collision that crushed the victim’s vehicle, the defendant reportedly attempted to flee the scene on foot. Bystanders at the scene followed him, allowing police to apprehend him. Along with second-degree murder, the defendant was convicted of felony hit-and-run that resulted in death or injury.
  3. Multiple Victims: Besides the infant who died, two women in the vehicle were injured. One woman suffered serious injuries that required extensive treatment.
  4. High Level of Intoxication: According to a blood alcohol concentration test, the defendant has a 0.13 percent BAC two hours after the incident. This is well above the 0.08 percent BAC limit and left little doubt that he was impaired at the time of the incident.
  5. Prior Convictions: On the date of the incident, the defendant was still on probation for a 2015 DUI conviction. He had also been convicted for DUI in 2000 and 2010. Prosecutors often use prior DUI convictions when pursuing a second-degree murder conviction because it proves that the defendant was aware of the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol.
  6. Human Element: When deciding on the length of a prison sentence, a judge will consider the circumstances of the case and the likelihood that the defendant may repeat the offense. The fact that it was an infant who was killed in the incident likely affected the judge’s decision. The mother read a statement during the sentencing hearing that spoke of the profound impact of her son’s death and asked for the maximum sentence because she claimed the defendant had not taken responsibility for the incident or shown remorse. Given that this was his fourth DUI conviction, the court likely agreed with her.

Contact a Sonoma, California, DUI Defense Attorney

Every defendant in a DUI trial is entitled to a skilled defense attorney, even if all of the evidence seems to point against them. If a not guilty verdict seems unlikely, the attorney can still help the defendant get a fair sentence. A San Francisco DUI defense lawyer at Burglin Law Offices, P.C., will represent you and your best interests during your trial. To schedule a free consultation, call 415-729-7300.

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How Does a Wet Reckless Conviction Relate to DUI?When charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the defendant’s goal is to be acquitted or have the charge dismissed or reduced. Prosecutors may offer a reduced charge before you go to trial if you agree to not contest it. For a DUI, this could be reducing an aggravated DUI to a standard DUI or a standard DUI to reckless driving. A DUI charge that has been reduced to reckless driving is commonly called a “wet reckless” because it is reckless driving that acknowledges that alcohol was involved. A wet reckless conviction is favorable to a DUI conviction, but there are still consequences.

Advantages

In California, a wet reckless conviction often results in lighter penalties than a DUI:

  • A reckless driving conviction can include up to 90 days in jail, a fine of $145 to $1,000, one-to-two years of probation and no mandatory driver’s license suspension; and
  • A first-time DUI conviction can include up to six months in jail, penalties of as much as $2,300, three-to-five years of probation and a six-month driver’s license suspension.

A wet reckless conviction has lower maximum penalties and no minimums in some cases. You may be able to continue driving without any restrictions or the need to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. You will have a reckless driving conviction on your criminal record, but a DUI conviction would look worse in a background check and possibly hurt your chances at employment and obtaining a loan.

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California Drivers Need Greater Clarity on Marijuana DUI ViolationsCalifornia had time to prepare for the legalization of recreational marijuana since voters passed Proposition 64 in November 2016. Even before that, there was legalized use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, California has yet to answer an important question related to recreational marijuana use: How much marijuana must a driver have in their system in order to be legally impaired? Drivers know that the legal limit for alcohol is a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration and approximately how much alcohol they can consume before they reach that limit. California drivers and police officers can only guess how much marijuana is needed to make someone legally impaired, which puts marijuana users at a disadvantage when they are trying to be safe drivers.

Uncertain Answer

To be fair, it is difficult to quantify the point at which marijuana in a person’s body impairs a driver’s function enough to be a violation of DUI laws. The scientific consensus is that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels are the closest equivalent to BAC levels, but THC can linger in a person’s body for weeks after marijuana use, by which point any impairing effects have subsided. Amongst the states that have legalized recreational marijuana, only Colorado has created a THC limit. Prosecutors in that state can bring DUI charges against a driver who has five nanograms of active THC in their blood. Still, Colorado says that officers should primarily rely on observational signs of impairment when determining whether to arrest someone for DUI.

Upcoming Studies

California officials have recognized their lack of knowledge about the relationship between marijuana use and impaired driving. California recently enacted a law that authorizes the California Highway Patrol to conduct a study of the effects that marijuana has on driving. The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego, is also researching driving under the influence of marijuana. Through controlled tests involving drivers with different levels of THC, researchers hope to understand:

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The Penalty for Cycling Under the InfluenceThere are several modes of transportation others than cars and trucks that are illegal to operate while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You could be charged for being under the influence while operating a boat, riding a motorcycle, or even riding a horse. Then there is the criminal offense of cycling under the influence. Unlike many other states, California has a separate law that addresses CUI offenses. The consequences are not as severe as being convicted for driving under the influence, but it is still not a conviction that you want on your criminal record.

Charge and Penalties

The rules of a bicycle traffic stop are similar to stops involving motor vehicles:

  • Police are allowed to stop anyone who they reasonably suspect may be under the influence;
  • The officer will look for signs that the cyclist is intoxicated, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and lack of balance;
  • The officer will ask questions to better understand the cyclist’s condition;
  • The officer may arrest the cyclist if they have probable cause to believe the cyclist is legally intoxicated; and
  • The blood alcohol concentration limit for a cyclist is 0.08.

Cycling under the influence is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a $250 fine. There would be no jail time, but the conviction would remain on your criminal record. People younger than 21 who are convicted of CUI may lose their driving privileges for a year or be prohibited from applying for a driver’s license for a year.

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Prescription Medicine Can Lead to DUI ChargeDriving under the influence in California applies to more than just alcohol. You can be charged with DUI for being under the influence of drugs. The penalties for DUID are the same, including fines, a driver’s license suspension, and possible jail time. Many people associate being under the influence of drugs with getting high from recreational drugs such as marijuana. However, drugs can include legally prescribed and over-the-counter medicines. Police will not excuse your impaired driving simply because you have a prescription for the drug.

Side Effects

Many prescribed drugs can cause side effects that may impair a user’s ability to drive, such as drowsiness or dizziness. These medicines include:

  • Pain relievers;
  • Sleeping pills;
  • Antihistamines;
  • Decongestants;
  • Antidepressants; and
  • Medical marijuana.

Some people are more susceptible to these side effects than others. When starting a new medication, you should keep track of its effect on you to determine whether it is impairing your vision, motor skills, or ability to stay attentive. You should also heed warnings about mixing the prescription with alcohol because it may worsen the side effects.

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