Holiday Tips on the New Drunk Driving Law



By Lawrence M. Kohn
Holiday Tips on the New Drunk Driving Law From Lawrence Wolf, Attorney at Law

A judge Pro-Tem and successful criminal attorney, Lawrence Wolf a principal in the Century City law office of Lawrence Wolf is a recognized expert on drunk driving, juvenile justice and consumer fraud. He is a leading television and radio guest and also hosts his own cable television show called The Law and You, which can be seen weekly on West Hollywoods Continental Cable, Saturday at 9:30 p.m., and on Santa Monicas Century Cable, Friday at 8:30 p.m.

Kohn: Larry, the holiday season is upon us, and people will be attending office parties. Can they have a glass of wine two hours before they drive home or is that going to get them into trouble?

Wolf: The reality is that one glass of wine or that one beer for the averaged-sized person two hours before you’re stopped is legal. Once you have that second drink, however, your’e bordering on being convicted and potentially placing someone else’s life and your life in danger.

But theres another reality thats important: if a police officer smells any alcohol on your breath, he is not going to be impressed when you explain that it was only one glass of wine two hours ago.

That comment is going to fall on deaf ears and, consequently, even after a legal battle where youre found not guilty, youre still facing the financial cost of that battle as well as the emotional cost of being arrested, taken to a jail, booked and fingerprinted.

There is no up-side to drinking and driving none. There is even no reason to have that one drink two hours before because even if you are never really ultimately convicted of an offense, theres still a high price to pay.

If someone wants to have a drink at a holiday party, prearranging for a designated driver would be a viable option.

Kohn: What are some of the current issues being debated with the new drunk driving law?

Wolf: No one condones individuals going out and intentionally drinking and then driving and, God forbid, causing injuries to a loved one. But at the same time, with the new laws that have been imposed since July 1, 1990, some individuals who are loosing their licenses are not really committing any offense. Let me give you an example.

Lets say a good citizen, a law abiding man who is at his daughters wedding, has a glass of champagne at the opening toast and then a second glass on the final toast when the bride is leaving. On his way home, hes stopped by a law enforcement officer and given a breath test and hour later. He blows into the machine which registers an .08. If no voice is raised in that mans defense, 1) hes going to be convicted of first time drunk driving, 2) he is going to spend $1,000 in fines, 3) hell go to alcohol school and 4) most importantly, hes going to loose his license for four months.

This could be someone who, for the last 40+ years, has supported his family, his community, diligently gone to work every day to run his business, and has never even had a traffic ticket.

With the new stop and snatch law, the DMV will not accept evidence as to the accuracy of that breath test. Due to a potential margin of error in that machine, an .08 would really be an .07, in which case, the man would not be violating the law.

Now imagine that this individual has no viable way of getting work, or if hes a salesman, doing his work, except by driving. Certainly, he doesnt need to break the law, but he does need to support his family. Society has now forced him to become a criminal for every day of his four-month tenure.

Kohn: So you think the new law is inappropriate?

Wolf: I have two feelings about it: one, it is being applied by the DMV with a total lack of any due process. TheDMV is not even determining whether or not the machines or the tests are accurate. They are not requiring any witnesses to testify or appear at the hearing. All their decisions are being based on FAXed police reports, from which they are then suspending censes. This is a total violation of any due process rights.

And secondly, I think its unduly harsh in many cases, such as the father in my example. In this situation, he is not even violated the law, but because of the DMVs unwillingness and inability to deal with any legal issues, he will be penalized.

The DMV is acting as nothing more that a rubber stamp storm troopers and just snatching up individuals licenses who in many cases shouldnt legally be prosecuted and dont need this severe treatment in order to understand the dangers of drinking and driving.

Kohn: Do you have tips for people who find themselves in this situation?

Wolf: Yes. They should always demand a hearing, and they should always consult with an attorney as soon as possible after the offense. The reason for that is that the forms that have been drafted are so confusing that they leave the individual unclear as to not only what their rights are but even what the procedure is to enforce those rights.

The reality is that in order to try and save ones license in time, a hearing must be requested within 10 days of the arrest. The way that form reads, that 10 day requirement is unclear. It also leads the arrestee to think that he has to appear in Sacramento for the hearing, which precludes many people from even requesting a hearing. So, do contact an attorney as soon as possible.

The best tip, however, is never to drink and drive!

Lawrence M Kohn is a Century City-based marketing consultant. For suggested topics or information call 652-1442.


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