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The Negative Effects of a DUI on a College Student

College can be a great stage in life that opens windows to so many future opportunities, but there can be some pitfalls. With pressure to maintain good grades and impress parents and scholarship sponsors, some students end up blowing off steam by binge drinking. College binge drinking is a Hollywood staple that we’ve all seen, but what happens if things go a little too far?

Many students tend to disregard underage drinking, but when drunk underage individuals decide to take it to the next level and drive when intoxicated, such actions can carry along serious consequences. According to nationwide statistics, roughly around 2,000 college students die from an alcohol-related crime while 3.3 million have reported driving under the influence of alcohol at some point in their life. Since it’s clear that drunk driving college students are a big part of the problem, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 19% of DUI (driving under the influence) accidents are caused by college students.

Young adults tend to be overconfident in their alcohol tolerance levels. This is why it is important for students to follow state laws to the letter and have knowledge of the legal limit of driving drunk. You can find more useful information on alcohol and legal limits in the California Driver Handbook – Alcohol and Drugs.

Partying and alcohol may be fun in a frat house with fellow drunk classmates, but sometimes students forget that they are supposed to follow the same state laws adult citizens follow. Unfortunately for underage drinkers, the state of California holds a ZERO-TOLERANCE stance on underage drinking. In some cases, teenagers have even been tried as adults for their involvement in a DUI accident. If students drive when drunk and get caught, they WILL be arrested and potentially tried and convicted. This will just be the beginning of the turmoil. Even if a student manages to get through this, the effects of a DUI ripple out for years, limiting any education or employment opportunities that may come his or her way.

Educational Opportunities

Before joining an institution, schools require applicants to disclose whether they have any looming, pending, or ongoing criminal charges. Schools are within their rights to request this information because parents entrust the safety of their children to respective faculty members and the school. Failure to report any criminal charges can cause the school to suspend or even expel an enrollment (even without a conviction). While a person faces less severe repercussions if he or she has criminal charges alone, a criminal conviction is serious, and most schools usually expel such individuals. Even if the school allows a student to stay, that student will likely lose scholarships, financial aids, grants, and student housing. A sports team, debate club, or Greek organization may also expel the student to avoid any backlash of a person’s criminal record on their organization.  Chances of joining another school for a fresh start will be small because most schools don’t accept people with a criminal record.

Employment Opportunities

A criminal record also does not look stellar to employers after running a background check. A bad stamp on your background is another easy reason for employers to sort out an application to the trash (especially because employers see many more applications than ever before). While a criminal record, even one as old as 10 years, doesn’t necessarily represent your present situation, most employers still relate it to poor character and judgement, making a potential applicant a high-risk employee.

Life as a student or young adult is meant to be fun and thrilling, but college students should always exercise caution because they have a lot to lose. It is important to remember that DUI charges or convictions are a dark cloud can follow a person around for life. Though the state of California now allows for these records to be expunged under certain conditions, there is not a guarantee that they can be. A great DUI attorney like Don Hammond can help get life back on track if you are a college student facing heavy DUI charges. Contact us today at 323.529.3660 or don@donhammondlaw.com.

How to Handle Insurance Companies in the Aftermath of an Auto Accident

When a person has been involved in a car accident that was caused by a reckless driver, it is likely the victim will have experienced a great deal of trauma and stress. Handling auto insurance companies in the aftermath of an accident cannot only be time-consuming, it can also cause anxiety and worry. More importantly, what may seem like a blessing by way of a quick settlement offer, may in fact be a low offer in an attempt to settle and close your claim, and importantly disregard your rights as a victim.

Auto Accidents – Protect Your Rights

If you have recently undergone an auto accident that was caused by the negligence of another driver, you should know that you have legal rights that can protect you. This article will highlight important information you should consider when protecting your legal rights. You should also consider consulting a personal injury attorney that has experience in auto accident claims. A skilled attorney with the right experience can speak to the involved insurance companies on your behalf relieving you from the unnecessary burden.

Gathering Important Information After an Auto Accident

After being involved in an auto accident, it can sometimes be difficult to obtain certain information. Depending on the events that caused the accident and the events that followed the accident, it may be difficult for many people to obtain crucial information. Some of the most vital information you can obtain at the scene involves the following:

  • The other party’s name, contact information and address
  • The other party’s insurer, policy number and contact information
  • The contact information of witnesses to the incident
  • Pictures and video of the scene

If you were unable to obtain this information and left the scene with only the license plate number of the other driver, consider contacting an attorney with experience in the field of auto accidents. While gathering information at the time of the accident can be beneficial to your case, you might still be able to have a successful claim against the driver.

Report the Auto Accident & Any Injuries

There are two primary agencies you will need to report the car accident to in order to ensure your rights. The primary agency is the local police department in which you can file a police report. Secondly, you will need to contact the other driver’s insurance carrier. In many situations, your insurance company will handle the communications with the other parties insurance, but remember, just because they are working on your behalf in this regard does not mean they have your best interest in mind. It is likely your insurance company will try to reduce the calculation of your fault, if any, but the opposing company is doing the same for their policy holder. Insurance companies could determine the party at fault based on the following factors:

  • Driver statements
  • Witness statements
  • Police reports
  • Medical reports
  • Physical evidence

Obtain Legal Support to Champion on Your Behalf

Any auto accident can be stressful, especially when it comes to dealing with insurance companies. While there is vital information that can help support your case, the support of a professional attorney can be highly beneficial. An attorney who has experience in dealing with insurance companies can champion on your behalf and bring you closer to obtaining the financial compensation you deserve. Auto accident claims in the State of California are strictly time sensitive; seek the aid of a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T TAKE MY DUI CLASSES?

DUI arrests happen in California every day. There are as many as 140,000 DUI arrests every year. With high figures, there is need to ensure a proper process of rehabilitation for convicted DUI individuals. DUI programs help restore the integrity of the transport system by instilling values of road safety to DUI offenders.

DUI programs mainly take place either as part of a court ordered process or as a means of reinstating one’s driving privileges. DUI offenders are often required to take DUI classes as part of the sentencing.

The scope and period of a DUI program depends on the duration the court ordered. DUI classes typically happen anywhere between 6 weeks to 30 months. The period of the program also depends on the circumstances of the DUI offense such as the BAC level at the time of the offense and whether or not an individual has a record of prior DUI arrests.

The court hearing will set a date of completion for the program. Upon completion of the program, the DUI offender will present their proof of enrollment and certificate of completion to the DMV or the court as evidence that they have successfully completed the program.

What Happens if I Miss a DUI Class?

While institutions that provide DUI programs are not maximum security places, the law still requires DUI offenders in the program to adhere to the terms of the program. Attending classes is not voluntary because it is a court ordered process, but attendees are allowed some leeway to miss a few classes.

The number of classes one can miss depends on the type of program. Each program has a maximum number of sessions an attendee can miss. However, if a DUI offender misses a class they have to make sure they make up for it with another class or the provider will not issue a certificate of completion at the end of the period.

For example, participants enrolled in the 12 hour program for 6 weeks can miss 2 sessions, while participants of the 30 month program are allowed 15 missed days. If one misses more classes than the limit, they risk getting kicked out of the program, which may ultimately lead to probation of violation charges or a revoked license.

What Happens If I Don’t Take My DUI Classes

Because DUI programs are mandatory court ordered procedures, failing to attend classes carries heavy penalties. If one is taking their DUI classes to have their license privileges reinstated, not attending DUI programs may lead to the DMV suspending their driver’s license or completely revoking their restricted license.

On the other hand, skipping classes for a court ordered DUI program is a very serious offense. This is considered a violation of probation. The court is likely to issue a warrant for an arrest. Upon arrest, the offender can face the maximum sentence for DUI charges, which include prison sentencing.

DUI cases often pose a challenge to the offender’s future wellbeing. Having a DUI on one’s record can bar you from a series of opportunities. Don Hammond is a criminal defense attorney in California with a vast knowledge on how to handle DUI cases. With his counsel and expertise, he helps all of his clients get their lives back on track and better than before.

WHAT IS LEWD CONDUCT & WHAT ARE GOOD DEFENSE ARGUMENTS?

The State of California has an almost zero tolerance to crimes involving sexual activities. Even when an individual does not necessarily want to involve another party, criminal activities with sexual content can ruin one’s life, especially if a judge has ordered the culprit to register as a sex offender.  Many Californians’ have heard of the term “Lewd Conduct” but don’t understand the depths of the term. Let us explain.

Defining “Lewd Conduct” According to PC 647 (a)

The California Penal Code 647 (a) defines the act of lewd conduct as “An individual who solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.” One of the main provisions for this law is that the offense should take place in a public area or before public view. Before a court, prosecutors face the burden to prove whether the following elements were present at the time of the offense:

  • Willfully engaging in touching one’s own or another person’s genitals, breasts or buttocks
  • If there is an intent to sexually arouse and/ gratify one’s needs or offend another
  • If the offense happened at a public place or within public view
  • If there was a third party present
  • If the culprit was aware or reasonably knew of a third party’s presence

The presence or absence of all these elements can make or break a case.

Penalties

Lewd conduct is tried as a standard misdemeanor in California. This means that it carries a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum jail sentence of 6 months behind county bars. If your defense is as good as they come and manages to obtain a decent plea bargain, judges can grant lesser sentences with little or no jail time. Other conditions that a judge can attach to a lesser sentence include counselling, an AIDS test, and other fines. Fortunately, the law does not require first time offenders to register as sex offenders but that doesn’t mean that you’re out of the woods yet. The judge can still order the defense to register as a sex offender for a subsequent offense or by considering other factors in the case.

*For specific information about cases involving Lewd Acts with a Child, see our other article.

Defenses for Your Case

Like any other legal case, there is always a loophole and a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Whether or not a judge will be lenient to the offender depends on the circumstances of the case and the abilities of you attorney. Here are some arguments you and your attorney can use that may help you achieve a more favorable outcome.

  • Police entrapment

Sometimes during sting operations, police officers may go a little bit overboard when trying to catch sexual offenders. Entrapment means that the police try to bait you into exposing, masturbating, or arousing yourself in public, even when you originally did not have the intent to indulge in such acts. While entrapment laws forbid officers from inducing criminal activity from an otherwise law-abiding citizen, many lewd conduct offenders still find themselves at the losing end of this defense. But it may still be worth a try depending on the circumstances of your case.

  • You did not engage in lewd behavior

The most important argument prosecutors must make is that you did, in fact, engage in such behavior. The burden to prove this lies squarely on their shoulders. One can counter this by claiming that witnesses may have misinterpreted the act as sexual in nature.

  • You touched yourself but not for the purpose of sexual gratification

In another case, the culprit can defend their stance by arguing that they touched themselves but there was no sexual intent. For instance, if you were in a bathroom and you wanted to urinate or if you just wanted to get rid of an annoying itch. Any case shows clearly that it was not your intention to arouse yourself, or any other person, and neither did you intend to offend others.

  • You were not aware of a lurking audience

As one of the elements covered above, a judge will seek to find out if you intentionally exposed yourself to the public eye. However, you would need to prove that you thoroughly believed no one would see you at the place of the incident. For instance, if you were alone at a car park late at night, logic shows that the likelihood of any wandering eyes at that time of the night is little to none. Hence, you wouldn’t expect any intrusiveness from bystanders and peeping toms alike

  • The incident did not occur at a public place

A public place is another precursor for prosecuting lewd behavior. Places such as private homes where the general public has restricted access are not public places. Exceptions include a parked car on a busy street or an empty booth in an adult bookstore. It is entirely up to the defense to prove that they took the necessary steps to prevent such acts from reaching the public eye.

Because crimes involving sexual acts are perceived as one of the vilest ways a person can act on his or her instincts, prosecutors try their best to ensure that these offenders get the heaviest punishment the law can allow. If you believe that law enforcement has wrongfully charged you for lewd conduct, Don Hammond is a more than experienced criminal defense attorney who knows the best strategy to navigate you from an outcome that could negatively impact the rest of your life.

CAN A CALIFORNIA DUI STOP ME FROM BUYING A GUN?

Following the conviction of a crime, courts often impose penalties. The severity of the penalty will depend on the circumstances of the committed crime. Specifically, convictions for certain crimes can lead to loss of one’s civil rights such as voting, free movement, and possessing a firearm. DUI charges can bar someone from possessing firearms. However, this is only applicable to certain conditions of DUI charges. Only those categorized under the “prohibited persons” list are banned from possessing or purchasing guns. Among those categorized as prohibited persons are convicted felons, individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, those who have a domestic restraining order imposed on them, and persons arraigned in court for crimes which warranted a 1 year jail term (PC 29800). Others include fugitives of justice, illegal U.S residents, individuals addicted to substances, persons suffering from certain mental illness, and militants who have been dishonorably discharged from service.

While a standard misdemeanor may have little to no effect on a person’s rights, there are few instances which, if colluded with a DUI, can result in the loss of civil rights.

A Fourth DUI Offense

In the state of California, a fourth DUI arrest automatically constitutes felony charges. With this type of criminal charges, an individual will be banned from possessing a firearm for a period of 10 years. After the 10 year period is over, the individual can apply to have his or her right to possession of a firearm reinstated.

Felony DUI Charges

Apart from four DUI convictions, felony DUI charges may be applied if the DUI resulted in death or injury. Felony DUI charges are potentially life-altering and require the expertise of an experienced DUI attorney. Such charges can also limit one’s potential for opportunities since such records are difficult to expunge.

Dishonorably Discharged Military Service Personnel

Application of this law is tougher for people in military service. While a first time DUI offense may not attract heavy penalties including a dishonorable discharge, consecutive DUI charges can permanently cancel one’s military status. A military officer, who has been dishonorably discharged for multiple DUI charges or a DUI charge that included serious aggravating factors, can lose his or her right to own or possess a firearm.

A DUI with Other Crimes

If an individual committed a DUI offense with another crime, they may face charges that could inadvertently lead to losing their right to own a firearm. For example, if an individual is arrested for a DUI and illegal drug possession or domestic violence, a court may brand them as a prohibited person, which would make it illegal for them to possess guns in the future.

These bans on possession of firearms also vary depending on the circumstances of the charges. For example, felony charges applied to a DUI warrant a lifetime ban. The only exception to this is if the court categorizes the crime as a wobbler offense. If this is the case, the accused can have the charges ultimately reduced to a misdemeanor where the person can apply to have his or her gun possession rights again. Other instances include some misdemeanors where courts can impose a possession ban for 10 years.

DUI charges, if not properly handled by experienced attorneys, can have life-altering effects on individuals, including the right to bear arms. Don Hammond has the experience and knowledge required to get you back your gun rights or help in any criminal defense issue. Every case is different, please call us at 323.529.3660 for a free consultation.

CAN I REFUSE A DUI CHECKPOINT IN CALIFORNIA?

In the state of California as well as other states, DUI checkpoints are a normal routine. Law enforcement departments often set up checkpoints to conduct screening processes on drivers who may be driving under the influence of alcohol or any other illegal substance. As motorists, it is important to know exactly what DUI checkpoints entail and the legalities involved.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

American’s are always prone to point out their constitutional rights especially where law enforcement is involved. In a nutshell, DUI checkpoints are constitutional and legal in both the state and federal levels. In Ingersoll v. Palmer, the US Supreme court ruled that DUI checkpoints do not infringe on one’s Fourth Amendment right. The Court also noted that DUI checkpoints do not require officers to have probable cause when stopping motorists. In comparison, the Supreme Court gave an example of airport screening which is an administrative operation intended for public safety. Regardless of this, the law still requires law enforcement officers and departments to adhere to the laws and regulations involved in conducting checks at DUI checkpoints.

Legal Requirements and Regulations for Conducing DUI Checks

In Ingersoll V. Palmer, the Supreme Court gave provisions on how law enforcement should conduct DUI checkpoints. These regulations were meant to limit the intrusive nature of screening process so as not to infringe on one’s rights.

  1. Role of Supervisory Personnel

When deciding to set up DUI checkpoints, a person holding a supervisory position in law enforcement must come up with a clear operational process. This regulation was put in place to limit officers at the field from abusing their privileges. Officers in supervisory procedures include the county sheriff and the Commander of Traffic Enforcement Division of the police department. The law requires these officers to declare the steps they will use to set up and conduct the checks.

  1. Be Neutral and Unbiased when Selecting Vehicles

The law requires officers to maintain a neutral position when selecting motorists for screening. The decision to stop or detain a vehicle must be set upon a mathematical selection formula.  Randomness is discouraged as proving unbiasedness may be difficult. For instance, officers can decide to stop all vehicles at the checkpoint, every two vehicles while letting other two vehicles pass or every five vehicles and so on. Stopping vehicles should not be upon an officers own determination.

  1. Safety

When setting up DUI checkpoints, officers should ensure that they meet the safety requirements. Law enforcement should give primary consideration to the safety of the public. Checkpoints should be placed where motorists can stop and navigate through while accommodating a moderate flow of traffic.

  1. Reasonable Location

The Supreme also stipulated that law enforcement should place DUI checkpoints at strategic points where DUI incidences are high. However, the law does not require officers to set up checkpoints on a permanent basis but can change randomly if the public is forewarned.

  1. Time and Duration

There is no limit as to how long officers can detain motorists as long as the burden is not substantial. This means that officers can set up checkpoints at any time of the day and for however long is necessary.

  1. Proper Signage of Checkpoint

Checkpoints must be visible by motorists from a great distance. An advance warning to the motorists shows that the checkpoints have gone through appropriate procedures to receive authorization. Proper signage includes warning signs, flashing lights, and uniformed officers.

  1. Length and Nature of Detention

When detaining motorists, officers should ensure that they use as little time as possible. This ensures that detainment does not get too intrusive while ensuring traffic flow is smooth. The length of time on any given motorists should be brief enough for questioning and checking for any possible signs of drug and substance influence.

  1. Advance Notice

Law enforcement institutions are advised to make public announcements about any DUI checkpoints in their schedule. Making a public announcement beforehand helps decrease the intrusive nature of screening processes and can also help deter motorists from risky behaviors like drunk driving. Keep in mind that the law does not require law enforcement to give a public notice (People v. Banks (1993)).

Can One Turn Around to Avoid a Checkpoint?

The good news is, the law equally does not make going through a DUI checkpoint mandatory for motorists. In the event a motorist is aware of a checkpoint ahead, they can turn around so long as they do not stray from normal traffic regulations.

Departmental rules also prohibit officers from stopping motorists who decide to avoid a checkpoint so long as they follow traffic regulations. On the other hand, once a motorist is at the checkpoint, the law requires them to stop and submit to the officer’s requirements (California Code, Vehicle Code – VEH § 2814.2 (a)). This includes producing your license and registration upon request. Failure to do so will be an infraction and the officers can have you arrested.  It should be noted that if a motorist avoids checkpoint but breaks a traffic rule in the process, the police are within their rights to stop and even arrest the individual.

Despite the general fear and tension that accompanies DUI checkpoints, they serve a crucial role in ensuring that the roads stay safe. The police are not out to get you unless you. Cooperating ensures a speedy process. However, in the event you are arrested for DUI at a checkpoint, it is best to contact an experienced attorney like Don Hammond who has achieved numerous success in similar cases.

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