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Drunk Driving Defense

The offense of drunk driving, as it is often referred to, is actually a bit of a misnomer. In California the law does not require that the driver actually be "drunk" before he or she is breaking the law. Vehicle Code section 23152(a) provides that it is illegal to drive when one is "under the influence", this has been defined as when a person can no longer drive a motor vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs or both.

What is important to understand is that it is not illegal to drink and then drive, in other words, a person can drink an alcoholic beverage and then drive and still be legal under the law. The crucial point is that drinking and then driving is not in violation of the law, the government must prove that the driver was impaired or above the per se level of .08 before he or she can be lawfully convicted. A drunk driving defense lawyer can help people arrested for driving with alcohol in their system who may have been wrongfully charged with DUI. Because of greater outcry by groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others, police officers are quick to conclude that a driver is impaired and will often err on the safe side by arresting them with minimal evidence. Simply having alcohol on your breath is not sufficient proof that a person is legally unable to drive. One of the biggest injustices I have seen as an attorney is the failure of most law enforcement officers to use objective, scientifically accepted tests to make the determination that a person falls within the legal definition of a "drunk driver". The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has created certain minimal field sobriety tests to ascertain whether a citizen is actually legally intoxicated, however many officers either fail to use the tests or misuse them in the field.

In my experience as a drunk driving defense attorney for nearly fifteen years, most DUI stops go terribly wrong because the officer is either inexperienced, lazy or both. The field sobriety exercises utilized are entirely too subjective- they fail to use any type of objective scoring method and are ineffective at gauging levels of impairment, this inevitably leads to unjustified detentions and arrests. To further exacerbate the situation, the law enforcement officer will oftentimes administer a preliminary alcohol screening device (PAS) in an effort to give some measure of objectivity to the investigation. The problem, however, is that most devices are prone to false high readings due to the lack of mouth alcohol detectors within the machine and use of devices that are improperly maintained by the police agency. For example, in one recent case my office defended the police report reflected a PAS device reading of nearly twice the actual blood alcohol level.

For one client, Mr. Ruff saved his prospects for employment as a corrections officer when he was arrested for drunk driving in Long Beach. The attorney went to Court and negotiated a dismissal of all criminal charges upon completion of some community service, this despite a BAC of .10%. The client also kept his license when the lawyer saved it at the DMV.

Another example of our success in Court is that of a recent case in Torrance Court, Division P. The client was facing a third offense DUI with a mandatory 3 year revocation of his driving privilege. Mr. Ruff negotiated a "wet reckless" on March 1, 2010 for the client despite the blood alcohol of nearly 3 times the legal limit and it being a 3rd DUI in ten years.

Also, in April of 2009 the attorney was successful in having all DUI charges dropped against the client in Redondo Beach Court even though the accused was a .15% on the blood test and had a prior drunk driving conviction out of Orange County. The key to the settlement, according to the attorney, was Mr. Ruff's ability to punch a significant hole in the Los Angeles County crime lab blood test as well as convincing the prosecutor that the objective symptoms of intoxication were not consistent with the purported blood alcohol level. The client enjoyed an even greater resolution because Matthew Ruff was also victorious in obtaining a set aside of the DMV suspension at the APS hearing in El Segundo earlier in the year.
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