Category Archives: DUI Laws

Arizona tries to limit right to Jury trial in DUI Cases

On surface, a proposed new law in Arizona,  cutting jail time for first time DUI offenders, appears reasonable; A closer look, however, reveals that Arizona wants to delete a person’s constitutional right to a  jury trial, which goes against everything our forefathers fought for in establishing the Bill of Rights…
State legislators want to ease penalties for some convicted DUI offenders, cutting the time they must use an ignition-interlock system in half and scaling back mandatory jail time.
Sen. Steve Pierce R-Prescott, says it’s an effort to “help keep people on the road.” Fellow sponsor Sen. Linda Gray, R-Phoenix, said cutting court cost was also behind SB 1200, sent to the governor for her signature on Wednesday. The interlock time reduction, reduced sentences and elimination of jury trials for first-time DUIs shifts some expenses away from the taxpayer and to the offender. The changes were needed, Pierce said, to soften harsh policies that were “damaging families, damaging people’s lives,” while encouraging offenders to change their behavior. To qualify for reduced interlock time, first-time offenders must complete a 16-hour education program, calibrate the device monthly at the Motor Vehicle Division, not be involved in an accident at the time of the offense, and not attempt to drive when they’re over the DUI limit during the six-month period. Mothers Against Drunk Driving supported the bill if the ignition-interlock period remained at 12 months. “We are behind the bill as long as 12 months is included,” said Beverly Mason Biggers, program specialist for the MADD Southern Arizona office. “Research has shown that it takes 12 full months to learn new habits.” She wouldn’t say where the organization stands now that the interlock time has been cut. Legislators say the switch to six months is intended as an incentive for convicted drivers, who often don’t comply under the current requirement. Gray said only 30 percent of those required to have an ignition interlock actually get it installed and comply with the device. This bill is seeking to change that, she said. “It’s a little bit of a carrot out there for good behavior. Some people will realize they’ve made a horrible choice,” Gray said. Supporters of the bill say the interlock and other pro- visions don’t just give criminals a second chance, they shift much of the expense to the individual instead of the government. “It’ll save the taxpayers,” Gray said, about not requiring a jury trial. “Why go through all that expense for a jury trial for one day (in jail)?” The bill puts the now-mandatory 24 hours in jail for first offenders to the “discretion of the presiding judge.” It allows judges to cut 30 days to nine for extreme DUI cases. For super-extreme DUI, the 45-day minimum sentence could be reduced to 14 days. All the reductions are contingent on having the interlock installed. Defense lawyers are lambasting the bill for revoking a person’s constitutional right to a speedy and public trial by a jury of peers. “We’ll challenge it on constitutional grounds,” James Nesci, a Tucson defense lawyer, said. “You can’t legislate away constitutional rights.” But a 2005 Arizona Supreme Court decision said offenses requiring less than six months of jail time don’t demand a jury trial, which would cover the typical non-extreme DUI case. Still, defense lawyers say they’ll challenge it. “Certainly the county saves money by not having people in jail, and the cost of the interlock device is paid by the offender,” said Kathleen Mayer, legislative liaison for the Pima County Attorney’s Office. But the office isn’t driven by monetary savings, she said. “If it turns out the interlock device saves more lives, then that’s a good thing,” Mayer said. “Penalties for DUI have been steadily increasing in the last decade and the amount of fatalities have steadily decreased. More jail time has worked in the past.” Nesci argues that “signing this bill will be taking the right to a jury trial out of the hands of the people and into the hands of activist judges who like to legislate from the bench.” “This should be something that really concerns the people of Arizona,” he said. Pierce counters this bill gives some leeway back to judges. “We think we’re doing the right thing giving judges a little more discretion,” Pierce said. But Michael Bloom, a Tucson defense attorney who handles DUI cases, said discretion should remain in the hands of the people. “Now we’re going to turn over the resolution of criminal charges that can affect people’s lives to political appointees?” Bloom said. “Arizona has a long history of placing the right to a jury trial on a pedestal and recognizing that it is a critical part of our justice system.” But a jury trial is costly, especially when a court-appointed attorney defends the case, Gray said. “The public defender is there interviewing each one of the jurors. Sometimes that takes all day,” Gray said. In the case of public defenders, “the taxpayers have to pay for that.” “It’s shocking they would attempt to save money by crippling our legal system,” Bloom said. “Proponents of the bill think that less jail time will encourage people to do the interlock rather than go to jail,” Mayer said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Why Every DUI Arrest should be Aggressively Defended

This past week I had 2 cases that exemplified why every DUI arrest must be aggressively defended. By that, I mean that a qualified, experienced DUI attorney should look at both the Defendant’s evidence and  the State’s evidence before making a decision to plead guilty.  A guilty plea to a DUI stays on your criminal record and driving record for life, and carries not only a social stigma but can  prevent a person from obtaining employment. Case 1: Client supposedly backed into a car in the parking lot of a bar, although there was no damage to either car. My client suffers from anxiety disorder which causes her to vomit when placed under stressful situations. The police officer reported that my client’s speech was slurred, that she was unsteady on her feet, and that she had vomited in her car. Additionally, his report said she refused to do any field tests and refused the State breath test. The prosecutor would not dismiss or reduce the case, so we set the case down for a bench trial. By fully investigating the case, I learned that even though my client did originally refuse the State breath test, at the jail she told the sheriff’s deputy that she would take the test, but the arresting officer refused to let her take the test, violating the law. The arresting officer failed to put that in his report, however. By having the sheriff’s deputy appear and tell the prosecutor what had happened, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the DUI. This was extremely important to my client as she was an employee for a public school system. Case 2:  Client was involved in a one car accident when a deer ran in front of him. No one witnessed the accident. He called his girlfriend to pick him up from the scene. About an hour later, Suwanee Police showed up at his house, had him perform field tests, arrested him for DUI, and he agreed to a State breath test, which registered .14. However, the client, as well as his girlfriend, both testified that the client had drank after arriving home. In addition the breath test was administered more than 3 hours after the accident. The State eventually agreed to dismiss and reduce to reckless driving. At first glance, it would have appeared to be an impossible case to defend, with the accident, performance on field tests, and a .14 breath test. So next time you hear someone say that they were arrested for DUI and are planning on pleading guilty without talking to a DUI lawyer, try to convince them to call me!

One Bad Decision Causes Harsh Consequences for Atlanta DUI Woman

atlanta dui consequencesLinda Lisska McJunkin had it all, and in a split second it was gone.  A well-known high school and college athlete with two degrees from Georgia Tech, a loving family, and a brand new real estate license to top it all off, Linda made a single bad decision in October 2004 that affected every decision she’d made prior.  After consuming four drinks out celebrating with friends, Linda drove drunk into head-on traffic and took two lives. Pleading guilty on two counts of vehicular homicide in Atlanta, she was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison. Released recently on parole for good behavior, she’ll spend the remainder of the 10 years on parole and 5 years remaining on probation.

Last month, Linda spoke publicly, for the first time since she was released from state prison, to a group of GA Tech student-athletes.  In a word, Linda could be described as humbled. The AJC quoted her saying, “I don’t think there’s a part of me that isn’t different.”  With college diplomas and real estate license in one hand and felony charge in the other, Linda now works retail for hourly wages.

As an Atlanta DUI lawyer, I hear stories just like this one all too often. When you hear a story like this on the news, it’s natural to think the worst of the driver who drove drunk and killed people. It’s devastating.  In no way am I defending Linda or saying what she did was right.  The point I’m trying to make is that before that October night, Linda was a regular person.  Just like you.  Just like me. She had everything going for her.  After a night out with friends, her main concern (consider it selfish or human nature) was getting home because she had to work the following morning.  She didn’t think about what could happen in response to her DUI in Atlanta; she really didn’t think at all.

People make the same mistake Linda made daily; the only difference is that Linda didn’t get away with it like so many others do. Drunk drivers get behind the wheel thinking they’ll be fine, they’re just going right down the road, and it’s no big deal.  Just ask Linda, vehicular homicide is a huge deal, which means even driving “tipsy” is a big deal.  So next time you consider driving, even just the least bit impaired, think about Linda’s story.  Think about Linda’s daughter and the years of her life that Linda missed while she was in prison.  Think about the two families who lost their sons in the accident.  Just think.

For more information on me, Mickey Roberts or MR GA DUI, visit my website and keep reading the blog.

5 Ways Truck Drivers Can Lose Their License

If you make your living driving a commercial vehicle, you need to know that there are many ways you can lose your CDL (commercial drivers license) in Georgia.  Here are 5 ways you can lose your CDL for a year: 1. Driving a commercial vehicle with .04 or more percent by weight of alcohol in your blood system; 2. Conviction of a DUI, regardless of whether you are driving a commercial vehicle when arrested for the DUI; 3. For refusing to submit to any state chemical test to determine if you are DUI; 4. Conviction of other mandatory suspend able offenses, such as fleeing, racing, and hit and run; 5. 2 violations of out of service orders in separate incidents; If you are charged with any traffic violation, you need to know whether that offense would result in license suspension or out of service Orders; you need to call mrgadui asap!

What does “under the influence” mean?

It’s common to hear commercials and prosecutors using the words, under the influence, to define DUI.  But what does “under the influence” really mean?  First, I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean: slurred speech, unsteady walk, and failure to stand on one leg without using your arms for balance.  The Legal meaning of under the influence is that a driver is “less proficient, less skillful, less coherent, less able,  and less efficient to drive a car.”   Most of us can readily tell when someone is under the influence, then, can’t we?  Most of us don’t need to see if a person can walk a straight line, stand on one leg, or have that person blow into a computer; we can tell and we know.  Next time  someone uses the phrase, “under the influence” ask them exactly what they mean by that term.  If they don’t say something along the lines of “a person is incapable of driving a car safely”, then you know that they don’t really know the meaning of “under the influence”.

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The above information is intended to help educate members of the Georgia motoring public as to their rights under the law and to assist presumptively innocent citizens in properly asserting those rights. Information within this site should not be misconstrued as legal advice.
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