Stanford University

DUI Charges – How a Drunk Driving Charge Was Reduced to Reckless Driving

Although drunk driving is not a topic that people openly discuss among friends, almost everyone knows someone who has been charged with a DUI. Those who are lucky to have not been charged with a DUI, have likely at some point in their lives had one or two drinks too many before getting behind the wheel – thinking that they were alert enough to drive.

DUIs are the Most Common Crime in San Jose, California

The statistics show that a DUI is the most common crime in San Jose and in the greater Santa Clara County. During the 2009 Holiday Season alone, there were 632 DUI arrests during the 17 day period running from December 18, 2009 to Jan 3, 2009.

While DUIs are common and most often victimless, the penalties can be very severe for those who are accused and do not fight the charges. More than ever, there is zero tolerance policy at the San Jose Police Department and the Santa Clara County branch of the California Highway Patrol for driving under the influence. A DUI conviction can mean a loss of ones driver’s license, substantial fines, and, in some cases, imprisonment.

For those who find themselves charged with DUI, hiring a private DUI attorney can make the difference between having a lifetime black mark on ones record and a moving on with a clean slate.

San Francisco Man Charged With DUI when Asleep at Side of Road

Consider the experience of one San Francisco resident we’ll call Gary. Gary had recently graduated from Stanford University and was spending the summer enjoying his new freedom and preparing for his medical school admissions test. Although he was a regarded as a responsible individual with a promising future, he also had a drinking problem.

Several years ago, at age 22, Gary was on his way home from a party in Palo Alto where he had more than a few too many drinks. He was anxious to get home to San Francisco to see his girlfriend and drove home thinking that he could handle the alcohol as he had many times before. On the way home on the 280, he realized that he was weaving and at one point almost hit a retaining wall. He realized that he made a mistake by driving and did what he thought was the best thing by pulling over to the shoulder of the road to rest it off.

Gary was startled awake when the California Highway Patrol knocked on his window. He was slumped against the driver’s side door and the key was in the ignition. The officer asked Gary to step out of the car and Gary complied with a field sobriety test including a nystagmus test – which he failed – and a breathalyzer test which registered a BAC of.09 which is just over the legal limit of.08.

California Misdemeanor DUI Penalties

After spending the night in jail, Gary learned that he was charged with a misdemeanor DUI, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in the county jail, substantial fines and temporary loss of driver’s license. For Gary, the most drastic consequence of a DUI conviction would be a criminal record which might impact his ability to get a job and qualify for a medical license. He reluctantly told his parents about the DUI and they agreed that they would help him with legal fees so long as he quit drinking and attended alcohol counseling.

California DUI Defenses

After consulting with a San Jose DUI Attorney Gary learned that DUI charges can sometimes be reduced to a lesser count of reckless driving or dismissed altogether for a number of reasons, including:

1. Lack of probable cause for the traffic stop.

2. A faulty field sobriety test not recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

3. An inaccurate Breathalyzer reading due to calibration issues with the device. c) Physical issues of the accused such as GERD – Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease – which causes the readings to be artificially high. (Experts say as many as 23% of Breathalyzer readings are higher than actual Blood Alcohol content.)

4. Problems and inaccuracies with the blood test, for those who received it in lieu of the breath test. The most common issue in the blood test is fermentation in the blood vial.

5. The chance that one’s test results got switched with another, better known as Mistaken Identity.

6. Blood alcohol content that was under the legal limit at the time of arrest but higher at the police station, due to factors like having drank on an empty stomach – called Rising Blood Alcohol.

DUI Reduced to Reckless Driving

In Gary’s case, the attorney told him that his case was a good candidate for a blood sample retest by an independent lab. Gary agreed to try this strategy. After the test result came back, Gary was happy to learn that the lab showed a slightly lower BAC than the result of the police lab. The lower result was not enough to completely dismiss the case, but did allow his attorney to successfully argue for a reduction from a DUI conviction to a reckless driving charge.

Gary avoided any jail time, save for his initial booking. His attorney from Summit Defense Law Offices was able to retain Gary’s driving privilege and later expunged the reckless driving conviction from Gary’s record.

Gary said he has been sober since the incident and is today actively involved in an Alcoholics Anonymous group that provides ongoing encouragement for Gary to stay sober. He says that he’s grateful that he hired a DUI attorney because he was able to move forward with his life with minimal impact to his future plans.