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Category Archives: The Court

Should I Represent Myself? What, Exactly, Can a DUI Lawyer Do for Me?

Being arrested on a DUI charge is a confusing, complicated, stressful, and expensive experience. You may think that defending yourself in court is a good option to help you save money, but the critical thing to ask yourself is whether or not you can attain the necessary legal sophistication in the few weeks or months you have to prepare for trial. Will it be enough to prevail over a prosecutor who has years, if not decades, of experience?

It’s highly unlikely.

There are many misconceptions regarding defending oneself in a DUI case. Below, we address some of these misconceptions, explain why it isn’t a good idea to defend yourself in a DUI case, and explain why you should always seek representation from an Orange County DUI lawyer.

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Teenager Kills 4 & Walks Free

Texas Teenager Ethan Couch (16), was sentenced to 10 years of probation with no immediate jail time, after his June 15th, 2013 DUI accident that killed four and injured two others. The night of the crash, Ethan Couch and friends were caught on camera stealing alcohol from a local Walmart. Hours later, Couch crashed his father’s Ford F-350 truck into, and tragically killed, Breanna Mitchell (24), Hollie (21) and Shelby Boyles (52), and local youth pastor Brian Jennings (43).

Ethan Couch and Four Victims Ethan Couch and the Four People Who Perished from his DUI Accident

As the story was reported, Breanna Mitchell’s SUV had broken down and friend Hollie Boyles offered to come help with the vehicle; Hollie’s mother Shelby had accompanied her. Pastor Brian Jennings happened to be driving past when he saw the women outside the SUV, and decided to stop and attempt to help. Ethan Couch, driving around 70mph, then drove the truck through the group killing all four of them. When police arrived on scene it was reported Couch had a .BAC of .24% which is three times the limit for drivers who are of the legal drinking age.

The two teens who were in the bed of the truck when it crashed are still hospitalized, with one of them being in a vegetative state.

Teen kills 4--DUI Attorney Orange CountyCouch was sentenced to 10 years probation, under the defense of Affluenza, a claim that because of his upbringing and family’s wealth he did not know right from wrong. The lone psychologist who testified, Dick Miller, claimed that Couch grew up in a world where money cured all problems.

“The teen never learned to say that you’re sorry if you hurt someone. If you hurt someone, you sent him money.”

Miller went on to testify that Ethan’s family, “felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.”

District Judge Jean Boyd was unconvinced the Texas juvenile justice system could handle Ethan Couch’s rehabilitative sentence, so she suggested he be taken to a rehabilitation facility in Newport Beach, California.

Any deviations from the sentence given may lead to much harsher penalties, including jail, over the course of the 10 year probationary period.

If you or someone you know needs to defend a DUI in California please contact an experienced DUI lawyer in Newport Beach. It doesn’t cost anything to find out your options.

OC Evidence Error for 2000 DUIs

More than 2,000 DUI cases filed by prosecutors and 900 defendants have been affected by an Orange County DUI lab error, which caused an inaccurate report of elevated blood alcohol content levels.

Bruce Houlihan, the lab director, reported that the errors began to appear when some of the .BAC data wasn’t properly recorded. Houlihan said that the lab uses two separate machines to analyze and measure the blood samples and then averages the results. An audit of the Orange County Crime Lab last October uncovered the inaccuracies which has affected around 2000 DUI cases directly.

orange county dui convictions made with errors in evidenceBruce Houlihan went on to say that the reason the issue wasn’t noticed originally, was because it was so small. The human error will only clear around 20 people of their DUI charge, Houlihan went on to report. Letters have been sent to 900 defendants who have had their DUI cases resolved, to inform them of the lab error.

Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, had this to say regarding cases that dropped below the legal limit of .08 to .07:
“There are cases we prosecute based on 0.07 and we secure convictions in those cases.” Emami went on to state that people should ask their attorneys about how to proceed if they feel their case was affected negatively by Orange County Crime Lab’s error.

Despite the severity of the lab’s errors Emani still felt, “The large majority of our cases will not be impacted…”

What do you think about flawed lab tests being used in court to convict individuals of DUIs?

For further reading about DUI blood testing lab errors.


If you or anyone you know has been arrested for DUI, you should contact a DUI Lawyer in Orange County as soon as possible. Call the Law Offices of Chad Maddox for a free consultation, (714) 695-1500.

 

Judge sentences teen to Church for DUI conviction

17 year old teenager, Tyler Alred, pleaded guilty in August to first degree man slaughter after killing his friend, John Dum, on impact in his DUI crash last December. Oklahoma Highway Patrol had initiated a breathalyzer test at the scene of the crash, and found Tyler Alred had alcohol on his breath at the scene of the crash. Being a minor, any traceable amount of alcohol is grounds for immediate DUI arrest.

Judge Mike Norman handed down the controversial sentence to Alred. The Oklahoma teen, who could have faced up to 10 years in prison for pleading guilty, was sentenced to:

  • counseling sessions
  • ordered to wear a drug and alcohol bracelet
  • graduate from high-school
  • and attend 10 years in church, weekly, at a congregation of his choosing.

In court an emotional father of the victim, embraced Alred’s father, seemingly forgiving Alred’s son for the mistake he had made that led to John Dum’s death. Controversy followed Judge Mike Norman’s decision because many believe that sentencing Alred to Church is a violation of the separation of Church and State laws. Alred’s DUI defense lawyer was, not surprisingly, in favor of the sentence. As far as DUI attorneys are concerned a 10-year prison deferment is the best thing that could happen to a client. Judge Norman was reported as saying, “Only time will tell if we saved Tyler Alred’s life.”

DA Proves Tests Are Valid?

If your arrest for DUI was based on a failed field sobriety test, your Orange County DUI lawyer will closely scrutinize the facts regarding how the test was administered, how you performed, and whether the determination that you were intoxicated was valid. If any weaknesses exist, your Orange County DUI lawyer will attempt to discredit the results and either get them excluded from evidence or minimize their impact on the jury.

While your Orange County DUI lawyer will attempt to limit the impact of your failed field sobriety test, the prosecution will emphasize why it should be given great weight. If the evidence shows that the arresting officer properly administered the test, the prosecutor will highlight that your failure could not have been due to misunderstanding the instructions. If you exhibited symptoms of intoxication such as slurred speech or dilated pupils, the prosecutor will attempt to reinforce your test results by arguing those symptoms also prove you were drunk. Finally, if any witnesses testify that you did well on the test, the prosecutor will discredit them by pointing out that they are not experienced in administering field sobriety tests like the arresting officer presumably is.

Although minimizing the impact on the jury of a failed field sobriety test is not easy, an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer should be able to capitalize on any opportunities to do so.

To get a free initial evaluation of your case, please contact experienced Orange County DUI lawyer Chad Maddox.

Attacking Field Sobriety Tests

There can be a variety of innocent reasons for a person to fail a sobriety field test, some of which include a lack of coordination, tiredness, or even stress. Your skilled Orange County DUI attorney might find that the HGN (horizontal gaze nystagmus) test in particular is as good a time as any to establish the notion that there are a lot of reasons as to why you did not do well on the test, especially because the HGN test comes with a multitude of innocent reasons to explain away a claim of failure on the test.

A competent lawyer will also want to attack the use of complex instructions at the time of the test. The majority of field sobriety tests have many requirements, and despite the complex nature of a lot of the instructions, the tests are usually explained and demonstrated only one time and in as little as 10 to 15 seconds. A person is expected to have an instant retention of those instructions.

Additionally, the prosecution might ask the officer to repeat the instructions in open court, just as they were given to the defendant at the time of the test. On cross-examination, your California DUI attorney might want to ask that same officer to provide an estimate of how long it took him or her to give you the instructions for the test in an effort to show that they’re given in a matter of seconds.

Then, in closing arguments, your attorney may proceed to ask the jurors if they, themselves, can recall the exact instructions of the field sobriety tests in order to demonstrate the difficulty of retaining such information. If you need an Orange County DUI lawyer, please contact Chad Maddox at (714) 695-1500 for a free consultation.

Techniques Your Attorney May Use to Deal with Evidence

If you have been charged with drunk driving because you performed poorly on a field sobriety test, your skilled Orange County drunk driving defense attorney may be able to diminish its bad affect by drawing a contrast with something far more harmful that did not actually happen. For instance, if you stumbled while you were attempting to “walk the line,” your attorney might make inquiry of the officer with questions such as, “Did Mr. Smith grab you for support?” or “Mr. Smith simply had a misstep, right?” These reduction methods give your attorney a means by which he or she can approach unfavorable or bad evidence.

Another technique that your attorney may choose to utilize involves the use of impeachment evidence. If your lawyer has such evidence, he or she may decide to introduce it early on when cross-examining of the arresting officer. Doing so will decrease the officer’s credibility for the rest of his questioning.

Additionally, your attorney may propose to the jury that there is possibly police officer bias; he or she will question the officer about whether or not he gets paid overtime for his testimony. If the particular officer at your trial has a track record of arresting DUI suspects in questionable cases, it is highly likely that those cases will be asked about in court, which means more overtime for the officer.

Keep in mind, though, that convincing a jury of officer bias will be a difficult task; thus, your attorney will most likely only hint at this. Still, even if the jury does not believe that the officer is possibly biased, making the inquiry about the officer’s overtime pay will at least reduce some of the impact when your expert is asked the predictable question about his or her fee.

If you need an experienced Orange County drunk driving defense attorney, please call Chad Maddox today for a free consultation.

Closing Argument

Credibility is a vital component to a successful closing argument in defending a DUI charge. An experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney can cultivate the credibility and illustrate the gravitas necessary to convince the jury of a client’s innocence in the following ways:

Memorable Evidence

Focusing closing arguments on defense-oriented, memorable evidence from the trial is useful in helping the jury recall important information. Discerning the evidence in the defendant’s favor that the jury is most likely to remember, and focusing on this evidence, can work to ensure the jurors remain aware of exculpatory evidence.
Jury Instructions:

Most courts use standard-form jury instructions in criminal cases. It is therefore important to marry key words from these instructions into the closing argument, creating a link between how the judge instructs the jury to think about the case, and how you define the “story” of the case to the jury.

Confronting pro-prosecution evidence and reasonable doubt

One cannot will away evidence the prosecution puts forth to make its case. This evidence must be addressed head-on, with vigor and persuasion. It should be explained in a manner that is commensurate with what the jury heard and with the requirement that the State prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, presume the jurors were presented with evidence of a chemical test result that was above the legal limit. One promising defense route could be the presentation of evidence that appears inconsistent with the chemical test result. This could come in the form of lay witness testimony that the defendant was not intoxicated, video evidence of sobriety, or other evidence that casts doubt on the chemical test. Illustrating to the jury evidence that contradicts the pro-prosecution evidence, as well as reminding the jury that they must find all elements as true beyond a reasonable doubt, can be used to convince jurors that the test results suffer from serious legitimacy issues and cannot be wholly reliable.

Respect

Treat your client with the respect and dignity he/she deserves at all times. It is important that the jury identifies with your client. Should you de-humanize your client, the jury will notice and take note.

For more information on how you can be best represented in defending your DUI charge, contact an Orange County DUI defense attorney today.

Penalties and Punishments

This topic is very broad.  You may find what you are looking for in a more specific Article, such as 1st Offense or DUI with Injury, etc. Locate these to the left under “Articles”.  For a comprehensive overview of how punishment is decided in court, please review the court’s benchguide: 2008 Sentencing Guidelines Bench Guide

Also, punishments are also covered in the DUI benchguide, which again, has flaws.  You should have an experienced attorney litigating any specific issue relevant to your case, even if these guides indicate the law is settled against you. 2009 DUI Bench Guide