By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
She is also enthusiastic about new services for customers such as UBER, a car-service app on your Android or iPhone that will summon a pickup.
Pappas says organizers of festivals and such alcohol-based dining events as Wine Week try to build in awareness of responsible consumption. "These events will not go away," she says. "The appetite is there, people are more interested than ever in craft beers and artisan cocktails. People will exercise more caution and have a plan in place."
But even today, "blowing" less than 0.08 on a breath analyzer won't necessarily protect you from a DUI. Although "cops in OC are usually pretty good about following the law," Berman says, "they can still arrest someone at 0.06 or 0.07 BAC [if they feel he or she is intoxicated]. Only at less than 0.05 are you presumably not under the influence of alcohol."
Persons arrested for possible DUI can be charged under the 21352 A or B statute. Mary Beth Griffin, affiliate executive director of MADD OC, explains that the first of the two statutes refers to impairment in general, while the second refers to the familiar 0.08 or higher. But even if you're below that number, as Berman indicates, you can still be charged for driving while intoxicated. Someone high on prescription or illegal drugs could be charged under the A statute, even without any alcohol in his or her body.
Berman's website notes that in some years, more than 90 percent of Orange County DUI arrests result in conviction. Susan Kang Schroeder of the OC DA's office credits "good police officers, good investigations, young deputies from good law schools, and a great crime lab in analyzing the evidence. We got a grant to train officers how to testify and investigate on DUI."
Perhaps not surprisingly, most people facing DUI charges—as well as thousands of dollars in costs—plead guilty. "Unless there's something exotic about it, people tend to get the same thing: $390 in fines, probation for three years, and 90 days' restriction except for alcohol class and work," Schroeder says.
Just as his motto suggests, Berman believes anyone who is arrested for DUI should fight the charges. "The consequences are so severe—[people] could lose their jobs, including people who have to drive for a living," he says. "So many people are convicted because they go ahead and plead guilty. We win most of the cases we take to trial. The jurors in OC are very fair, not rubber stamps for the prosecution."
Berman claims that most people falsely believe breath analyzers are always accurate and that police reports are often unfairly biased against suspected drunk drivers. "Often, the evidence at trial is totally different from what police put in their reports," he says. "People often do a lot better on the field sobriety test than the police indicate on their report. They don't put in all the positive and unimpaired facts that occur. On the walk-the-line test, the officer might write that a person stepped off the line a couple of times. But that means 16 out of 18 steps, they did not step off the line."
So if the police are vigilant, and 92 percent of those arrested for DUI in OC are convicted, why are there still so many gruesome accidents and deaths such as that of Cameron Cook's? As Shakespeare put it in Julius Caesar, "The fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves."
A substantial percentage of the drivers under the influence who create fatal accidents have already been convicted of DUI, but stubbornly insist on continuing to drive drunk. And depressingly, the suggested "designated driver" is often not sober. A new study in the Journal of Studies On Alcohol and Drugs found that 40 percent of designated drivers consumed alcohol before driving, with 18 percent of them having a 0.05 BAC or higher.
In Orange County, one problem keeping offenders off the road is there is no requirement for first-time DUI offenders to get an interlock device. A "pilot project" in LA and three other California counties requires first offenders to get such a device installed on cars they have access to. It's up to the legislature to make interlock devices mandatory, so with the pilot project not concluding until next year, the requirement may not make it to Orange County until at least 2015. Unfortunately, even this is no panacea; only about 24 percent of those mandated to have interlock devices actually get them, as offenders often say they've quit driving or don't have access to a car.
Yet groups such as MADD believe interlock devices are a key part of the solution. Griffin says the focus of MADD's advocacy is on the implementation of what the group calls the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, the three legs of which are HVE, interlock for all convicted drivers with a BAC of 0.08 percent, and research toward the development of high-tech Driver Alcohol Detection Devices for Safety.
Automotive manufacturers are working on such devices. They will "unobtrusively" test you through your breath and/or a touch sensor in the steering wheel to see if your BAC is below 0.08 percent, and then decide whether it will allow your car to start. Perhaps leery of being dismissed as an agent of the nanny state, MADD does not support the NTSB's call to lower the BAC level as an organization; however, leaders of chapters such as MADD Canada have long-supported the move to 0.05. As Griffin puts it, "MADD strongly recommends that the safest course of action is to not drink and drive."