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Posted on in DUI

People accused of a DUI have a right to a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to challenge the automatic suspension of their driving privileges. These are administrative hearings, independent and separate from the criminal case. The hearing officer is responsible for determining several issues: 1) whether there was probable cause for the vehicle stop, 2) whether the motorist was advised of the implied consent laws and submitted to a chemical test, 3) whether the motorist was driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% and 4) Whether there are any defenses. However, one hearing officer took her responsibilities to a new level, by accepting bribes from lawyers in order to set the license suspensions aside.

DUI suspensions are taken very seriously by the DMV. However, Hearing Officer Alva Benavidez recently pleaded guilty in San Diego Federal Court, admitting that she set aside DUI suspensions in exchange for bribes. She pleaded to one count of conspiracy to accept bribes.

Among the items she received in order to look the other way were designer purses, sunglasses and cash, mainly from certain, and so far un-named attorneys. According the UT San Diego News, Benavidez admitted accepting bribes from six attorneys amounting to approximately $5,000 in money and merchandise. Benavidez worked for the DMV since 2000, but recently quit her job in the wake of the bribery investigation. She has not yet been sentenced, but faces up to five years in federal prison. She is set to be sentenced on April 20, 2015.

A jury convicted a man of DUI related vehicular manslaughter in a tragic but now infamous Pebble Beach case. According to news, thirty-two year old Stuart Elder was found guilty of causing the death of Sharon Daly and Linda Larone while driving his own vehicle while intoxicated. Elder's girlfriend, a passenger in his car, was seriously injured in the accident.

The jury concluded that Elder was driving his vehicle with a blood alcohol content near or at .17% and that he caused the accident that resulted in the death of two people and the injury of a third. They heard testimony that the defendant had been drinking wine earlier in the day at the annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival. Officers testified that he operated his Cadillac Escalade at three times the posted speed limit when he lost control, crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with the victim's vehicle.

DUI related vehicular manslaughter requires a finding that the defendant was driving impaired as a result of alcohol intoxication and that the defendant committed a law violation or an omission of a duty while driving. In this case the defendant was driving with a blood alcohol content at .17% (more than twice the per se legal limit) and was driving in excessive of the basic speed law.


San Mateo County charged a man with felony DUI last year after he slammed his car into a SamTrans bus, injuring five people. He pleaded “open” meaning the court could have sentenced him to two years state prison, which prosecutors were asking for. However, earlier today the court sentenced the man to one year county jail, five years probation and the other mandatory terms and conditions including the DUI Offender Class.

Felony DUI can be charged on a first offense if the drunk driving resulted in bodily injury. Vehicle Code section 23153 states that if a person drives a motor vehicle while intoxicated and commits an unlawful act while driving that results in the injury of a person, he may be charged with felony DUI. A fourth offense for driving under the influence may also be charged as a felony.

The penalties for a felony DUI are stiff: two, three or four years in state prison (or up to six years if the victim suffered great bodily injury), three to five years of formal probation, the 9 to 18-month DUI offender class and a five year revocation of driving privileges.


Posted on in DUI

Arrests for driving under the influence, or DUI, fell by ten percent in Santa Clara County. For the 2014 Christmas season, the county reports forty-six (46) fewer DUI arrests made at check points and other “saturation patrols.” 468 arrests were made as a part of DUI enforcement patrols in 2013 as opposed to 422 such arrests last year during the Christmas and New Year holiday season. This number does not reflect the total number of DUI arrests made in the county for the year, but just those arrests made as a part of DUI checkpoints and other “Avoid the 13” operations in the month of December.

It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in California while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. It is also per se illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or above. (See Vehicle Code section 23152(a) and (b).)

The consequences of a DUI conviction as a first offense is 48 hours to six months in jail, entry into the First Offender Program, three years probation, and a six month license suspension. Each subsequent conviction raises the stakes for the driver including more jail time and longer suspension periods. For example, a conviction of second DUI will result in a one year suspension. A fourth DUI may be charged as a felony and may result in a state prison sentence.


Posted on in DUI

A driver suspected of a DUI (driving under the influence) may now face a felony vehicular manslaughter charge in San Mateo County. The criminal defendant is accused of driving into an 84-year old woman, while backing out of a Walgreens drive thru.

A DUI may amount to manslaughter if a person died as a result of the drunk driving. On a second or subsequent allegation of DUI, the defendant may be charged with murder if the driving resulted in the death of another person.

On November 14, 2014 the 21 year old defendant was making her way through a local Walgreens drive-thru, when she decided to back her vehicle out. As a result she ran into a pedestrian, 84 year old Nina Falk. The victim later succumbed to her injuries and passed away at a local trauma center. The defendant immediately fled the scene but was later discovered by police. She was arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and felony DUI. The District Attorney is expected to amend the charge to include vehicular manslaughter in the wake of the victim's death.

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