Drunk Driving During the New Year’s Holiday

In America on average, nearly 12,000 people die every year in DUI-related accidents. 900,000 are arrested each year for drunk driving and one-third of those are repeat offenders. In 2011 there were 9,9878 DUI fatalities, accounting for one-third of all traffic fatalities.

The New Year’s holiday contributes to more alcohol-related traffic deaths than any other day of the year. Most deaths occur in the wee hours of New Year’s Day morning, shortly after drinkers celebrate ringing in the new year. Last year there were 122 people who died in traffic accidents on January 1. More than half of those fatalities were caused by drunk drivers.

One way some cities promote safe transportation on New Year’s Eve is by keeping public transportation systems open and running beyond usual hours. Some cities, like Los Angeles even offer free public transportation on their Metro systems in order to reduce unsafe holiday driving.

Even though DUI prevention tactics are heightened during the peak holiday season, especially on holidays like New Year’s Eve, the implementation of DUI checkpoints simply isn’t enough to prevent the dangers of drunk driving. The U.S. Congress has urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin requiring ignition interlock devices (IIDs) for all persons convicted of driving under the influence – this includes first time offenders in every state. An IID is a device that does not allow a driver’s engine to start unless the driver blows into it and registers a blood alcohol content of less than the legal limit. Currently, only 17 states and four California counties require IIDs for drivers with previous DUI convictions, and most do not include first-time offenders.

Arizona Vehicular Endangerment Laws

In the state of Arizona, “endangerment” occurs when a person recklessly endangers another person with a substantial risk of imminent death or physical injury. In cases of vehicular endangerment such behavior is exhibited when a driver portrays “extreme indifference” to a human life while driving.

Vehicular endangerment is often charged in connection with another crime. Although most commonly used in association with DUI cases, other motor vehicle offenses connected with vehicular endangerment include vehicular manslaughter, vehicular assault, street racing, hit and run accidents and eluding an officer at high speeds.

Vehicular endangerment is commonly used as a bargaining tool for a plea negotiation when the defendant has been charged with a DUI, especially in aggravated DUI cases. Aggravated DUI is a class 4 felony while endangerment is the lesser offense of a class 6 felony or class 1 misdemeanor if there was no immediate threat of death, so a defendant would likely benefit from agreeing to the lesser charge.

In a vehicular endangerment case, prosecutors must prove that the defendant was recklessly endangering other’ lives while driving. The defendant must have been aware of, and consciously disregard the fact that their actions posed an element of danger to the public.

If convicted of vehicular endangerment, a driver could face up to three years in prison as well as skyrocketing insurance rates. It is important to seek legal council from a DUI attorney to look at your case in order to prevent an endangerment conviction and its associated punishments.

Arizona moms embrace medicinal Marijuana

Marijuana and motherhood don’t seem like two topics likely to share the same sentence, but quietly in the Valley area a movement called Arizona Moms for Marijuana is slowly growing.

Victoria Nunez is a mother a a 22 month old girl, and president of Arizona Moms for Marijuana. Having already served on the board of the national organization Phoenix Normal (a group that saught to reform Marijuana laws) Nunez is now focusing on lifting the taboo on Marijuana in one of the US’s toughest drug enforcement states. Nunez medicinal use of marijuana began when she was involved in a serious car accident with a drunk driver 5 years ago. Prescription drug medications made Nunez sick, and so she found solace in smoking marijuana. Since the birth of her child she has forgone smoking until she can do so legally, but she is hoping to bring to light the many beneficial facets of marijuana use. Nunez explains, “It is a safer alternative recreationally, medically AND environmentally”.

Erica Johnson, another Arizona mother to three teenagers, makes the assertion that smoking marijuana helps makes her a better mom. 4 years ago she was diagnosed with the debilitating disease Multiple Sclerosis. During treatment she lost her hair and at one point became partially paralyzed. Johnson insists that a combination of physical therapy and marijuana has helped her heal. “I will go and take one little puff off of my pipe and that will usually…help me be a little energetic. Because fatigue is a big problem”. Johnson insists that she’s doing the right thing, “there are moms out there that whether it be medical or recreational, they shouldn’t face losing their kids or losing their lives behind something thats this innocent and far safer than a bottle of vodka”. They want to be able to take part in recreational and medical use of the drug with out out worrying about facing marijuana charges or criminal prosecution in Phoenix.

DJ Diebold, a psychotherapist who specializes in addiction, calls their conclusions, “slightly delusional”. Although he has had patients who praised it’s ability to suppress pain, he hopes to, “make it clear that it will not help you be a better parent”.

Arizona Moms for Marijuana has a membership of over 200 people and growing.

DUI Arraignment

A DUI is a serious charge in almost every state. If you have been charged with driving under the influence it is essential that you understand your options prior to your arraignment.

After being arrested and charged for a DUI you will receive a court date for your arraignment. At your arraignment you will be called before a court, informed of the offense(s) charged against you, and asked for your plea of guilty, not guilty or otherwise. The most states requires any person who has been charged with a DUI to be present at their arraignment, even if a DUI attorney has been hired in advance to represent their case.

A “not guilty” plea is recommended for those charged with a DUI because admission of guilt and therefore being convicted of a DUI would result in the suffering of all statutory mandatory penalties without recourse. After considering important factors like criminal history, specific allegations of your charge, results of your breath test, the event of an accident and any efforts you may have made to exhibit that you do not pose an imminent risk to the community or flight risk, the judge will determine conditions of release. Conditions of release are set in order to provide safety in the community (ensure that you do not continue to drink and drive) and to guarantee that you will return for any future hearings.

Standard DUI or Physical Conditions include the following:

  • No permitted refusal of a breath, blood or drug test upon request of a law enforcement officer
  • No new criminal violations
  • Electronic home monitoring (house arrest)
  • No consumption of alcohol or other mind-altering substances prior to driving
  • Mandated appearance for all scheduled court dates
  • Report any change of address to court within a specified time frame
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device in any vehicle that you drive

There are things that your local Phoenix criminal defense lawyer can do to aid your case. In addition to explaining any possible defenses before your arraignment appearance, a lawyer can guarantee a speedy trial, advise for or against the request of a jury and evaluate whether your specific circumstances qualify you for a deferred prosecution.

Having a DUI conviction on ones record can present a life-altering roadblock, so it is important that you seek legal counsel if you have been arrested for driving under the influence. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help minimize your consequences and even win your case.