Imagine being questioned about issues surrounding your driving privileges or driving behavior. An officer is typically trying to fish for a vehicle code violation and many vehicle code violations are strict liability crimes and are easier to prove based on an officer’s eyewitness account of the events. However, having an experienced criminal defense attorney that specializes in driving offenses will enhance your chances in getting a reduction or dismissal in your case.
What is a Driving Offense?
There are many crimes that may be construed as a driving offense. Most people may think that the odds of being placed behind bars for a driving offense are extremely high. However, the chances of going to jail increases based on the consequence of the driving offense if it resulted in death, serious bodily injury, or an accident. Also, the chances of jail increases if you are considered a multiple offender of a driving charge such as 2nd or 3rd time DUIs. Also, you could be charged with a felony driving offense if this is your 4th time DUI.
How do I Obtain the Police Report in a Driving Offense?
Officers are required to follow strict police procedure in any investigation involving a vehicle. Most CHP officers have dash cam video footage also known as MVARS that capture the entire encounter. Other law enforcement agencies in San Diego rely solely on body cam video footage to record the encounter. Depending on the type of law enforcement agency involved the discovery will differ but one thing will remain consistent and that is an Officer’s sworn statement of what they observed. These officers are not experts and often time make rookie mistakes while on patrol duties. It is important to obtain any and all records that exist in your case under California Penal Code section 1054.1.
If you hire an experienced criminal attorney early on in your case, the first thing they will do is make a formal request to the prosecutor for the entire discovery in your case. If any scientific instrument was used, then calibration and maintenance reports are required. If there was more than one person involved in the examination of evidence, then a list of their job descriptions, past reports and qualifications are required. Also, if any exculpatory information exists that would lead to your innocence; it must be turned over by the prosecutor in your case.
How Do I Find Out What the Charge Is in a Driving Offense?
The California vehicle code section is where you can find all the offenses that can be construed as a driving offense. Most driving offenses will have some kind of DMV implication on your license. You can find most information about the consequences of a vehicle code section violation on your driving record on the DMV website http://www.dmv.ca.gov
Are Driving Offenses Considered Infractions, Misdemeanors or Felonies?
Most driving offenses under the vehicle code section are referred to, as infractions, which ultimately have a very minimal impact on your driving record and the penalties you might endure, are minimal as well. However, misdemeanors carry harsher penalties than simple infractions and felonies are the most serious of all charges. Most misdemeanor driving offenses carry duration of suspension time on your driving privileges. While felony driving charges may impact your driving privileges indefinitely. Misdemeanor driving offenses are a result of a reckless disregard to public safety. However, felony driving offenses are often the most serious consequence of a disregard to public safety, such as an accident resulting in serious bodily injury or death. Most felony cases carry penalties that will result in jail time and revocation of your driving privileges. Misdemeanor offenses will result in a short suspension time of your driving privileges and a probation period to watch and see if you will commit another crime in the future to enhance your sentencing.
What Factors Does the Court Look At in Driving Offense Cases?
A crime of reckless driving, driving on a suspended license, driving under the influence, etc. is typically considered a misdemeanor whenever anyone operates a vehicle that will pose a risk to others. If the risk is greater than necessary and results in a tragic incident, then the court will consider aggravating factors in enhancing the driving offense to felony conduct. The courts want to know the entire facts surrounding why you are in the position that brought you to the court. This means the court will look at past driving history, the conditions of the road that day, or any negligence from victims, witnesses, etc. If you want to know more about the court process in handling a driving offense please click the following link to the San Diego Courts.
All courts know that if you are being charged with a driving offense it is more than simply making a mistake or acting negligent behind the wheel. Someone who is charged with a driving offense must have acted willfully with an active disregard for the safety of others. The prosecution will have the police officer testify as to his or her personal knowledge of the events that lead up to his decision in either citing or arresting you for the driving violation. Most of the time officers will make up their mind about their own facts of what happened. It is critical to hire an experienced attorney that handles driving offense cases to show the court the other side of the story. This is done by strategic cross-examination of all witnesses including the officer in your case.
What is Required For An Officer to Make An Arrest For a Driving Offense?
The law requires an officer to have probable cause to make an arrest for any driving offense. This is based on facts that the officer observed based on his training and experience. The officer will often refer to “under the totality of circumstances” to suggest a criminal offense did occur. However, the officer is required to observe clues based on his training under NHTSA standards (http://www.nhtsa.gov/). The National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration has conducted studies and created manuals where if an officer performs tests correctly then there is a high probability that one of the driving offenses has occurred. It will drastically enhance your chances of winning a driving offense charge when you hire an experienced attorney that understands the training and standards required from an officer in the field. If you want to learn more about driver safety information and the training an officer is required to have in the field in stopping you for a driving offense check out the California Highway Patrol website at http://www.chp.ca.gov
What Are the Consequences of a Driving Offense?
Often times there is minimal impact on your driving privileges if you are charged with an infraction offense. If you are eligible for driving school, that would be the best way to eliminate any exposure to increase premiums on your insurance or problems obtaining a driver’s license. However, if you find yourself looking at misdemeanor or felony charges, then you can expect significant impact on your driving privileges. It is important to find an attorney that is experienced in fighting both DMV and criminal cases.
Most DUI cases, other misdemeanor driving offense crimes, and felonies require that you handle a DMV administrative hearing prior to the commencement of your criminal case. This provides your attorney an opportunity to obtain the discovery and subpoena witnesses to testify under oath prior to any criminal case starts. This will increase your chances at winning during the criminal proceedings because having an advantage over the prosecution who will not know what happens at the DMV proceedings. The purpose of the DMV proceedings is to make an informed decision that there is probable cause that the offense had been committed, while the criminal courts require that the offense be committed beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard of proof is different for both proceedings.
Even if the DMV suspends your license, there is always an option to get your license reinstated through either a hardship application or departmental review. Most importantly, Attorney Vik Monder has been successful in filing Writs of Mandates to overturn DMV decisions on cases where they want to revoke your license.