A recent acquittal I had in an attempted homicide case in which the client was facing 75 years to life had me reflecting on our criminal justice system. Sitting on a jury is a difficult task, particularly in a criminal case. Jurors are tasked with literally deciding the fate of an individual’s life. Although human nature automatically leans towards believing the person must have done something wrong to be sitting in a courtroom facing charges. But, the truth is, innocent people are charged and sometimes convicted.
Think about it. A juror enters the court room, sees a defendant sitting at the table, possibly restrained to his chair. They presume there must be some evidence, or he would not be in custody, arrested and facing charges. So, while listening to the evidence, the juror is already preconditioned to believe that the person must be guilty of something. It is a difficult task to put that aside, and actually say, no, there is not enough evidence, the defendant is not guilty.
But doing that, holding the government to its burden, is actually upholding our law. Nicholas Kristof wrote a compelling piece in the Sunday NYT about a situation in which that did not happen. Chris Morton was wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife. He served 25 years before he was released based on DNA testing. It is a heart wrenching story.
But, jurors also get it right. Sometimes the evidence is enough to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And sometimes, when the evidence is not enough, the jury does do the right thing, and acquits the defendant. On June 18, 2014, a Sacramento jury did just that in one of my cases.
Ruben Lopez was facing 75 years to life, based on three counts of attempted murder with gang enhancements. The facts involved a verbal altercation between two groups with one person firing a gun. Ruben Lopez was the only person charged. During the trial I was able to demonstrate through systematic, persistent, effective cross-examination and defense witnesses that the evidence did not add up. And at the end of the day, the jury found him not guilty of all charges. It was a wonderful moment. I worked diligently over the six week trial to attack the prosecution’s case, demonstrating the problems and inconsistencies. And in one breath Mr. Lopez went from facing 75 years in prison to being home with his family.
The Fourth of July is such a wonderful summer holiday. The picnics, the BBQs, and of course the fireworks – all make you feel as though summer is really here. But as we approach the long weekend, keep in mind that along with all of that celebrating, it is easy to misjudge a situation and end up driving when you have had too much to drink. Placer County has announced that it will be increasing its DUI checkpoints and officers on the road. Sacramento, no doubt, will be doing the same. If you end up in the unfortunate situation of being detained or arrested for DUI, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- When an officer stops you, always be polite and respectful. You have to provide them with your license, proof of insurance and real name. You do not have to answer their questions about where you have been or what you have been drinking. If the officer asks you to take a breath or blood test, you must comply, or risk losing your license for at least a year. * Now the test you must take is the breath or blood test at the police station, and not the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) device they offer at the scene.
- At the time of arrest, if the officer confiscated your license, and gave you a temporary license (it will be a pink piece of paper), you only have 10 days from the date of arrest to request a DMV hearing. It is critical that the DMV hearing is requested within 10 days. If it is requested, your license will typically remain good while the DMV hearing is pending. You can request this hearing yourself, or you may contact an attorney. Most attorneys will handle the DUI and DMV hearing together.
- Once you are released you will be given a court date. You do not have to hire an attorney before that court date. When you arrive in court, the DA will give you an offer or you may ask to continue the case to hire an attorney (or have one appointed to assist you.) Although if you hire an attorney typically you will not need to appear in court and your attorney can handle the matter for you.
So, why should you consider hiring an attorney? Having a private attorney from the very beginning ensures your DMV matter and DUI case are handled in the way that best suits your needs. For example, an attorney who is representing a client at the DMV hearing, in conjunction with the DUI, will be able to review the discovery early, so that the client and attorney may decide the best way to aggressively fight the case. A private attorney also allows the client the ability to NOT attend court, in most cases. This means that the attorney will be able to minimize the damage, embarrassment and inconvenience to your life, while still actively pursuing the best possible outcome.
But, of course, no one wants to have to be in the situation where they will need to hire an attorney. So, as the weekend approaches, keep some simple rules in mind:
- A good rule of thumb is one drink per hour. If you drink more than that, consider calling a taxi or a friend for a ride home;
- You can get a DUI in boat or on a bicycle. Although the repercussions are less severe, they are still unpleasant. Drink responsibly before putting yourself in charge of a car, boat or bike.
- Remember to drink water and eat food throughout the day. It is easy to lose track of time. You are less likely to over-indulge if you have eaten substantively and had beverages other than alcohol throughout the day.
OF COURSE this is not a guarantee that you won’t become inebriated or impaired if you follow these rules, so always exercise independent discretion. If you think you may have had too much to drink, than do not drive.
But if you do end up in the unfortunate position of being arrested for a DUI, do not panic. Pick up the phone, and call The Law Office of Kelly Babineau, so that I may assist you through this process and obtain the best result possible.
HAPPY 4th of JULY!!