Race Car Driver Arrested for DUI Manslaughter in Miami

By Mike

A Brazilian race car driver was recently arrested for a DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide after allegedly causing an accident that killed a pedestrian in Miami Beach last week, according to a report from NBC Miami.

The South American race car driver, 20-year-old Joao Paulo Escudero Mauro, made his first appearance this Friday in Miami-Dade courtroom, where the judge set his bond at a lofty sum of $250,000.

Despite this high price tag, though, Mauro soon posted bond later that afternoon, but the court will follow his movements with an ankle monitor and the Brazilian driver had to surrender his passport.

According to a report from Miami Beach police, Mauro was driving his Mercedes-Benz SUV on Collins Avenue at a speedy clip of 60 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone. While he was speeding north on Collins, Mauro allegedly swerved to the left and drove onto a nearby sidewalk.

At the same time, which was roughly 1:30 a.m. last Thursday night, 45-year-old Russell Knudson was trying to squeeze his bicycle into a rear door of his Toyota SUV when he was hit and killed by the speeding Mercedes, according to police.

After the accident, Mauro allegedly drove the Mercedes further along the sidewalk until he eventually stopped several yards later.

When police made first contact with Mauro, he reportedly had bloodshot eyes and a flushed face, and his breath apparently smelled like alcohol. Mauro admitted to police that he had been drinking earlier, and he claimed that he swerved his car to avoid another vehicle that had stopped in traffic in front of him.

While the presence of another car in the road could support Mauro’s claim that he is not guilty, Mauro’s felony DUI charge could be enhanced by the possible presence of drugs, as well as his admitted alcohol use.

When police arrested him, they noted that Mauro’s left nostril contained a “white powdery substance” and the arresting officers found a small bag of a substance that looked a lot like cocaine. The bag was found close to the area where Mauro was standing.

So, in addition to the charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, the Brazilian national will also have to defend himself against a charge of cocaine possession.

Police also noted that Mauro had “a white powdery substance in his left nostril,” and that they found a small baggie of what appeared to be cocaine near where he was standing. He was later charged with cocaine possession in addition to the DUI and vehicular homicide charges.

Mauro, however, remains undaunted, and his attorney said that he and the defendant “believe that the evidence will show that Mr. Mauro was not driving under the influence or involved in vehicular homicide.”

In addition to this claim of innocence, Mauro’s attorney also acknowledged that the defendant felt “very badly for the Knudson family.”

Mauro has competed for a few years in Brazilian stock car racing and recently made his American appearance last June at the Road America 200 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge in Wisconsin.



Man Clad in Underwear and Socks Arrested for a DUI

By Mike

There is no proper dress code for a DUI arrest, but potential drunk drivers should know that wearing nothing but underwear and socks could complicate an already difficult evening on the road.

According to a recent, tongue-in-cheek, report from the Chicago Tribune, an Illinois man wearing very little clothing (on a cold winter day, no less) was recently arrested under the suspicion of driving under the influence.

The man, whose actions certainly qualify him for consideration as the year’s silliest DUI offender, was charged with a misdemeanor DUI after he rammed his black 2009 Honda into the side of a police squad car on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

Around 11:00 a.m. last Saturday morning, a concerned citizen called police to notify them that a man was driving down a back alley in the wrong direction. The caller suggested that the driver appeared to be swerving, as well.

Police quickly responded to the call, and blocked one of the alley exits. In an effort to escape the situation, the driver casually drifted into a police car.

The occupants of the police car were further surprised when the man with the poor driving skills tumbled out of his Honda wearing only underwear and some socks. Sources do not indicate the type or color of either item of clothing.

The driver, who was identified as 24-year-old Arsenio Garcia, was charged with a misdemeanor DUI, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, illegally using an alley as a through-street, failing to reduce speed, damaging public property, and driving without a license or insurance.

Garcia will also be tried in the court of public opinion on charges of bad taste. The very bad day for Garcia ended at a hospital, where he was treated for minor scrapes to his face.

The officer who was in the squad car at the time of the collision was also sent to a hospital, where he was treated and released for minor injuries.

This incident offers a few good lessons for future drivers. First, and most importantly, if you have a few drinks in your system and feel a bit wobbly, chances are that you are not in the best condition to drive.

Taking a taxi, calling a friend, or using public transportation are all much better alternatives to spending the night in jail and facing potentially thousands of dollars in fines and a loss of a driver’s license.

In addition, regardless of whether one is driving drunk or driving sober, the use of proper attire tends to make police officers somewhat more compassionate in their subsequent treatment after a traffic-related arrest.

Fully clothed drivers, to say the least, have a better chance of convincing officers of their sobriety than men clad in only their skivvies and footwear. So, noble drivers—buckled up, sober up, and, for the love of civilization, put on some pants.



Miss USA 2010 Will Face Trial in DUI Case

By Mike

Against her wishes, former Miss USA Rima Fakih will have to soon face trial for her alleged DUI after a Michigan judge refused to give the beauty queen more time to prepare her defense, according to a report from The Detroit News.

District Judge Brigette Officer told Fakih that legal proceedings had dragged on long enough after her December DUI arrest, and that Fakih would soon have to stand trial for her drunk driving charges.

Fakih, a 26-year-old from Dearborn, Michigan, had been charged with misdemeanor drunk driving after her arrest on December 3. The police report from the incident claims that Fakih has been driving erratically at high speeds, and had failed to use a turn signal.

Perhaps more troubling for the Dearborn native than her alleged erratic driving, though, was the presence of a half-empty bottle of Moet & Chandon Champagne behind the driver’s seat of her flashy 2011 Jaguar.

After her arrest, Fakih’s blood alcohol content was measured at 0.19 and 0.20, both of which are far above the state limit of 0.08.
Unfortunately for the former Miss USA, Fakih’s high blood alcohol level qualified her for conviction under Michigan’s ridiculously named “Super Drunk Law,” which allows judges to impose stricter penalties on first-time offenders.

Many states have enacted similar laws in recent years in an effort to deter more young drivers without prior DUI convictions to keep their records clean.

Prosecutors in this case, however, have chosen not to charge Fakih under the “Super Drunk Law” and instead are looking to impose a more routine sentence for a lesser charge, driving while impaired.

In the latest hearing, the judge apparently lost her patience with Fakih’s delay tactics. The first proceeding, scheduled for December 21, had been delayed because Fakih’s lawyer was unable to attend.

After Fakih made her latest request for a delay, the judge politely declined, and ordered Fakih to face trial on March 14. If she is convicted, Miss USA 2010 could face up to 93 days in jail, as well as potential fines or the loss of her driver’s license.

In many first-time DUI trials, defendants are often forced to serve some jail time, pay a fine, or perform community service, but judges typically do not impose the maximum possible sentence.

And, in many cases, defendants simply negotiate with the judge or prosecutors to enter a plea bargain, which typically involves an admission of guilt in exchange for a lighter sentence. This option still remains open to Fakih.

States like entering plea bargains with criminal defendants because it saves the time and hassle of a trial, while still holding the drunk driver responsible for his or her actions. This reality might help Fakih escape a harsh sentence.



Study Says Men at Much Higher Risk for Drunk Driving

By Mike

The results of a recent study suggest that man are almost three times more likely than woman to be arrested for driving drunk, a finding that is sure to spur plenty of debate between the opposite sexes.

According to a report from KIVI-TV in Boise, Idaho, which cited evidence offered on an auto insurance website, men are about three times more likely to be arrested for a DUI, reckless driving, or driving without a seatbelt.

And, before male readers unleash their outrage at potentially misleading statistics, these numbers are backed up by insurance company practices.

In Idaho, for example, average car insurance premiums are 14 percent higher for men than they are for women. It seems that car insurance companies, which have a vested interest in doing ample research on safe driving, buy into the adage that men have a tendency to be more reckless behind the wheel.

In addition to the findings about DUIs, the study also discovered that roughly 80 percent of accidents involving cars hitting pedestrians are caused by men.

Of course, not everyone is convinced that men are more aggressive drivers. The report interviewed local body shops in Idaho, which confirmed that they see a 50-50 split in body work requests from drivers.

In addition, anecdotal evidence from following police blotters suggests that women are frequently asked to submit to blood alcohol tests, though it must be admitted that more male offenders seem to dot the DUI headlines each week.

And, while the debate may continue between men and women about their driving habits, there are certain demographic trends that help guide police efforts to reduce the overall instances of drunk driving.

For example, it has been conclusively shown that young people are more likely than older drivers to be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Due to this reality, ant-DUI marketing campaigns led by local governments and non-governmental organizations tend to focus their messages on younger audience to maximize the potential impact of their ad campaigns.

Thanks to the success of these forms of targeted marketing, statistics showing the proliferation of male drunk drivers may ultimately lead concerned police to target their messages to specifically male audiences.

If, in the future, anti-DUI messaging is restricted solely to young males, incidences of DUI arrests may very well decline. However, while statistics help reveal the realities behind DUIs, the act of driving while drunk has proven to be very difficult to eradicate.

Each year, millions of people get behind the wheel after having too many drinks, and a painfully small percentage of these drivers are ever caught.

By targeting DUI enforcement to certain populations, such as young males, police officers may be able to put a bigger dent in the problem of drunk driving than they would if they were casting a wider enforcement net.

Yes, this could be viewed as gender or age profiling, but in a country that sees 40,000 traffic deaths each year, drastic measures could be necessary to reduce the number of fatalities on American roads.



Gunman Killed During Routine DUI Stop

By Mike

A routine DUI traffic stop in northern California ended in a bloody melee, as a man trying to escape a DUI arrest was gunned down by police after he reached for his own weapon, according to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Sources indicate that the 42-year-old driver, whose identity has not yet been released, was stopped last week on suspicion of drunk driving at around 10:00 p.m. in Santa Clara, California.

When the responding officer saw that the man was being uncooperative, he called for backup from a nearby fellow officer. According to a police report, before additional officers arrived, the suspect was seen reaching for a revolver in his car.

In a statement released by Santa Clara police captain Phil Cooke, the officer on the scene “fired in self-defense based on the suspect’s actions.” The shots fired by the officer ultimately proved fatal for the suspected drunk driver.

Again, according to Cooke, “unfortunately, the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene, but we’re grateful there were no other injuries.”

Police shootings of suspects, whatever the situation or crime, always foster a great deal of public scrutiny, and this incident will likely follow suit. Santa Clara police officials and other authorities have already launched a full-scale investigation of the matter.

While the investigation is proceeding, the officer who fired the fatal shots will be placed on administrative duties and temporarily taken off the streets. Sources indicate that the officer has been a member of the Santa Clara police force for two years.

This incident, while harrowing, raises a few interesting issues about DUI arrests. First, since police officers never know the mindset of the person they are pulling over, they often approach even routine traffic stops with a heightened level of awareness.

As a result, drivers should refrain from making sudden movements, or taking any steps that might make it appear like they are reaching for a weapon.

In addition, drivers are cautioned to pull over in a relatively non-busy and well-lit location, both for the protection of themselves and the officers.

Moreover, when an officer approaches your vehicle after you have been pulled over, keeping your hands on your steering wheel shows the officer that you are not dangerous and allows them to approach your car with a greater degree of comfort.

Finally, and this seems like an obvious statement but it must be emphasized, drivers who are pulled over, especially on suspicion of drunk driving, should remain polite and relatively cordial during their discussion with police.

Any aggressive words, even if they are not supported by violent actions, could be interpreted by police as a sign of hostility, which could lead to further criminal charges, or, in the worst case, unwanted violent action.



Dog Escapes Fatal DUI Accident by Leaping into Ocean

By Mike

The tragic death of a pedestrian due to a DUI accident hit a Florida community hard last week, but the bizarre survival of the walker’s dog offered a unique story of its own.

A man who was kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico discovered the pedestrian’s injured dog struggling to swim several hundred yards off the Florida coast, according to a story in the Washington Post.

Sources indicate that 53-year-old Donna Chen was jogging with her dog, Barney, on a sidewalk in Siesta Key, Florida, an island located about 40 miles south of St. Petersburg.

According to a police report, Chen and her dog were struck by 22-year-old Blake Talman, who had been involved in an accident moments before and struck the jogging woman while he was attempting to flee the scene.

After the accident, an injured Barney, a Hungarian Vizsla, leapt into the ocean out of fear and began swimmingly desperately out to sea.

Several hours later, a vacationing kayaker from Bellingham, Washington discovered Barney swimming towards him while the man was trying to fish.

The kayaker, Rory O’Connor, claims that he pulled Barney into the water and noted that the dog appeared “really scared.” In addition, the dog had several wounds on his leg and was bleeding profusely. O’Connor captured the rescue on his video camera, and the footage has become something of a viral hit.

When O’Connor took the dog ashore, his sister observed that Barney was a Vizsla and reminded her brother that the dog might have a microchip, an increasingly common used by pet owners to identify lost animals.

Shortly thereafter, O’Connor took Barney to a veterinarian, who discovered a microchip and was able to identify the dog’s owner. Then, O’Connor was able to contact Chen’s family, which is how he learned of the woman’s tragic death.

Police are still befuddled as to how the dog managed to swim more than a mile away from the accident, and this feat may remain a mystery. Sources indicate that the dog is recovering and should soon return back to full health.

Police, however, declined to comment on the dog because the vase is a vehicular homicide and remains under investigation.
Of course, despite the remarkable story of Barney’s rescue, Chen’s family is mourning her loss, which could have been prevented.

Sources say that Talman, the driver who struck Chen, is facing charges of DUI manslaughter, and is being held without bail at the Sarasota County Jail in Florida. There is little doubt that Talman will likely face an extended period behind bars for the accident.

While routine DUI arrests typically involve some jail time, a suspended license, or a fine, felony DUIs—especially those that involve the death of an innocent person—are an entirely different matter.



Alleged DUI Driver Detained by Citizen’s Arrest

By Mike

In a typical DUI case, the suspect is apprehended by police officers who are wearing uniforms, or are otherwise obviously licensed police. Rarely are people suspected of DUIs arrested by civilians.

A recent incident, however, in Bassett, California illustrated what happens when good Samaritans take the law into their own hands.
According to a recent story in the San Gabriel Tribune, the suspected drunk driver—a man in his mid-40’s whose name has not yet been released—tried to flee the scene of a crash on a California freeway but was thwarted by concerned citizens.

The driver had caused a crash around 5 a.m. that clogged morning traffic on the 605 Freeway for more than an hour, according to logs from the California Highway Patrol.

The crash involved the driver’s Honda Pilot and another vehicle and, despite the driver’s high level of intoxication, the crash did not cause any serious injuries, according to an interview with CHP Officer Luis Mendoza.

In the interview, Officer Mendoza said that the drunk driver tried to flee the scene immediately after the accident. In addition, Mendoza admitted that he could not verify some reports that suggested the driver tried to steal another car when he was running away from the scene of the crash.

According to Mendoza, other drivers “saw him kind of staggering, walking away from the scene.” When they tried to hold in place, the drunk driver reportedly became “a little aggressive.”

Despite the driver’s aggressive stance, one passerby was able to handcuff the man with flexcuffs, and then forced the man to sit down. Once the man was handcuffed and seated, several citizens kept an eye on him to ensure that he wouldn’t try to flee again.

Of course, after all this effort, the driver remained uncooperative when police arrived, as he refused to take a sobriety test and did not answer the officers’ questions. Nevertheless, because of his behavior and other obvious signs, the police concluded that he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

When CHP officers arrived, the suspect was not cooperative and refused to submit to sobriety tests, the officer said. Officers determined he appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Now, the driver will face potential fines, a suspended license, or even jail time as a result of his transgression. If he had injured any of the other motorists, or if he had injured a police officer, the possible sentence he would face would be much worse.

And despite the courage of the other drivers who detained the drunk man, people who are not trained police officers are typically discouraged from taking the law into their own hands, particularly if the situation involves a dangerous person.

Of course, this advice didn’t stop a few brave motorists in California from detaining an obviously inebriated driver.



Idaho Politician Claims Amnesia Related to DUI Accident

By Mike

An Idaho politician who was involved in a DUI arrest last Father’s Day claims that he cannot remember many details about his arrest, which has troubled skeptical voters and members of his own party in the Idaho Senate.

According to a recent report from the Idaho Press-Tribune, which recently interviewed Rep. John McGee about his DUI arrest, McGee’s arrest came after his erratic driving caused him to jackknife an SUV and its cargo trailer.

After McGee was arrest, police discovered that his blood alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit, although the politician still contends that he remembers nothing from that night. McGee said he remembers having a few “celebratory drinks” after winning a golf tournament, but that the rest of the night was a blur.

For his actions, McGee pleaded guilty to the charge of a DUI, but police later dropped their charge that he was driving the car without the owner’s consent.

After his guilty plea, McGee spent 36 hours in jail (which was a far cry from the possible 180 days he could have spent behind bars), and performed 24 hours of community service. He was also fined $1,000 and, because it was his first offense, under Idaho DUI law, the arrest may be removed from his record if he follows the terms of his probation.

Of course, while his criminal record may eventually be clear, his record in the court of public opinion may have suffered long-term damage.

This week, the senator will learn whether he will retain his position as the Republican Senate Caucus chairman, or if his party will remove him from the position for fear of a public outcry.

Too be fair, McGee certainly isn’t the first politician who has recovered his position after a DUI accident, but the Idaho public remains skeptical about his ability to serve as a senator.

Nevertheless, McGee continues to fight for his position in the senate, and pictures he showed the Idaho Press-Tribune seem to support his claim that the injuries he suffered in the accident have fogged his memory of the events that led up to the crash.

Sources indicate that these photos reveal discoloration and a wide scab on the top of his head, as well bruises and deep abrasions on his waist, left knee, and torso.

And, despite McGee’s poor decision—which he readily admits was wrong—he may offer a good example of an otherwise responsible person who made one terrible decision.

Many DUI arrests, in fact, involve responsible members of the community who don’t know their own limits. In order to avoid making a similar mistake, other drivers should remember that getting behind the wheel after a few drinks is never worth the risk to one’s reputation.



Repeat DUI Offender Flees Hospital After Crash

By Mike

A California driver who was arrested for a DUI faces additional criminal charges after he fled his hospital room, where he was being treated for injuries caused by his negligent driving, in order to evade police.

52-year-old James Thomas Miller, a resident of Santa Rose, California, was arrested last week on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol after allegedly causing a crash on Highway 1 near Sebastopol, California, according to a report from the Press Democrat.

When police officers responded to the scene of the accident, they discovered that Miller had driven his Ford pickup truck off the road, which caused the car to strike an embankment. The force of this collision sent the truck spinning back onto the road, where it eventually overturned.

Emergency personnel who responded to the accident sent both the driver, Miller, and his passenger to a hospital to be treated for their wounds. This is where events grew even more interesting.

When police arrived at the hospital to question the driver, they discovered 46-year-old Kimberley Turpen, who was being treated for injuries to her head and arm. Turpen told police that she had only been a passenger, and that Miller had been driving the truck at the time of the accident.

To the officers’ chagrin, when they tried to locate Miller, hospital officials told them that he had fled the premises before the police arrived.

Fortunately for police, though, the injured driver did not get very far. They soon discovered Miller at a nearby bus stop, where he was seen stumbling around a road.

When police arrested Miller at the bus stop, they determined that he was drunk because he failed a field sobriety test, and Miller was arrested for drunk driving and other charges.

Miller faces a long road to freedom, as this is not his first DUI offense. Sources indicate that Miller has been arrested for three prior DUI offenses, as well as seven suspended license infractions. Miller was also on probation at the time of the accident.

And, under California DUI laws, Miller may face an addition felony charge for being arrested for his fourth DUI within a span of 10 years.

While most states’ DUI laws are different, almost every state punishes repeat DUI offenders more harshly than people who have only committed one offense.

Possible additional punishments for repeat DUI drivers include steeper fines, longer jail sentences, possible prison sentences, and suspended licenses. If they are allowed to driver in the future, drivers with multiple DUIs may have to use breathalyzer devices in their cars to ensure that they are sober every time they drive.

After a few DUI convictions, many drivers lose their license to drive for significant periods of time, and DUI drivers may spend up to several years in prison for their transgressions.



600 DUI Cases Fail Due to Expired Breathalyzer Certifications

By Mike

While a driver may be arrested for a DUI, there are several obstacles that the prosecutor must overcome before successfully convicting that driver on official charges.

Potential errors made by police officers during a DUI arrest include failing to follow standard police procedures, conducting an illegal search or seizure, or giving a faulty breathalyzer test.

Errors such as flawed breathalyzer tests can be a legal nightmare for police departments, as evidenced by a recent incident in Kentucky in which several alleged DUI drivers may be set free after the police made a very technical mistake.

According to an investigative report from Louisville’s Courier-Journal, the results from alcohol breath tests that were used against roughly 600 drivers may be inadmissible in court after police discovered that four lab technicians had let their licenses lapse.

In what the local prosecutor called a “very unfortunate situation,” hundreds of breath test results have been challenged because they were performed by lab technicians who were working with expired certifications.

The inadmissibility of these breath tests could lead to dropped cases against hundreds of suspected DUI drivers because the breath tests are often the best evidence police can present against people suspected of drunk driving.

According to a Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, whose cases will be weakened if the breath tests results are thrown out, these tests represent “the single most important piece of evidence at trial.”

He also observed that the results of portable breathalyzer tests, which are used in the field as a first line of detection by police officers, are not admissible in court because of their unreliability.

Thus, police typically rely on blood or breath tests that are administered at the police station after the arrest. These tests, it appears, are much more reliable than the portable units used by police officers.

O’Connell expects that many DUI lawyers will try to reverse convictions for their clients that were supported by faulty tests.

He fears that many convicted drunk drivers may be released, unless state authorities can support their convictions with other compelling evidence, such as video of the driver during the arrest, witness testimony, or the results of field sobriety tests.

And, even if the defendants are able to escape DUI charges, prosecutors may still try to convict them on other charges, like public intoxication, disturbing the peace, alcohol intoxication, and wanton endangerment, none of which require breath tests at trial.

Despite these potential alternatives, though, Louisville police are embarrassed by the incident, which they claim is very rare and hasn’t happened before in Jefferson County.

Of course, while the police and state attorneys may be upset, there are hundreds of suspected drunk drivers in Louisville who can’t believe their good fortune.



DUI Often Leads to Increase in Car Insurance Premiums

By Mike

The potential costs of a DUI arrest can be very high, as drunk drivers often face large fines, possible jail time, or a suspended license. The costs of a DUI, however, often extend beyond these immediate losses.

For example, many people who are convicted for a DUI find that their insurance premiums rise dramatically. Insurance companies, quite naturally, are more reluctant to insure drivers with a history of drunk driving.

According to a recent report from Fox Business, insurance premiums for drivers with a DUI on their driving record could rise anywhere from 30 to 100 percent.

In Colorado, for example, rates may jump by 30 percent, while North Carolina residents could face a staggering spike of 340 percent on their next car insurance bill. Some insurance companies may drop customers altogether, depending on the severity of the drunk driving incident.

While insurance rates may spike after a DUI, this rise is not necessarily permanent. The length of time rates will rise depends on your insurance company’s own policies, but it is common for your record to be wiped clean (in the insurance agency’s eyes) after about three years.

However, many states keep DUI convictions on a driver’s record for much longer periods of time, which could result in a driver facing higher premiums for up to a decade.

In California, for example, drivers are prevented from receiving a safe-driver discount for at least 10 years after a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol.

In addition to increased insurance rates, drivers also have to complete an SR-22 form, which is a certificate of responsibility that many states require drivers to complete after they have been convicted of a DUI.

This certificate of responsibility must be carried by the driver for a certain period of time (usually three to five years) after the driving incident that created the need for the special license. Again, this certificate is just another hurdle for drivers after a DUI.

Of course, the statistics showing insurance rate spikes after a DUI serve as evidence that people who are arrested for a DUI should take the charges very seriously. And just because a person is arrested for a DUI does not mean that he or she will be convicted.

A number of things can go wrong during a DUI arrest that may hurt the prosecutor’s case, and a DUI attorney may help you understand more about your legal rights after drunk driving arrest.

And, if you are able to defeat your DUI charges, your insurance company may never learn about the incident, and insurance premiums may stay put.

While this may not always be the case, it is certainly worth your time to research your legal options after a DUI arrest, because these incidents do not always have to be fatal to your reputation or your finances.