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.



Judge Overrules DUI Conviction for Deaf Man

By Mike

In a victory for deaf rights advocates, a judge In Washington state recently overturned a DUI charge leveled against a deaf man who had not had the aid of a sign language interpreter during his initial court appearance.

The ruling brings an end to five years of legal wrangling for 33-year-old William Kral, who had spent years appealing his past conviction on DUI charges despite the fact that he did not have a trained interpreter assisting him during his DUI arraignment.

According to a report from The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, the nightmare began for Kral in December 2005, when he was arrested in Benton County, Washington on suspicion of drunk driving and driving with a suspended license.

However, when the deaf man was arraigned after his arrest, the courtroom did not provide a properly trained interpreter. According to Kral, the interpreter told him a document was simply a continuance of the man’s case.

The document, however, waived Kral’s right to a speedy trial. Due to the miscommunication, Kral signed a piece of paper that severely limited his rights. As a result, Kral allegedly signed a paper waiving his constitutional right to a speedy trial without adequately understanding the nature of the document.

At the time, the court overlooked this disadvantage, and eventually found Kral guilty of driving drunk. Kral had to serve a nine-month prison sentence, which included three months in an alcohol treatment program, and had to pay more than $4,600 in fines.

Over the course of the next five years, Kral struggled through several appeals, in which he was aided by several different court-appointed attorneys.

Finally, in August, an appellate court ruled that Kral had been denied his constitutional rights when he was not provided with a properly trained translator. The judge sent the case back to the trial court for a reversal of the decision.

This final reversal occurred last week, when the trial court admitted its wrongdoing by throwing out Kral’s conviction and ordering that the state repay the $4,600 he had paid in fines.

Such an action, however, offers little solace for Kral, who cannot recover the nine months he spent behind bars. To make matters worse, Kral’s prison sentence forced him to lose his construction job and his girlfriend at the time.

In addition, despite Kral’s painful ordeal, the district court seems to have failed to learn its lesson. In the recent hearing, Kral had to provide his own professionally-trained interpreter because the court still did not offer one to deaf defendants.

Thus, while Kral won his individual battle, it came at a great personal cost, and it appears that the court has yet to change its discriminatory practices.

Nevertheless, Kral and his attorney hope that the decision will eventually help improve the experience of other deaf defendants in Washington courts.



DUI Trial for Driver in MLB Player’s Death Continues

By Mike

The trial of DUI defendant Andrew Gallo is now focused recently on whether Gallo knew that driving drunk was a dangerous decision just before he hit and killed Nick Adenhart, a pitcher for Major League Baseballs’ Anaheim Angels, and two other people.

The prosecution in the case, in its closing statements, made the claim that Gallo knew the dangers of what he was doing, and that he cared only about himself, according to an article in the Associated Press.

Deputy District Attorney Susan Price told the jury in the California DUI case that Gallo “made the decision to get intoxicated beyond the point of any reason.”

The defense argued that Gallo did not act out of malice, and did not mean to kill anybody. According to the defense, Gallo thought that his stepbrother would be the designated driver, and only drove after his stepbrother became intoxicated as well.

Gallo was in a state of blackout brought on by excessive drinking.

Price replied by saying, “He doesn’t get rewarded for three free murders because he chose to get too drunk. The car keys weren’t forced upon him. They weren’t glued to his hand.”

The prosecution allege that Gallo and his stepbrother drank beer and took shots at three different bars over the course of several hours before he ran a red light at 65 miles per hour and struck the car in which Adenhart was a passenger.

Adenhart was killed, as were his friends Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson. Their car was allegedly T-boned by Gallo’s car. Stewart and Pearson were killed instantly, while Adenhart died while in surgery. Earlier that evening Adenhart had pitched his first game of the season for the Anaheim Angels.

Jon Wilhite was the fourth passenger in the car and the only survivor. He has endured a long rehabilitation after skull and spine injuries.

Gallo has pleaded not guilty to three counts of second degree murder. According to the prosecution, his blood alcohol content was three time over the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle.

If he is convicted of the charges, which include others for fleeing the scene and DUI-related charges, he faces 50 years in jail.



Holdout Juror Leads to Mistrial in San Diego DUI Case

By Topher

A recent DUI case in San Diego was declared a mistrial after a single juror held off from deciding whether the defendant was behind the wheel when a car struck another vehicle and killed four people, according to 10 News.

Deanna Fridley was on trial in the case in which the four were killed in Pala Casino, California. Fridley claimed that she was not the driver of the car that got into the deadly December 14, 2007, accident, and one of the jurors in the case would not conclude that it was her, leading to the mistrial.

The jurors in the case informed the judge that they had reached an 11-1 deadlock. They had been apart for a holiday break, and on their return they announced that they could not come to a unanimous agreement on the charges.

Fridley was also accused of DUI causing injury and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license.

Judge Runston Maino, serving in the case, declined to enact a motion by the prosecution to replace the juror with an alternate juror. “You haven’t failed as jurors; you haven’t failed as individuals,” he told the jurors in light of their lack of unanimity.

Fridley, 26, faced four 15-years-to-life sentences if she had been convicted in the case. Her defense attorney, James Boyd, addressed the media after the mistrial was declared, saying that he was “really happy” with the result. “My question,” he said, “is how is it that 11 of them actually thought she was driving? It’s a real who-done-it. Was she driving or not?”

A retrial of the case could come in six to eight months, and there will be a status update in July.

According to prosecutors, Fridley was driving over 85 miles per hour and swerved over the lane divider before crashing into and killing Luis De Santiago, his wife Lina, and Luis Baez and his wife Rubi. They also claimed that Fridely had spent the day smoking meth and drinking with a friend. Fridley was allegedly driving a GMC Yukon, while the victims were in a Toyota Camry.

Fridley testified that she had switched seats with her friend before the crash. The friend, Anthony Boles, denies this claim.

Fridley will remain in custody, and her bail is set at $1 million.



Officers Arrested for Altering DWI Charges

By Mary Ann

ABC 11 in North Carolina reported that six police officers were arrested on charges related to changing DWI records and charges.

Each of the officers faces multiple felony charges. One officer is facing 65 felong counts!

So what does this mean for your DUI trial?

It means that there may be challenge to the evidence in your DUI case. There are strict procedures that poilce must follow during a DUI stop and during collection of evidence.

If these procedures aren’t followed – accidentally or purposefully – you may be able to challenge your case.

First, know your state’s DUI laws. Then, you may want to ask follow-up questions to a local attorney who can offer advice on the some of your options.

Above all, stay on your toes. You never know who was writing your ticket.



Man Accused of DUI Freed After Seven Months Without Trial

By Mary Ann

John D. Goodale sat in the Oswego County, New York jail for seven months following his fifth DUI arrest. The Post-Standard of Syracuse reports that he was finally released because no action had been taken in his case.

Goodale had waived his right to a speedy trial while his attorney negotiated to get Goodale into Oswego County Drug Court. When Goodale was not allowed into Drug Court, he revoked his waiver of speedy DUI trial.

The Post-Standard says the District Attorney complained that the judge seemed to think Goodale’s was the only case the District Attorney’s Office had. Due to limited resources, the DA simply had not been able to bring the case to trial.

The U.S Constitution demands a speedy trial for all accused of a crime, period. Lacking resources is not an excuse for the DA to deprive a defendant of his constitutional rights.