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San Diego DUI Lawyer

by | Mar 30, 2010 | Criminal Defense

I must admit, I’ve got a certain fondness for listening to war stories from some of the older local criminal defense attorneys in San Diego. By “older” I mean attorneys who have been defending DUI cases since the 1970’s. I’ve heard, that the way things used to be; on a first time DUI arrest all the lawyer had to do was show up in court with proof of their client’s clean DMV record and voila — case dismissed.

On a related note, last year I listened to a long-time judge here in San Diego County when granting my client’s motion to terminate probation early after his DUI conviction, describe how during his many years of service in law enforcement and as a judge he has watched the definition of DUI evolve in California…how DUI’s used to be .15, then they were .10, and now they are .08. Prior to the 1980’s, if you were pulled over while driving with anything less than a .15 B.A.C. you weren’t even necessarily considered too intoxicated to drive, and you were likely sent on your way with a warning.

Boy, how times have changed.

If you’ve ever been pulled over for DUI in the last 10 years, you know no one gets off with a warning anymore, .08 can be as little as two drinks, and after spending the night in the drunk tank you’d be released on your own recognizance with a citation to appear. Well, not anymore – at least as far as the old “night in the drunk-tank” goes. As bad as the DUI arrest experience has already become, here in San Diego it just got worse.

Beginning in 2010, if you are arrested for DUI in San Diego you will not be released the following day by the Sheriff from jail on your own recognizance to appear. Rather, you will be required to post bail in the amount of $2,500 to be released from jail. If you are unable to post bail you will remain in jail, at least until you first appear before a judge at arraignment, which could be 3-4 days from the date of arrest and there are no guarantees you will even be released then. If you are unable to post bail, and aren’t granted release on recognizance, you will remain in jail until your case is resolved via dismissal, plea bargain or trial. This process can sometimes take months.

So what does this mean for you? At the very least, the DUI process just became even more expensive. To pay a bondsman to bail out a relative or friend will cost $250. Looking at the bigger picture, this will cause problems for the San Diego Sheriff and worsen the public safety of the community. It is common knowledge that the vast majority of arrests in San Diego are for the crime of DUI. On any given weekend our jails are packed with those recently arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence. Most of those arrested will be able to post bail, but a significant percentage will not. Inevitably, the number of persons who remain in jail will add to the overcrowding of jails already operating at maximum capacity.

Even a child knows, if you pour more water into an already full glass, the excess water will spill. The same laws of physics and maximum volume apply to San Diego jails. With our jails already operating at capacity, the mandate to jail DUI offenders will inevitably result in the spillage (release) of other inmates. Some of the inmates who will be freed to make room to incarcerate DUI defendants will be violent criminals, sex offenders and gang-members.

If I can finally get to the point of today’s blog, it’s this…mark my words, San Diego’s new policy of jailing DUI defendants will lead to an increase of criminals back on the streets of America’s Finest City. While I agree we must do all we can to discourage Driving Under the Influence, we shouldn’t do it in a way that creates bigger problems. San Diego residents will likely agree, for purposes of public protection that multiple DUI offenders and extremely intoxicated defendants should face jail as a consequence of DUI, but would they feel the same way if they knew that violent by nature criminals and sex offenders would be out of jail sooner? My guess is San Diegans would rather see the violent criminal or sex offender locked up than the broke college kid who got arrested for DUI but can’t post bail.

San Diego Courts and Law Enforcement, please re-evaluate the merits of your new DUI bail policy and bring back the On Recognizance Release!

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Office of Marc S. Kohnen
1350 Columbia Street, #700
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 398-2500

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