Drunk Driving: Increased or Decreased in the Last 5 Years?

One Friday night, Linda met up with some co-workers for appetizers, trivia and a few cocktails.  At the end of the night, one friend called a cab, Linda had one drink in a 3 hour period, and another friend, Joni, who left without saying good-bye, had 3 or 4 margaritas.  When Linda noticed that Joni had left the restaurant, she tried to stop her from leaving the parking lot, but her car was already gone.  Joni has a bad and dangerous habit of driving while drunk, but promises she won’t do it each time they go out for drinks.  The next morning, Linda got a call from Joni, who was calling from the police station.  Joni had been pulled over for suspicious driving, was given a breathalyzer, and was taken to jail with a BAC of 0.100 (well over the legal limit of 0.08).  After receiving a DWI, Joni told Linda that she was surprised that she had been pulled over, as she had driven at least 3 dozen times while legally drunk.  “I drive fine!” she told Linda, “The only reason I swerved was because I was trying to make a phone call.”  Linda knew that Joni’s drinking behavior was problematic and urged her to seek help.  Had Joni not been pulled over by police, she could have been responsible for the injuries or death of an innocent victim.

The Drunk Driving Epidemic

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average drunk driver has driven 80 times, while intoxicated, before the first arrest.  Drunk driving is expensive (an average of $500 per adult/year) and happens far too frequently (1-in-3 people will be involved in an alcohol related crash in their lifetime).  Additionally, drunk driving is responsible for thousands of crash-related injuries and deaths each year.  Fortunately, drunk driving incidents have decreased in the last 5 years.  In 2005, there were 13, 582 drunk driving related fatalities, but five years later, in 2010, there were 10, 228.  Reports show that the number of fatalities and injuries continue to decrease.  While thousands of drunk driving related injuries and deaths are still far too many, it seems as though drivers are finally starting to “wise up” and/or enforcement is becoming stricter.  Either way, the numbers show that more lives are being spared on our roadways.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the decrease in drunk driving incidents can be partly attributed to drunk driving awareness and enforcement efforts such as the Zero Tolerance Laws.  Additionally, among major crimes, driving under the influence (DUI) has one of the highest arrest rates with more than 1.4 million DUI arrests in 2010.  High rates of arrests are potentially preventing drunk driving related incidents before they occur.

Just because drunk driving, overall, has decreased, it does not mean that you should start or continue to drive while under the influence.  Drunk driving is dangerous and very difficult.  When you are impaired, you’re driving becomes impaired.  Reaction time slows down, judgment is poor, and depth perception is inaccurate, which can all lead to an accident that could result in injuries or even death, leaving YOU with the legal ramifications.  Don’t take the risk, don’t increase the problem, don’t drink and drive!

Divorce and Drinking in CA: Will a DUI Affect My Custody Rights?

When parents are going through a divorce that involves a battle for the custody of children, there are considerations when DUI charges are pending or were present in the past. California courts are concerned with the safety, well-being and proper care of the children. Having physical custody of a child involves many responsibilities. Ultimately, the goal of the court system is to place children in a home that offers optimum parenting skills.

If you are trying to obtain legal custody and not physical custody, a DUI may still be a serious consideration. Decisions about a child’s health, education and many other details of their daily life may be better handled by the parent that shows responsibility through their own actions.

What Else May a DUI Charge Imply?

Our Walnut Creek DUI lawyer in California suggests that the court will want to know your background as a parent. If you have a current DUI charge, is it because you are a partier? If so, will parenting take a backseat to the lure of your social life? Was the child present in the car when you were stopped for the violation? Even if you had just dropped off your child or were just arriving to pick up her up, that is a serious situation and concern for the court when making custody decisions.

Current DUI Charge

The wisest decision you can make when faced with a DUI charge while a custody hearing is in progress, is to get an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced with DUI cases. If you live in Northern California, contacting an attorney local to the area is essential to helping you achieve a favorable outcome. In fact, if this DUI is your first offense, a California court may allow a plea bargain that will reduce the charge so that no DUI will be entered on the records.

While the DUI charge may enter into the decision about custody, facing the charge and making an effort to resolve the issue will also have an impact, and hopefully, a positive one. Calling an attorney as early as possible after a DUI arrest is important because he or she can counsel you in many ways if they are involved in the case from the beginning. You could even choose a lawyer who is experienced in both DUI and child custody issues.

Past DUI Charges

Some other things to think about if you have past DUI charges on you record are: How did you handle those? Did you have more than one? Was it determined that you had a drinking problem? If so, did you complete a program to conquer the addiction and did that result in no additional DUI charges? A continuing history of DUIs is extremely detrimental to a custody hearing.

Another issue that may have adverse effects on your child custody case is if the DUI charge was coupled with other charges. Did the DUI involve an accident? Were any criminal charges filed? Were people hurt or was property damaged? All of these factors will be considered in your ability to care for your children.

Finding the Best DUI Attorney

As a parent facing a custody battle and a DUI issue, you will undoubtedly need the best attorney you can afford. Sharing custody of your children, at least part of the time, is a big incentive to get an attorney on your side as soon as the DUI charge is filed. A qualified legal team will be instrumental in helping you by offering the best possible options and alternatives in your specific situation. Knowing all your options and what actions you need to take is vital to the success of both your DUI charge and your custody hearing.

Karla M. Somers has worked as a child advocate and family mediator for divorce and custody cases in the state of New York. She is a contributing writer for the Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson, a dedicated Walnut Creek DUI lawyer team who is passionate about DUI defense and parental rights cases. They can answer your questions and help you put legal matters behind you.