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DUI Checkpoints on Halloween: Laws to Remember

Welcome to FindLaw's DUI Law series. If you have been charged with a DUI, know someone who has, or just want to know about the law and how to protect your rights during a DUI stop, please come back each week for more information. Want to hear something truly scary? You had a few drinks, are on your way home, and there are police lights on the road up ahead. Do you look too drunk to drive? What's your blood alcohol content? Are you going to jail tonight? DUI checkpoints can be a frightening experience. With 55 deaths last Halloween in drunk driving accidents, and promises of more DUI checkpoints this season, the prospect of a DUI is even more horrifying. So make sure you remember these laws if you run into a DUI checkpoint this Halloween. Know What to Expect According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Knowledge is the antidote of fear." And knowing what happens at a DUI checkpoint can assuage your fear of them. You should know that most DUI checkpoints are legal, and officers are allowed to stop your car and request license, insurance, and registration information.Based on your interaction, they may ask you to perform field sobriety tests or submit to a breathalyzer or drug swab. So the stop will resemble a normal DUI stop, only officers don't need a good reason to pull you over -- they just need a neutral formula for stopping motorists. Know What to Do No, it's not illegal to turn around before a DUI checkpoint. However, the police may still stop you for other reasons. If they see you driving erratically, making an illegal turn, or otherwise violating traffic laws you can still get pulled over. Once a drunk-driving investigation is started, it will be similar to any other, so make sure you follow some handy tips for DUI checkpoints. Know What Not to Do Sometimes, knowing what not to do at a DUI checkpoint is better than knowing what to do. Obviously, you don't want to drink and drive, but if you're reading this post, we're guessing that's not an option. You should also avoid driving or acting erratically, being disrespectful of police, and having lose bottles of alcohol rolling around in your car. Oh, and not having a gun in your lap can help as well. If you've been spooked by a DUI charge this Halloween, contact a local DUI attorney today. Related Resources: Don't face a DUI alone. Get your case reviewed by a lawyer for free now. (Consumer Injury) Halloween DUI Checkpoints Should Scare Adults (KPCC) Halloween 101: Halloween DUI Checkpoints Planned (FindLaw Blotter) Can You Turn Around at a DUI Checkpoint? (FindLaw Blotter)
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How to Sleep It Off in Your Car Without Getting a DUI

No one wants to get a DUI. But sometimes we don't realize how intoxicated we are until sitting down behind the wheel. If you have that moment of clarity, can you just pull over and try and sleep it off? Or can you get charged with DUI, even if you weren't driving at the time? Take Extra Precautions for the Best Chance at Avoiding a DUI Even though you tried to do the right thing and not drive, you may have to take a few extra steps to make sure you hopefully don't get arrested. For the best chance at avoiding a DUI, make it clear that you're actually sleeping, and not taking a driving break.For example, don't sleep in the driver's seat; instead, move to the back seats or at least the passenger seat. Also, don't have your keys on your person. If you place the keys in the trunk, you may be in a better position to convince a police officer that you had no intention of driving. Out of Luck in Some States Unfortunately, "drinking and parking" may simply be illegal. While state DUI laws can vary, most states allow for DUI convictions so long as you are "in control of the vehicle." So the "D" in DUI stands for either "Driving" or "could possibly Drive." Courts have upheld DUI convictions for drivers asleep at the wheel with the car running, asleep across the front seat with their head near the passenger door, and asleep in the front seat with their keys in their pocket. How Do Courts Determine If You Have Been Driving? Whether you can be charged with DUI for trying to sleep it off will depend on the DUI laws in your state, but most courts look at a set of factors when trying to determine if you've been driving your car: The location of your vehicle (whether you're on or off the road) Your location (where in your vehicle you're sleeping) The location of the keys in your vehicle (whether they're in or out of the ignition) The operability of your vehicle (whether your vehicle could be driven) Obviously, the best option is not to get behind the wheel after drinking in the first place. And while it's commendable that you've decided driving while drunk is a bad idea, you may want to take extra precautions (like calling a friend or a cab) to make sure your good intentions aren't met with a DUI conviction. If your effort to sleep it off didn't work, or you otherwise have been charged with a DUI, you should contact an experienced DUI attorney near you.Editor's Note: This article has been updated on 7/14/15 to clarify the precautions that should be taken to avoid a DUI. Related Resources: Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory) Sleeping Man in Elf Suit Arrested for DWI (FindLaw Blotter) Not All DUI Arrests Are Legal: 5 Notable Cases (FindLaw Blotter) State-by-State DUI Penalties (FindLaw)
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After a DUI Arrest, Don’t Forget Your DMV Hearing

In the aftermath of a DUI arrest, it's important to remember that in addition to the criminal charges you are facing, you may also have a limited amount of time to request a hearing with your state's DMV in order to avoid a lengthy driver's license suspension. In most states, immediately following a driving under the influence arrest, a person essentially has two different cases to deal with: the criminal case in criminal court and the administrative case through a state's Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent vehicle registration agency. Why is it important to know about this administrative hearing process? Driver's License Suspension In most states, a driver who's been pulled over and cited for suspected DUI will have his or her driver's license automatically suspended. In order to have your driver's license reinstated, a person arrested for DUI must file a request for a hearing within a specific number of days, typically 10, although the exact deadline varies by state. In Colorado, for example, drivers who have their license revoked following a DUI arrest only have 7 days to request a hearing. Even if your criminal DUI charges are dropped or you negotiate a plea to a lesser charge -- such as a "wet reckless" -- failure to request a DMV hearing may mean that your driver's license will remain suspended or revoked (although in some states, such as California, you may be able to regain your driving privileges if you are acquitted in criminal court). What Happens at a DMV Hearing? The DMV hearing is an administrative, not criminal, proceeding, but you still have the right to have an attorney present. You can also present evidence and testimony on your own behalf. Unlike in criminal court, where a person must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, DMV hearings generally operate under a lower "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof similar to that often found in civil trials. The DMV hearing is not conducted in front of a judge, but rather a hearing officer. However, the hearing is similar to a criminal trial in that the law enforcement officer who made the arrest must show that you were lawfully arrested for operating a vehicle over the legal limit of intoxication or that you refused to submit to a chemical test in violation of a state's implied consent laws. If you have questions about DMV hearings in your state, a DUI attorney will know the law and may be able to help you regain your driving privileges. You can also learn more about DUI arrests, charges, and penalties at FindLaw's section on DUI Law. Related Resources: Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) How to Reinstate a License After a DUI (FindLaw's Blotter) Top 5 Questions to Ask a DUI Lawyer (FindLaw's Blotter) What Happens If You Refuse a DUI Breath Test? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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When Can a DUI Be Charged as Murder?

Drunken driving crashes can often be fatal, elevating a simple DUI to a full-blown murder charge. Case in point: A drunken driver in Colorado accused of killing a 17-year-old boy in an accident Monday is now facing a first-degree murder charge for his alleged actions, reports The Denver Post. Ever Olivos-Gutierrez, 40, lacks a drivers license and has incurred "numerous" DUIs prior to Monday's fatal crash. So when can a DUI be charged as murder? Extreme Facts Call for Severe Charges In a DUI crash that involves a death, prosecutors may have the option of charging a suspect with first-degree felony murder. In most states, if a suspect caused the death of a person while committing a dangerous felony, that person can be charged with a crime called "felony murder." In states like Colorado, these dangerous felonies include arson, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, sexual assault, or fleeing from police. Even if a fatal DUI is not eligible for a felony murder charge, it could potentially qualify as conduct that is extremely indifferent to human life. Drivers deemed to have acted so recklessly and with indifference to the risk to human life can also be charged with murder. These murder charges are also known as "depraved heart" murders. In the Colorado case, Olivos-Gutierrez is facing a murder charge for his DUI crash under a similar legal theory. Prosecutorial Discretion Most states give prosecutors the option to charge DUI offenders who cause fatalities with something less than murder. For example, involuntary manslaughter charges can apply to any person who caused another's death while performing a reckless or dangerous act that was a known risk to human life. It is not difficult for prosecutors to prove that driving while intoxicated is such a lethal risk, so involuntary manslaughter can be much easier to prove than murder for drunken drivers. Many states even have vehicular manslaughter charges which relate directly to deaths caused by reckless action (including intoxication) behind the wheel. Prosecutors in DUI fatality cases have the option to push for murder charges or a manslaughter or DUI charge. The prosecution can offer a plea bargain or even drop charges depending on the defendant's criminal history, willingness to cooperate, or lack of evidence. On the other hand, prosecutors also have the option to pursue murder charges for defendants with extensive criminal records, lack of remorse, or extensive evidence of wrongdoing. In any case, DUI murder charges are serious, and a criminal defense attorney can explain how and when they would apply. Related Resources: Do You Get a Public Defender for a DUI Case? (FindLaw's Blotter) Is Teen's 'Affluenza' DWI Sentence Too Lenient? (FindLaw's Blotter) 3 Ways a Misdemeanor DUI Can Become a Felony (FindLaw's Blotter) Breathalyzer Test Results: Are They Reliable? (Katz Lawyers)
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Baby Left in Car for 5 Hours as Mom Drank: Cops

A Pennsylvania woman was arrested after she allegedly left her 2-month-old baby in a cold car for five hours to go drink at a pub. Police were summoned to a pub in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania, after witnesses spotted an unattended infant in a minivan. The 2-month-old girl was only wearing a onesie and covered in a light blanket; the outdoor temperature was about 39 degrees at the time, according to The Express-Times. The infant's mother, Lisa Altif, 32, was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child. Child Endangerment Alleged Reports of children left in a vehicle in extreme weather conditions are far too common. For example, in the scorching summer heat, parents have left their babies in a hot vehicle to go gamble or take care of personal matters. For Altif and other parents leaving their children alone in cold cars, it could potentially lead to hypothermia. In Pennsylvania, people who leave their children unattended in vehicles for a long period of time can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Any caregiver who "knowingly" endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection, or support, can potentially be convicted under the statute. According to police reports, Altif had been inside the bar drinking for at least five hours while her infant daughter was inside the cold car. The only time Altif left the bar was to smoke cigarettes on the patio, so it's unclear whether she checked on her baby, The Express-Times reports. Possible Punishment Child endangerment is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. So if the mom is convicted, she could face up to five years in prison. However, if there's a pattern of child endangerment, the charge can potentially be elevated to a third-degree felony. While Altif didn't get behind the wheel after she was drinking, police reports indicate that she had a BAC of 0.126 percent at the time of her arrest. If she'd driven drunk with a minor in the car, she could also have faced a felony DUI, which has stuffer penalties and more lasting consequences than a misdemeanor charge. In addition to child endangerment, Altif was also arrested for driving with a suspended license and driving an unregistered vehicle, according to The Express-Times. Her baby is now in state custody as authorities attempt to locate the child's father. Related Resources: Police: Mom Left Baby In Van For 5 Hours While She Drank In Bar (Philadelphia's KYW-TV) Leaving Kids in a Cold Car Can Get You Arrested (FindLaw's Blotter) Don't Leave Kids Alone in Cars, NHTSA Reminds Parents (FindLaw's Injured) Mom Guilty of Murder After Son Dies in Hot Car (FindLaw's Blotter)
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What Happens After a DUI in a Foreign Country?

Getting a DUI in a foreign country is bad news -- just ask "Star Trek" actor Chris Pine, who had to pay more than $400 in fines and court costs after a drunken-driving arrest in New Zealand, Reuters reports. Although it's unclear how Pine's out-of-country DUI will affect him back in the United States, generally speaking, a foreign DUI can still have an impact after you return to your home country. Here are four things that could potentially happen after getting a DUI in foreign country: Your immigration status may be affected. Although foreigners who are first-time DUI offenders in the United States probably won't get deported unless there are other factors that make it a crime of violence or aggravated felony, the conviction could hurt their immigration status. For foreigners who want to become naturalized U.S. citizens, a DUI could be a roadblock to meeting the "good character" requirement. Expungement may not be an option. Expungement is a legal process that allows a past arrest or conviction to be erased from an individual's criminal record. Depending on the law of the country where your DUI conviction occurred, you may not be able to expunge the crime from your record. If the record isn't expunged, it can come up in background checks. It may impact sentencing for other crimes. Although the DUI occurred in a foreign country, that conviction or arrest can be considered if you're being sentenced for another crime in the States. Repeat offenders tend to get harsher punishments than first-time offenders, so a DUI in another country can still follow you back home and count against you. You may be barred from going back to the foreign country. Visitors with a criminal record may be denied entry into a foreign country. Even high-profile celebrities aren't immune from this: You may recall Mike Tyson was barred from entering the United Kingdom because of a rape conviction. Under UK law, travelers who've been convicted of an offense that includes a prison term of at least four years can potentially be denied entry. Several other countries have similar types of entry laws. Perhaps it's the anonymity of being in a foreign country that causes some people to forget to follow drunken-driving laws. If you're concerned about how a DUI in a foreign country will affect you back home, consult an experienced DUI attorney for more help. Related Resources: Chris Pine Drunken Driving: 'Star Trek' Actor Pleads Guilty To DUI Charges In New Zealand (The Associated Press) Victim of Crime Abroad? Here's What to Do (FindLaw's Blotter) Can You Expunge Out-of-State Convictions? (FindLaw's Blotter) What to Do If You're Arrested in a Foreign Country (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Kerry Kennedy Found Not Guilty of Drugged Driving

After a five-day trial, a New York jury found Kerry Kennedy not guilty of drugged driving on Friday. In 2012, Kennedy -- daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- was arrested and charged with driving while impaired after she crashed into a tractor-trailer while under the influence of a sleeping pill. Why was she found not guilty? Sleep Driving and DWIs On July 13, 2012, Kennedy drove her Lexus SUV. erratically after taking Zolpidem, a generic form of the sleep medication Ambien. She "sideswiped a tractor-trailer on a highway before she was found, slumped over her steering wheel, her car stalled on a local road," The New York Times reports. One of the common side effects of sleeping pills is sleep-walking and performing other actions while unconscious. Unfortunately for Kennedy and the other 60 million Americans who take prescription sleep aids, "sleep driving" isn't a defense to driving under the influence when a defendant voluntarily takes a sleeping pill. But Kennedy was able to successfully stave off her misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated because of an affirmative defense called a mistake of fact. Mistake of Fact Kennedy testified that she took the pill accidentally, mistaking it for medication she took for a thyroid condition. This type of defense is called a mistake of fact. The case ultimately turned on whether Kennedy should have been aware that she was feeling the drug's soporific effects -- as she was swerving and driving erratically -- and stopped the car. Prosecutors needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kennedy did realize she accidentally took Zolpidem and knew she was under the influence of the sleeping pill, but continued to drive. Kennedy claimed that she did not realize her mistake until well after the accident. Ultimately, jurors determined there was enough doubt in the case to reject the prosecution's case and find Kennedy not guilty, which is good news for Kennedy: She could have faced up to a year in jail if convicted, the Times reports. Related Resources: Kerry Kennedy 'Incredibly Grateful' for Not Guilty Verdict (ABC News) Are There Any Defenses to Drugged Driving? (FindLaw's Blotter) Can You Get a DUI Driving On Cold Medicine? (FindLaw's Blotter) Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
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