Kosnett Law Firm

Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Students face school-related consequences for alcohol offenses

Alcohol on college campuses is often a major part of student culture. In some university clubs and organizations, group drinking and partying events are common initiation or bonding practices. Students may feel like they have no choice but to participate in the campus alcohol culture.

Even students who have not yet reached the legal drinking age may feel pressured to join in the over-consumption of alcohol. Unfortunately, there can be very serious criminal consequences for minors who drink on college campuses or at college parties. Possessing alcohol as a minor can result in an arrest and criminal penalties, as can getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Human limitations can lead to wrongful convictions

Wrongful convictions are not unheard of in the United States justice system. In fact, a number of people who are behind bars have been found innocent after further testing showed that they were innocent of committing a crime. Even more may be wrongfully incarcerated, serving life sentences or even sitting on death row. The Innocence Project, the Innocence Network and the International Association of Chief of Police joined together to educate judges, law enforcement officers and other professionals about human phenomenon that can lead to wrongful convictions.

Certain psychological factors, including confirmation bias, memory malleability, impact bias, tunnel vision, false confessions, lie dectection and eyewitness misidentification, contribute to erroneous convictions. For example, confirmation bias describes how people seek out information that helps to confirm what they already believe to be true. They also avoid or overlook information that may show that their belief is not true. This can cause law enforcement officers who are investigating a suspect, find information to support their lead, even if that lead is innocent. In order to process all of the information involved in a case, the human brain develops filters in an attempt to organize the facts. The problem lies in the fact that everyone’s filters for viewing information are different. These filters may lead people to overlook crucial evidence that could prove that the subject they are investigating is not guilty at all.

What is the zero tolerance law?

Drunk driving takes numerous lives every year in California. This is why the law takes the offense so seriously. If you are caught drinking and driving, you can expect to face stiff penalties. The law is even harsher when it comes to underage drivers who are under the influence and on the roadways. The state has a zero tolerance law, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The zero tolerance law applies to all drivers under the age of 21. It makes it illegal for an underage driver to have a blood alcohol content of over 0.01 percent. The legal limit for drivers over 21 is 0.08 percent for comparison. Essentially, any alcohol in your system, if you are underage, is illegal. If you get caught driving with any alcohol in your system, you will face serious consequences.

What does a restricted license allow me to do?

In the event you have been convicted of a DUI and have met certain requirements under California law, you could be eligible to receive your driving privileges back, but in limited form. While you will have some ways to go before you can retrieve your full driving privileges, with a restricted license, you do have some ability to get around the Los Angeles area.

The Department of Motor Vehicles for the state of California lays out the parameters for the use of a restricted license. These parameters allow you to fulfill key obligations in your personal and professional life. With a restricted license, you can drive to and from your place of work. You may also drive during your work hours, which means you should be able to fulfill work duties if they require you to step outside of your workplace.

Can a prescription drug get you a DUI?

You are aware of the consequences that may arise from drinking and driving, which can include motor vehicle accidents and DUI charges. You might not know, however, that you could face similar consequences for driving after taking a legal prescription or over-the-counter medication. You and other California residents should understand the potential ramifications and how to avoid them.

As the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, many medications that you might consider harmless can dangerously affect your driving. Cold medicine, antihistamines, narcotic painkillers, anti-anxiety medication and sleeping aids are just a few of many different prescription and non-prescription drugs that can cause the following impairments, some of which may be sudden and unexpected:

  • Sleepiness and yawning
  • Dizziness, confusion and brain fog
  • Nervousness, jitteriness and difficulty concentrating
  • Blurry vision, seizures and fainting
  • Uncontrollable coughing, nausea or vomiting

When does a theft offense become a felony in California?

Every state has its unique approach to criminal law. In other words, there are dozens of different statutes across the country regarding theft and other common crimes. The definitions for different forms of theft, as well as the consequences they carry, vary from state to state. However, it's important to understand that theft is a serious criminal allegation in any state.

In California, there are specific rules in place that separate minor theft or petty theft from serious theft or grand theft. Understanding how California defines legal terms related to theft can help you make informed choices about a criminal defense if you or someone you love may soon face theft-related criminal charges.

How does California define property crimes?

The first important point to understand if you have been charged with criminal activity in Los Angeles is the need to comprehend exactly what type of crime you are being charged with. The general public might assume that crime is simply crime, yet from a legal perspective, there are crimes against persons, against public safety, and crimes against property. Knowing the type of activity you stand accused of might help you better comprehend why you are facing charges (if it is still unclear to you), and how to defend yourself from them. 

Specifically referring to crimes against property, the California Penal Code includes the categories that many may already expect, such as: 

  • Arson
  • Burglary 
  • Larceny
  • Crimes against insured property
  • Interference with property 
  • Vandalism

Teenage brains and criminal activity

While developing into adult human beings, teenagers experience a number of impulsive thoughts and engage in alarming activities, including crimes. The truth is, teenagers behave in ways that are irrational, dangerous, emotional, reactive to stress and impulsive. They have different ways of approaching social situations, solving problems and making important decisions. Furthermore, they are less likely to think about the consequences of their actions and change their dangerous behavior as a result. Although people may think of this as normal teenage behavior, there is actual scientific evidence supporting these behaviors.

Researchers have found that the area of the brain responsible for experiencing aggression and fear develops early in teenagers. On the other hand, the frontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling our ability to reason, problem solve and think things through before acting, develops later. There are other areas of the brain that are developing during adolescence, including strengthening nerve cell connections and growing better communication pathways.

Tainted evidence and scientific testing

Scientific testing of evidence can be crucial in a criminal case. However, improper use of testing and misapplication of these tests is the second most common factor contributing to wrongful convictions in California and across the nation, according to the Innocence Project. Approximately 362 cases in the U.S. have been overturned after DNA evidence proved that the person convicted in the crime was not actually guilty. In half of all cases that have been overturned due to reprocessing of DNA evidence, misapplication of forensics was involved.

In some cases, tests were used in a case even though there has not been enough research to establish that these tests provide accurate or reliable results. For example, bite mark comparisons made on skin cannot provide accurate information linking a person to a crime.

Ignition interlock devices: What you should know

If you are charged and convicted of driving under the influence in California, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Interlock devices allow you to drive to work, school and run important errands safely, even when you have had your traditional driver’s license revoked because of a DUI conviction. Tulare, Los Angeles, Alameda and Sacramento counties all require ignition interlock devices with DUI charges. In other counties in California, however, it is up to the discretion of the judge presiding over the case.

Once you have an IID installed in your vehicle, you must give a clean breath sample in order to start your car. Rolling retests are also required during the drive to keep the vehicle going. If your BAC level measures above the preset level, the car will either not start or will power down. All of the information regarding start-up attempts, BAC levels and lock-outs is recorded in the IID and is transferred to law enforcement authorities during the vehicle’s inspection. Every 60 days, your vehicle must be inspected and calibrated by a state certified installer.

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