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Placer County Drunk Driving Prosecution

Placer County has the earned reputation as being one of the toughest (if not the toughest) counties in California when it comes to enforcement of the driving under the influence laws.

Placer County DUI DWI History

Placer county had established itself as being a tough and aggressive prosecution oriented justice system well before it established its current driving under the influence stance. This reputation was solidified during Brad Fenocchio’s tenure as Placer County District Attorney (1995 – 2011). The District Attorney’s Office as well as the Sheriff’s and Probation Department benefitted from Placer County’s financial resources. The county established an aggressive policy on domestic violence cases and a zero tolerance police on street gang activities. Specialized courts were established to handle drug offenses, driving under the influence cases, and cases where the defendant has mental health issues.

Placer County DUI DWI Court Changed in 2005

In 2005 the DUI court changed substantially. In October 2005 Matt Redding, a respected and well liked Rocklin Police Officer was killed on duty by a drunk driver on Highway 65. With this occurring shortly after Placer County experienced two other intoxicated driver homicides, one involving a young child on a bicycle Placer said “enough is enough” and assembled a task force.

The county hired an outside consultant to provide statistical insight into what works and what doesn’t work in respect to deterring conduct and reducing risks.

Placer County DUI DWI Court – Enforcement on Second Offenses

After several meetings the Placer County District Attorney’s Office indicated they would be taking an aggressive position in prosecuting DUI’s in Placer County. Among the key points:

· An emphasis will be placed on second offenders. (The consultant advised the task force that there is a 67% chance a second DUI offender will re-offend again).

In an attempt to separate the “high risk” group among the second offenders the probation department acquired and administers a psychological test. The test is primarily identifying psychopathic characteristics. If the defendant scores negatively or other risk factors (recent prior) are present “formal” (rather than the normal “informal”) probation is ordered.

The District Attorney also took the position that his office was going to ask for “actual jail time” on all second offenses – and that the normal benchmark would be 30 days. The law requires a minimum of 48 hours in custody on a second DUI. It would probably be fair to say the statewide average for a second offense is 10 days or less – most often 48 hours plus 8 days of work project.

Up until recently, a defendant was required to serve 2/3 of his jail sentence – while receiving a 1/3 reduction for good conduct. This meant a normal second offender would be serving 20 actual days in jail (at a minimum) – which would often result in a loss of employment.

Placer County DUI DWI Third Offenses Are Deemed a Lost Cause

While it was concluded that second offenders were extremely dangerous because of the likelihood they would re-offend third and subsequent offenders were deemed to be simply dangerous.

The best option was determined to be incarceration (jail) for as long as possible – to protect the public.

To this end the 120 day minimum on a third offense is not the normal sentence ordered (as it is in most counties) – instead, in Placer County, it is the absolute minimum.

Placer County DUI DWI Court Is Willing to Give Treatment a Chance

On the other side of the coin the court indicated that in some cases it would be receptive to allowing a defendant to “modify out” of jail and into a residential treatment program to satisfy up to one-half of the court’s sentence.

 Vehicular Manslaughter and Murder Prosecutions

Placer County was one of the first counties in the state to prosecute a vehicular homicide case as a Murder.  Dan Koukol was the defense attorney on this case.  The facts were tragic.  In 1991 the defendant was driving with a blood alcohol level of .23 at 105 miles per hour when he ran his pick-up truck head-on into a family of 5, killing 3, on highway 65.  The jury found that the defendant acted “in willful and wanton disregard” for human life and convicted him of three counts of second degree murder.

From this point murder prosecutions became almost routine in intoxicated vehicular homicide cases in Placer County.

That is a bit of history.  Where is the Placer County DUI court today?  Well, it is still tough.  But it is receptive to appropriate compromise.

 Placer County Drunk Driving Sentencing Patterns

If you studied the sentencing patterns for various categories of drunk driving cases in Placer County you would would find the following pattern:

 

First Offense

Vehicle Code Section 23152(a)/(b)

 Jail time is largely based on the defendant’s blood alcohol level

  • .09% to .14%      = Normally no (additional) jail time
  • .15% to .19%      = 5 days in jail
  • .20%+                    = 10 days in jail

3 years of informal probation

  • Fine approximately $2,100
  • (3 month) DUI School
  • Victim Impact Panel

Mandatory Probation Terms:

  • Only drive if licensed and insured
  • Don’t drive with a measurable amount of intoxicant in your system
  • Don’t refuse a chemical test
  • Obey all laws

Additional Factors (add additional jail time):

  • Non-Injury Accident – Add 10 days jail
  • Refusal to take chemical test – Add 10 days jail
  • Minor in Car – Add 10 days jail (law requires 48 hours)
  • Additional Factors (add additional jail time):

 Driver’s License

Note: The court advises the DMV of the conviction which results in a suspension (6 months or more)

Second Offense

Vehicle Code Section 23152(a)/(b)

Jail Time:

Jail time on second offenses is largely based on the defendant’s blood alcohol level

  • .09% to .14%      = 30 – 40 days in jail
  • .15% to .19%      = 40 – 60 days in jail
  • .20%+                    = 60 – 90 days in jail

 Probation Terms

4 years informal (or formal) probation

  • Fine approximately $2,400
  • 18 month DUI School
  • Victim Impact Panel

Mandatory Probation Terms

  • Only drive if licensed and insured
  • Don’t drive with a measurable amount of intoxicant in your system
  • Don’t refuse a chemical test
  • Obey all laws

No alcohol

Stay away from bars

Search and seizure

Additional Factors (add additional jail time):

  • Non-Injury Accident – Add 20+ days jail
  • Refusal to take chemical test – Add 20 days jail
  • Minor in Car – Add 20+ days jail (law requires 10 days)
  • Violation of probation – 10 to 30 days for each grant of probation

 

Driver’s License

Note: The court advises the DMV of the conviction which results in a 2 year driver’s license suspension. (however, new options allow the defendant to drive on a restricted basis after 90 days in some cases)

Third Offenses

Vehicle Code Section 23152(a)/(b)

Jail Time:

120 – 270 days

(If on Placer County Probation 180 – 365 days)

 

Probation Terms

5 years Formal Probation

Fine approximately $3,200

18 month DUI School

Victim Impact Panel

Mandatory Probation Terms

  • Only drive if licensed and insured
  • Don’t drive with a measurable amount of intoxicant in your system
  • Don’t refuse a chemical test
  • Obey all laws

No alcohol

Stay away from bars

Search and seizure

 

Non-Injury Accident – Add 30+ days jail

Refusal to take chemical test – Add 20 days jail

Minor in Car – Add 20+ days jail (law requires 10 days)

Violation of probation – 10 to 30 days for each grant of probation

 

Driver’s License

Note: The court advises the DMV of the conviction which results in a 3 year driver’s license suspension. (however, new options allow the defendant to drive on a restricted basis after 6 months in some cases)

Conclusion

 Without any question Placer County is a bad place to be charged with driving under the influence (drunk driving).  The county intentionally earned this reputation and I believe they intend to maintain it.

If you are charged with DUI in Placer County it is particularly important that you are represented by an attorney that is not only well versed in the complexities of California driving under the influence law – but also well known and respected in the Placer County Courts.

Knowing the history of the county and the rationale behind why they do certain things can make all the difference in your case.  First if you have a “marginal” case your attorney needs to be a respected adversary – able to fight to a not guilty finding.  In the rest of the cases your attorney needs to be able to present credible alternatives to jail time – that will keep your life on course.  Sometimes this may require attendance in self help meetings or other forms of counseling / treatment.

In any case Dan Koukol without a doubt has this experience.  Dan has literally handled over one thousand driving under the influence cases in Placer County and has achieved a reputation of being and extremely hard fighting advocate as well as possessing a balanced and credible perspective – when proposing compromises to the court.

Take a look at Dan’s testimonials – when local attorneys family members pick up driving under the influence they often go to Dan for representation.

Dan Koukol