Yearly Archives - 2014

21 Of The Weirdest Laws in the USA

DUI Attorney Los Angeles

In my daily practice, I don’t usually see weird laws, but they are out there. Some of them are relics from the past that really may have made sense at the time they were passed, but others simply leave me scratching my head. They are the ones that make you wonder why a law needed to be created to deal with them in the first place. Here are 21 of those head-scratchers:

  1. In Alabama, you can’t drive a motor vehicle while blindfolded.
  2. Another Alabama law says you cannot wear a fake mustache to church with the intent of making people laugh.
  3. Alaska has a law that prohibits students from building snowmen that are taller than the builder while on school property.
  4. In Arizona, there’s a law on the books making it illegal to manufacture or distribute fake cocaine.
  5. Denver, Colorado has a law that specifically makes lending your vacuum to your neighbor illegal.
  6. In Florida, a woman can be fined if they fall asleep under a hair dryer. The salon owner can be fined for the same offense.
  7. Also in Florida, if you park your elephant at a parking meter, you have to feed the meter just as if you were parking any other vehicle.
  8. In Kansas, it is illegal to shoot a rabbit if you are in a motorboat.
  9. Indiana has a really strange law that prohibits liquor stores from selling milk.
  10. Not to be outdone, Nebraska requires bar owners to brew a kettle of soup if they wish to sell beer.
  11. In North Dakota, it is illegal to fall asleep with your shoes on.
  12. Ohio has a law making it illegal to get a fish drunk.
  13. It is illegal to swear in front of a corpse in Georgia.
  14. Bingo games in North Carolina cannot run for more than 5 hours straight.
  15. In an oddly specific Idaho law, couples may not kiss for more than 18 minutes if they are in public.
  16. If you are on the beach in Maryland, be careful. If you mistreat an oyster, you are breaking the law.
  17. You can be arrested for harassing Bigfoot in Washington.
  18. Also in Washington, it’s illegal to be sick in public.
  19. In Flint, Michigan, it’s agains the law to wear sagging pants.
  20. It is illegal to wear an alligator costume in Louisiana.
  21. Slurping soup is illegal in New Jersey.

Breezing through this list might have made you laugh, but these laws are all real. There are plenty of weird or outdated laws that have already been repealed, but most of them are just ignored. The scary part is that they can be enforced because they are still on the books. In 2009, an elderly woman in Gainesville, Georgia, was arrested for not eating her fried chicken with her hands (she was using a fork to eat it, which is illegal in the city). Fortunately, most jurisdictions shouldn’t be enforcing any of these laws any time soon.

By Ted Burgess

9 Signs Your Friend is Too Drunk to Drive

DUI Lawyer Los Angeles

This could be the end result of you not taking your friend’s car keys.

Drunk driving has a very strict legal definition in Los Angeles: having a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content. That’s a great legal definition, but unless you have your own Breathalyzer (they sell for about $50), it can be hard to determine if your friends are too drunk to drive. But there are some major factors that you can look for, including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Inability to balance
  • Slowed reaction time

These three things are relatively easy to spot. If you have a friend who is displaying any of these symptoms, immediately take their car keys and find a safe way to get them home. This could consist of calling a cab or appointing a designated driver (this works best when done before the drinking starts).

What if your friend has been drinking but isn’t obviously too drunk to drive? Here are some things you can do to determine if you should still take away the keys.

  • Take your friend into a quiet room and have a short conversation. If they talk at an inappropriate speed or volume (usually faster and louder than normal), then there is a good chance that they are too drunk to drive.
  • In the same room, ask what the previous conversation the two of you had was about. If they can’t recall, this could be a sign of too much drinking. An impaired short-term memory indicates an inability to concentrate, another sign of inebriation.
  • Consider doing your own field sobriety test. Have them recite the alphabet, touch their nose with their finger, and walk a straight line. Failing any of these tests could mean that your friend isn’t ready to drive.

With the rapid advancements in smartphone technology, there are even apps that can help you decide if someone is drunk or not. Keep in mind that even if your friend passes the tests in these apps, that doesn’t mean they are not drunk. These are simply tools that can help you determine if they are showing signs that typically occur in drunk individuals. In no way do these apps indicate that it is legal for your friend to drive.

  • If you have an iPhone, there is an app called Back Track that monitors the horizontal gaze nystagmus (basically a tremor in the eye that is caused by drinking alcohol). If the app picks up this movement, your friend is probably too drunk to drive. However, there are some medical conditions that can cause false positives, so even though it is a great tool (especially at $1.99), it is not a conclusive test.
  • Android phones also have apps that can be used to help determine sobriety. DUI kNOw is a free app that analyzes speech patterns to determine if you are drunk. There are several random texts to read and a backward counting test.
  • Perhaps the best way to determine if your friend should drive is to play a driving simulator on your phone or tablet. There are hundreds to choose from, and you probably already have one installed. Actually, any game that requires a quick reaction time will work. Watching the reaction time your friend has playing the game can give you a good indication of how slow the visual-to-action process actually is. If your friend is usually really good at a particular game but now can’t get past the first level, it’s time to take those keys.

To make this extremely clear, if your guests or friends have been drinking, it is better if they don’t drive. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect decision-making. None of the advice here is considered legal advice – it is just meant as a bit of help to keep your friends safe.

By Ted Burgess

Quirky Laws That Only Take Effect on Sundays

Interesting Los Angeles DUI Laws

Sailors pass the time playing dominoes. Good thing it’s not on a Sunday in Alabama!

If you think that laws are always in effect 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, you’re going to be shocked. There are various laws throughout the country that prohibit certain activities on particular days of the week or on holidays in particular. The most common day that this happens – Sunday. Why Sunday? Most of these laws were created when religious values – Puritan values in particular – were in place. These laws were meant to help people stay true to biblical teachings. These laws have come to be known as “blue laws” and are still on the books in many states.

One of the few places where blue laws are still enforced is in Bergen County, New Jersey. Even though it is one of the most popular commercial shopping destinations in the New York metropolitan area, almost all the retail stores are forbidden from opening on Sundays. The city of Paramus has even stricter laws than the county itself. Paramus bans all forms of “worldly employment” on Sundays, including white-collar workers in office buildings.

One law that is commonly found around the country is a ban on alcohol sales before noon on Sundays. The pretense for this was to prevent parishioners from showing up to church under the influence.

Now for the part that is going to leave you scratching your head. Here is a list of quirky laws from around the U.S. that only take effect on Sundays.

  • If you want to purchase a mattress in the state of Washington, don’t try to do it on Sunday. Mattress sales are strictly prohibited on that day.
  • Heading to Arizona for vacation? Keep your camera in your backpack until after noon on Sunday. Picture taking is illegal before then.
  • Have a hankering for a bologna sandwich in Tennessee? Hope you have some in your refrigerator. You can’t buy bologna in Tennessee on Sunday.
  • How about a game of dominoes? Not in Alabama on a Sunday. Playing dominoes is illegal that day.
  • Taking a trip to St. Cloud, Minnesota could leave you with a craving for hamburgers, but you can’t legally eat one in the city on a Sunday.
  • Is South Carolina against having a good time? On Sunday, they seem to be. It’s illegal to sell musical instruments on Sundays!

Some laws are so perplexing that it’s a wonder how they got passed in the first place. For instance:

  • In Massachusetts, it is illegal to go to bed without bathing. But, there is a law that specifically prohibits bathing on Sundays. So, I guess you are out of luck if you want to go to bed on Sunday!
  • If you want to brush your teeth on Sunday but don’t have the right equipment, you better bring a friend with you to purchase it when in Providence, Rhode Island. A strange law there makes it illegal to sell toothpaste and a toothbrush to the same customer on a Sunday.
  • It is illegal to fish for a whale on Sunday in Ohio. No, really.

If you happen to be a woman, some states have laws that target you specifically.

  • If you want to parachute on Sunday in Florida, you better be married. Unmarried women who parachute can be arrested and jailed.
  • In Montana, if you are married, it’s illegal to go fishing alone on Sunday.
  • South Carolina is worse. It’s still legal to beat your wife on a Sunday morning as long as it is done on the steps of the State House.

Are you a car salesman? Check out these laws directed at you.

  • In Colorado and New Jersey, car sales are prohibited on Sunday.
  • In Maine, the law is a bit more lax. You can sell a car as long as it is equipped with onboard plumbing!

There are hundreds of laws like this on the books. Fortunately, they are rarely (if ever) enforced. However, this just goes to show you how crazy laws can be.

By Ted Burgess

Sobering Facts About Holiday Weekends

Los Angeles DUI Sobriety Checkpoints

Hanging out with your friends and family during the holidays might include throwing back a few beers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, hopping into the driver’s seat probably isn’t a good idea, and not just because of the countless DUI checkpoints throughout Los Angeles County. The sad fact is that drunk-driving injuries and fatalities nearly double around the holidays.

Here are some sobering facts:

  • In 2012, 3.4 out of every 100,000 people in the United States died from alcohol-impaired driving, accounting for 31% of all traffic fatalities.
  • In 2012, over 10,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities involved drivers with a blood-alcohol content of over 0.08%.
  • Of the people killed in alcohol-related accidents in 2012, 65% were drivers, 27% were passengers, and 8% were not inside a vehicle at the time of the accident.
  • On average, one person dies from an alcohol-related accident every 51 minutes.

Now look what happens around the holidays:

  • In Los Angeles County alone, 41 people died over the 2013 New Year’s holiday weekend.
  • 1,405 DUI arrests were made in Los Angeles County in 2013. 500 of these occurred over the 4th of July weekend.
  • Another 529 DUI arrests were made in Los Angeles County over the Memorial Day weekend.
  • According to a 10-year analysis by the Automobile Club of Southern California, alcohol-related accidents are 75% higher in Los Angeles County on SuperBowl Sunday than during the other Sundays in January and February. The 10-year average from 2002-2011 was 28 deaths per year.
  • A national study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that over 100 people die every day across the country. Six of the top ten deadliest days are around holidays – July 2-4, Dec. 23, Jan. 1, and Sept. 2.

With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that patrols are trying to crack down on drunk driving during the holidays. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a beer or two if you’re planning to drive. Remember, the legal BAC limit in California is 0.08%. So, as long as you drink in moderation and allow some time between your last drink and getting behind the wheel, there’s no legal reason not to drive.

I’ve found a really helpful tool for those of you who aren’t sure what a reasonable amount of alcohol might be. This blood calculator will help you determine if you are in danger of being over the legal BAC limit. It is based on your weight and number and type of drinks consumed over a period of time. This site in no way guarantees that your BAC will be under the limit, it just gives you an estimate of where your BAC is likely to be.

Drinking and driving is a serious, potentially fatal decision. Plan ahead and assign a designated driver. This is the most responsible thing you can do – especially during the holidays. Keep yourself and your family safe so you can all get together for the next one!

By Ted Burgess

What Does No Tolerance Mean For Under-21 Drivers?

Los Angeles Field Sobriety TestThe importance of a driver’s license simply can’t be overstated, especially for young, freedom-seeking Californians. Think of all the things you couldn’t do if you weren’t able to drive. Sure, you could take the bus, but is that really a good use of your time? Not really. That’s why it is so important for you to understand the very serious consequences of being charged with a DUI and what the no-tolerance law is intended to do. You could be right in the crosshairs and not even know it.

California’s No-Tolerance Law is Not About Drunk Driving

The California no-tolerance law (found in California Vehicle Code Section 23136) clearly outlines the legal definition of an over-the-limit blood-alcohol content (BAC) as “a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01 percent or greater, as measured by a preliminary alcohol screening test or other chemical test.” No one is going to argue that a BAC of 0.01% will have a profound effect on the ability to operate a vehicle. So why is the law so concerned with BAC at this level?

The answer is really simple. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcoholic beverages in the state of California. If you register a BAC of 0.01%, lawmakers believe that it is a good indication of having ingested an alcoholic beverage. And since police officers probably aren’t going to catch many minors actually consuming an alcoholic beverage, the no-tolerance law is one viable method of cracking down on underage drinking.

Understanding Implied Consent

If you are thinking that you can just refuse to take the field sobriety test if you are pulled over, California has a provision for that as well. It is called the implied consent law (California Vehicle Code Section 23621). It basically means that if you are driving in California, you give a police officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been driving under the influence the right to administer a field sobriety test. The only time this isn’t applicable is if you have a medical condition that would put you in physical danger due to the testing (i.e., hemophiliacs are not required to undergo blood testing).

Although the penalty for refusing a required sobriety test is lower than that of a DUI conviction, it still requires a mandatory one-year suspension of your license on your first offense – even if you are not convicted of the DUI! In addition, it may actually hurt your defense because the prosecution will argue that you refused the test because it would show that you were indeed guilty.

No-Tolerance Penalties for Under-21 Drivers

The most important thing to realize about the no-tolerance law is that you don’t have to be drinking to be charged. Over-the-counter mouthwashes and cough syrup can contain enough alcohol to result in a failed alcohol test under the zero-tolerance policy. That means that if you have a cold or are really hygienic and use mouthwash before heading off to work in the morning, you could be technically in violation of the no-tolerance law.

The penalties for under-21 drivers vary by the individual case. In general, first offenses with a BAC lower than 0.05% are treated as probationary cases with minimal fines and court fees. Offenders with a BAC of 0.05% to 0.07% can face fines of $100, court-ordered treatment, participation in youthful drunk-driving visitation programs, and the loss of their license for one year. Penalties become harsher for repeat offenders – up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. As long as the BAC level is below 0.08%, the incident is considered an infraction instead of a misdemeanor. A BAC above 0.08% is treated as an adult offense.

No-Tolerance Penalties for Under-18 Drivers

For drivers under the age of 18, the no-tolerance policy includes extra penalties. In addition to all of the potential punishments, fines, and court charges that the under-21 driver faces, drivers under 18 years old may have their licenses revoked until the age of 18 if that time period is greater than one year (otherwise, the one-year suspension applies). The judge in the case may also impound the driver’s vehicle.

No-Tolerance Penalties Beyond the Initial DUI Charge

In addition to a DUI charge, the prosecution may bring charges of possession of alcohol in a car if there are open or unopened containers present in the vehicle. This is a separate charge from the no-tolerance DUI charge. If there is a legal-age adult in the car, this charge will only apply if the underage party is physically holding the container. However, if there is no of-age individual in the vehicle, everyone in the car may be charged with an offense – even if they didn’t know it was there!

For the driver, the car may be impounded for up to one month, their license may be suspended for a minimum of one year, and they may get up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. In addition to all of this, you must report any DUI conviction (even no-tolerance) on college and employment applications.

The good news is that there are several defenses available in these cases. The best thing you can do if you get pulled over for an apparent no-tolerance violation is to cooperate with the officers and contact a lawyer with experience in this area of law if necessary. By refusing to take a sobriety test, you could lose your license even if you have done nothing else wrong.

By Ted Burgess

7 Laws You Didn’t Know You Were Breaking

Los Angeles Crosswalk ticketBreaking a law you don’t know about is rather easy to do, and ignorance of the law is no defense – or is it? This statement is based on the idea that the laws might be inherently wrong (rape, murder, robbery, etc.) or that the individual knew the act was illegal and engaged in it anyway. The problem is that many of today’s laws are not inherently wrong. This led to a Supreme Court ruling, in Bouie v. City of Columbia, that the constitutional doctrine of “fair notice” applied. This makes it mandatory for the government to “give warning of the conduct it makes a crime.” Technically, this means that ignorance of the law may be a valid defense.

These Laws Are on the Books!

It’s no secret that there are hundreds of old and outdated laws that are still on the books. These aren’t the laws we are talking about. These are laws that are currently still being enforced in Los Angeles and the surrounding area.

  1. Trimming a shrub or tree that is on public property can result in a fine and jail time. This happened in Ocean Beach to Juvenico Adame when he was charged with “defacement, damage, and destruction” of public property valued at $400 or more. He simply trimmed a bush that was overhanging his property – something that an average citizen does all the time.
  2. Most Los Angelenos know that jaywalking is illegal, but it might come as a shock to find out how strict the enforcement has become. Just stepping off of the curb while the countdown clock ticks could result in a ticket costing between $190 and $250.
  3. Are you promoting a yard sale? Better make sure your Mylar balloons are tied down tightly. Releasing more than one Mylar or foil balloon into the air is a crime. According to ordinance 11.69.010, it is unlawful to allow one or more metallic balloons to float, rise, or remain aloft outdoors at a height of five feet or more for any advertising, promotional, or commercial purpose.
  4. Los Angeles isn’t just cracking down on yard maintenance, walking, and balloons. The city, in LAMC Section 56.16, has also made it illegal to “play ball or any game of sport with a ball or football or throw, cast, shoot, or discharge any stone, pellet, bullet, arrow, or any other missile, in, over, across, along, or upon any street or sidewalk or in any public park, except on those portions of said park set apart for such purposes.” Indeed, that makes it clear that you may not participate in anything fun on the sidewalk or in the park (unless you are on the correct field).
  5. If you thought Los Angeles was soft on skateboarders and roller-bladers while sticking it to kids playing ball, nope. It is illegal to skateboard and roller-skate through the courthouse and library. There is a law prohibiting these activities at the 200 West Compton Boulevard Courthouse and the 240 West Compton Boulevard Library (Ord. 2001-0015 § 1 (part), 2001.17.20.010).
  6. Of course, there are old laws that are just as bad, including one that prohibits bathing two babies in the same tub at the same time. There is no provision for twins. So, if you are unlucky enough to have had twins and used the same tub to bathe them at the same time, yes, you have broken the law!
  7. If you are taken to court over one of these issues, don’t you dare cry on the stand – you’ll just make things worse for yourself. It is illegal to cry on the witness stand in any state case in Los Angeles.

Of course, now that you’ve read this page, you can’t use the ignorance-of-the-law defense! I’m sorry about that. But at least you know that these laws do exist and that the LAPD is enforcing them.

By Ted Burgess

DUI Statistics in Los Angeles County

DUI Bail Bonds Las VegasWe’ve been seeing a lot more of these sobriety checkpoints as of late, and that’s part of the reason for the increase in DUI arrests in Los Angeles County.

If you live, work, or travel through Los Angeles County, you might have noticed that there has been an increase in the number of DUI checkpoints on our streets. This isn’t a figment of your imagination. DUI checkpoints are popping up along heavily traveled routes in Los Angeles County on a daily basis. This has led to a huge increase in DUI stops and arrests. Recent publications have put the annual number at almost 36,000. That’s 100 DUI arrests every day in Los Angeles County alone.

DUI Arrests Are on the Rise

There is no doubt that DUI arrests are becoming more prevalent in Los Angeles County. Simply look back at the data from the new Winter Holiday DUI Mobilization program. One hundred agencies made 2,268 DUI arrests between December 13, 2013, and January 1, 2014. The same program in the previous year netted 100 fewer arrests. This averages out to about 114 arrests per day. In 2008 and 2009, Los Angeles County officers made 32 and 71 arrests, respectively, in the period from December 26 to December 29. While it is a short time span, this only averages out to eight and 18 arrests per day, respectively. This is a significant increase in just a few years.

Why Are DUI Arrests Increasing?

I don’t think there is much doubt about the reason for the increase in DUI arrests. The police in Los Angeles County are actively seeking out drivers suspected of operating under the influence. Checkpoints and DUI mobilization units are frequently deployed and have had an astounding effect on the number of detentions, field sobriety tests, and arrests.

How Much Will a DUI Conviction Cost?

DUI convictions are not cheap. A first offense can cost upwards of $15,000 in fees and fines and a suspended license. For minors, the expense can reach into the $22,000 range. Then, because DUI convictions remain on your record for ten years, that’s many years of higher insurance rates as well. This is only if your blood alcohol level is below 0.20% and you haven’t been involved in an accident or misdemeanor. If this isn’t your first offense, you have blown a 0.20% or higher, or you have been in an accident, the fines and penalties are much steeper and there could be jail time involved. Having a child in the vehicle increases your exposure and adds the possibility of being charged with reckless endangerment of a minor. Also, starting in 2014, all persons receiving a DUI, including a first time DUI, are required to install an ignition interlock device on their car for a period of time.

Now, here’s the real shocker. A DUI conviction in Los Angeles County can have all the following repercussions:

  • Revocation of the right to carry a firearm
  • Reduction of your credit rating
  • Increased health insurance costs
  • Loss of the right to vote
  • Loss of a commercial driver’s license
  • Revocation of your pilot’s license
  • Impound of your vehicle
  • Loss of the ability to drive a company car
  • DUI classes and licensing fees

If I Get Arrested for DUI, What Should I Do?

Statistically, your chances for getting arrested for DUI are much higher now than they were even five years ago. If you have been detained and charged with a DUI, contacting an experienced DUI lawyer is your best option. There is quite a bit at stake, even for a first-time offense.

By Ted Burgess