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Defending DUI after the Fourth of July

Few things go together like alcohol, grilling and fireworks on the Fourth of July. The freedom we celebrate on Independence Day often gives people a sense of invulnerability not felt on any other holiday. Although alcohol goes well with some celebrations, it never combines well with driving. If DUI has blown up your life after Independence Day, then it's time to seek legal help.

Fourth of July weekend common for DUI

According to Fortune, 40 percent of all drinking and driving related deaths occur during the extended Fourth of July weekend. Further, more than one-tenth of the U.S. population travels more than 50 miles from home, making the combination of alcohol and high-traffic volume particularly treacherous. Therefore, law enforcement has a significant incentive to seek out drivers they suspect of driving under the influence of alcohol during this time. 

What to know about hit and run accidents in California

Earlier this month, Dennis Rodman made the news for an unfortunate accident after driving the wrong way on the highway. Apparently, he did not leave behind his contact details with the other driver. While he did not ultimately walk away with a hit and run charge, not everyone is so lucky when they make a mistake.

California has such a high rate of hit and run accidents, that in 2015, the city of L.A. crowd sourced the chase to address the estimated 20,000 hit and run accidents in their city.

MORE NEW LAWS: HAVE A BEER WITH YOUR BARBER

I got some more new laws to share with you. I'll start with the most entertaining one.

Barber and Beer: The next time you go to your local haircutting establishment for a shampoo, cut, color, and style, your hairstylist can now serve you beer or wine. (Civil Code §23399.5(c)) But there's more good news. Your haircutter cannot charge you for the drink. So, enjoy.

Save the Animal: See a dog stuck in a hot car. Feel like rescuing the animal but afraid you'll get arrested for vandalism and then sued by the owner for smashing his/her window? New Civil Code §43.100 and Penal Code §597.7 now offers you some protection. Here's how it works.

NEW FOR 2017: NO DRIVING WHILE ON YOUR PHONE, UNLESS.

For this last issue of the year, I thought I would provide some practical information about a new law that takes effect January 1st. All those who have the nasty habit of driving with phone in hand will be impacted. And let's face it, driving under the influence of a cell phone is an all too common occurrence. The problem is that using your cell phone while driving can kill and that's not good.

Come January 1st, Vehicle Code §23123.5 will impose greater restrictions on phone use while driving.The old V.C. §23123.5 prohibited cell phone use for texting and talking unless it was operated in hands-free mode. A court of appeals case interpreted V.C. §23123.5 to mean that while texting and phoning are prohibited, using the map app. isn't. In response, the legislature changed V.C. §23123.5 in several important ways. It's now prohibited to drive while holding and operating a phone unless the phone is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation and is used in that mode while driving. (V.C. §23123.5(a))

But there's more. A driver can use a phone "in a manner requiring the use of the driver's hand while driving only if both the following conditions are satisfied":

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: WHAT THE ELECTION SAYS ABOUT AMERICANS

Several issues ago I began discussing the various civil liberties our constitution bestows upon us as Americans. I began this discussion because I thought that given the present political climate, it was necessary to re-acquaint ourselves with our constitutional freedoms. I argued (and continue to do so), that re-sensitizing ourselves to the freedoms we are guaranteed is the best method to prevent their erosion.

I first discussed our freedom of religion, press, and assembly provided by the 1st Amendment. In the last issue I argued that the right to bear arms contained in the 2nd Amendment should be honored no less than any of our other freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights. It was my intention in succeeding issues to run through the remaining eight amendments. While I will do so in future issues, given the recent presidential election results, I feel it's necessary to now make one of the central points to this entire discussion.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This is the second in my series of newsletters that explores our bill of rights. As explained in previous issues, I am engaging in this process of re-acquainting people with our constitutional freedoms so that we become more sensitive to both their virtues and values. In this way, we are less likely to tolerate the abridgment of our freedoms by politicians, judges, and private sector leaders who seek to do so.

I must confess that I have not worked a lot with the 2nd amendment. On the other hand, I, like most Americans have become all too accustomed to gun rights advocates arguing for the sanctification of the right to bear arms and gun control advocates arguing for, well, gun control in the name of public safety. But hey, I'm a lawyer. I'm trained to figure out legal stuff. So that's what I did. Let me tell you what I learned about the 2nd amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redre

Pretty powerful stuff this first amendment to our constitution. It's packed. Congress can't establish a religion and to boot, you get to freely exercise your religious beliefs. But then there's the freedom of expression. You get free speech, press, and assembly (peacefully that is). And there's more: you get to petition government to redress your grievances. Now when was the last time you filed a petition to redress your grievances? But I digress.

Now remember, as I explained in my last newsletter, I am engaging in this process of re-acquainting people with our constitutional freedoms so that everyone becomes more sensitive to both their virtues and values. In this way, we are less likely to tolerate the abridgment of our freedoms by those politicians, judges, and private sector leaders who seek to do so. In other words, know your rights and stand up for them.

Have we lost sight of the Virtue of Our Constitutional Freedoms?

If this presidential election season has revealed anything it is that we live in a very polarized society. People feel disenfranchised, not cared for by elected officials, discriminated against, violated and left out. Expressions of frustration, discrimination, racism, anti-semitism, and just plain hate could be heard from supporters in both political parties. The fringe right and left in particular have not only advocated positions antithetical to the constitutional freedoms that make up the bedrock of our American values but have also engaged in disruptive and violent behavior. As a lawyer in the trenches it is this expression against our constitutional freedoms both in words and deeds that concern me the most.

How uninsured motorist coverage works and the need to have the best coverage possible

No ranting this month. Just some practical advice about car insurance. In the course of my 33 years of practicing law I've seen far too cases where the insurance for the person who caused the accident (the wrongdoer) was entirely inadequate to properly compensate the accident victim. With few exceptions, the amount of compensation an accident victim can hope to recover for his or her damages is limited by the amount of insurance the wrongdoer has and the amount of uninsured motorist coverage the victim has. I will now explain.

Simply put, an accident victim is entitled to be compensated for general and special damages incurred. General damages are classically known as pain and suffering. Special damages are most typically medical expenses incurred and if you missed work, lost wages or lost income. Say your total damages (general plus special) amounts to $50,000. But what if the wrongdoer only has the mandatory minimum of $15,000 of liability coverage? In most cases, unless this wrongdoer is rich and has property, as a practical matter, all you're going to get is $15,000. The wrongdoer's insurance company is only obligated to pay the maximum available and no more. And if the wrongdoer only has the mandatory minimum $15,000 of insurance, the chances are this person doesn't have any assets or spare change to contribute. In such a case, going after the wrongdoer though litigation is usually a waste of time, money, and emotion.

The Right of Privacy: What's left of it? Part 2

Last month I discussed both the Federal and State constitutional right to privacy. I pointed out that the Federal constitutional right to privacy is not explicitly stated in the constitution. The California State constitution however, does specifically provide for a right of privacy. This is a good thing. But good old Justice Lucas (may he rest in peace) in Hill v. NCAA (1994) 7 C.4th 1 came to the rescue of corporate interests and diluted our right to privacy.

Now I want to provide some practical insight. How do you show a constitutional privacy right violation? What about common law privacy rights? What are they anyway?