Saturday, September 19, 2015

Motorcycle Accidents Have Become More Frequent and More Dangerous

An article from the Inland Empire pointed out that motorcycle accidents are occurring more often. It is obviously very dangerous for those who ride motorcycles, but it is also dangerous for everyone on the road. Incidents have occurred where drivers of regular cars suddenly swerve lanes to try to avoid a disabled motorcycle.

Motorcycles are smaller, lighter in weight, and afford less protection, i.e. airbags, seat-belts, protective engineering. People involved in motorcycle accidents die at a much larger rate than people involved in a motor vehicle accident. Cars are larger and safer. It goes without saying that motorcycle helmets are a must. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) provided interesting statistics:

(1) Helmets, when worn, reduce the risk of death by 29 percent;

(2) Helmets, when worn, are 67 percent effective in preventing traumatic brain injury; and

(3) From 1984 to 1995, helmets saved the lives of more than 7,400 motorcyclists.

Besides wearing helmets, motorcyclists can remain cautious and attentive. Indeed, a lot of accidents involving motorcycles are caused by sleeping motorcyclists! The same laws for motor vehicles are applicable to motorcycles. Use common sense and be careful.

But what should you do if you, a motorcycle rider, are involved in an accident because of the fault of a motor vehicle? You should contact a personal injury attorney and open a claim immediately. It is important that everything is documented properly. Take pictures, make sure that the police are called to write a report, and be mindful of your pain.

Moreover, some bikes are custom, meaning that it is important for the owner to collect evidence of the value of the motorcycle if it is damaged. The property damage claim that will be made usually is disposed of prior to the bodily injury claim. Also, do not hesitate to contact your attorney with questions; it is important to communicate on a regular basis.

Like all accidents, motorcycle accidents are potentially harmful, inconvenient, and time-consuming. Motorcyclists should be ready to seek the advice of the attorney if necessary. But remember: wear a helmet, it can save your life.

Friday, September 4, 2015

DUI Checkpoints Are Legal

The other day an individual challenged his DUI in court without the representation of an attorney. In open court, in front of the other defendants and attorneys, he started to yell at the presiding judge. "They violated my constitutional rights!" The judge was annoyed but let the man finish. "A DUI checkpoint is unconstitutional! There was no probable cause to stop me!" After he was done, the judge responded: "This is an arraignment. All you need to do is enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty."

Besides the procedural mistake (one does not argue the merits of a case at an arraignment), the pro per defendant was wrong on the law. DUI checkpoints are not unconstitutional. To the contrary, both the United States and California Constitutions' allow DUI checkpoints.

The rationale behind "mobile" or "roadblock" DUI checkpoints lies in public safety. Due to the state's strong interest in preventing injury from DUI accidents, minor inconveniences are allowed. This does not mean that law enforcement can use checkpoints as an excuse to perform general or broad investigations. Police officers must follow strict guidelines when conducting a DUI checkpoint.

California has enacted legislation with respect to checkpoints. California Vehicle Code section 2814.2, subsection (a) states: "[a] driver of a motor vehicle shall stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint inspection conducted by a law enforcement agency when signs and displays are posted requiring that stop."

Nevertheless, a California Supreme Court case in 1987 (Ingersoll v. Palmer), enumerated the guidelines that must be followed by officers executing a DUI checkpoint. They are as follows:

     a) Supervising officers must make all operational decisions;
     b) Criteria for stops must be neutral;
     c) Checkpoint must be reasonably located;
     d) Adequate safety measures must be taken;
     e) Good judgment must be used when determining the checkpoint's time and duration;
     f) There must be sufficient notice to drivers that the checkpoint is for official purposes;
     g) Drivers must only be stopped for a minimal amount of time; and
     h) Checkpoints should be publicly advertised in advance of execution.

If these guidelines are not followed, it is possible that a DUI charge, arising from a checkpoint, could be challenged. There are never guarantees, however.

A checkpoint also does not mean officers' can perform an extensive investigation without probable cause. A brief stop can lead to an investigation when there is evidence, sufficient probable cause, of intoxication --for example, when a person has alcohol on his breath, blurred eyes, or slurred speech.

In summary, on holiday weekends, like Labor Day Weekend, make sure that you avoid situations where you will have to drink and drive. Use a designated driver or taxi service if you drink. It is not only against the law, it is extremely dangerous. With that, have a good weekend!