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California DUI Legislation

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By StraightDUI Staff on 3/30/2008

Many states are now instituting extreme DUI laws to combat drivers who cause most injuries and deaths. Just recently, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed off on new legislation that is meant to toughen DUI laws. The new legislation was named for a gentleman by the name of Steve Ambriz, an Orange County Councilman who was struck and killed in a DUI crash. Mr. Ambriz was killed on May 26, 2006 when a pick-up driver who was reportedly under the influence of methamphetamines slammed head on into the councilman’s car. The new law will require all drivers obtaining or renewing a license to sign a statement admitting that they understand it is dangerous to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In addition, signing the statement will state that they understand they could be charged with murder if found responsible for a DUI crash.

The governor announced the new law in Santa Ana, California during a press conference and formalized the legislation during a special ceremony at the California Highway Patrol office. The new law would toughen DUI laws in California because it will make it easier for prosecutors to pursue second-degree murder charges against those who drive under the influence and cause a fatal crash. While tougher laws are meant to catch offenders and put them behind bars, there are some who feel that the law could penalize those who are innocent, since there are times when DUI charges are not valid.

The History of California DUI Legislation

The first California DUI laws were established in 1911, long before the state of California had over 20 million automobiles and 19 million licensed drivers. But, California wasn’t the first state to adopt anti drinking and driving laws. It was in 1910 in New York that the first laws were created. The following year, California stated that no “intoxicated” person shall drive. The word “intoxicated” has been considered a tricky word when it comes to determining who is drunk or impaired enough to the extent that they are not able to operate an automobile safely and who is not.

More Laws Enforced in the 1980’s

It was during the 1980’s, when various citizens’ groups, most notably Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), mobilized public support around the idea that existing drunk-driving laws were inadequate and that too often the drunk driver went unpunished or underpunished. MADD felt that those arrested weren’t being properly convicted in the courts. In 1981 the California legislature responded by adopting comprehensive changes in the law. It was in the decade of the 80’s the majority of legislation was made into law. Fifty-five pieces of legislation between the years 1980 and 1986 passed the California legislature and turned into law.

These changes reflected two concerns:

  • prosecution and conviction of those arrested for driving under the influence
  • ensuring that blood alcohol levels (.10) were put on the books to ease the burden of proving the driver was under the influence. This resulted in mandatory minimum sentences for all offenders including the requirement that those convicted of a DUI were required to attended education and counseling classes

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