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What Is The Marin County Zero Tolerance Law? Who Is It Applicable To?


Zero Tolerance law is different. Zero tolerance would be not being able to have any alcohol in your system if you are probation or if you are underage. I mean the question would be what changes have happened recently in Marin County, and what are the new policies? The changes in Marin County, which have recently taken place, are, I would say, good and bad, with more people affected in a negative way than a positive one. Policies were changed on June 15, 2016 by the Marin County District Attorney’s office. This goes for a six-month trial period. They will reassess to see what changes have happened, and what the effects of these changes are. What has been happening in the past in Marin County was they would not negotiate a DUI case in regards to potentially lowering the charges to a reckless from a standard first DUI.

The difference between a DUI in a wet reckless is being that both convictions would count as a prior DUI if you receive another one over the next ten years. The next one would count as a second DUI. The bigger differences are the amount of the fine, and the length of a suspended sentence. For regular DUI, the sentence would be six months versus three on a wet reckless, whether or not someone would get jail, or sheriff’s work program time and the length of probation must be shorter for a wet reckless. If your attorney can win the DMV hearing for you, you could get a wet reckless, and nothing would happen to your license. If you win the DMV hearing but are convicted of a regular DUI in court, you would end up getting a suspension from the DMV.

There are benefits to getting a wet reckless for some people more than others. The other big one is insurance purposes, and not needing to get an SR-22, which can save you a lot of money over the next number of years. So, Marin County went from not negotiating these cases down, and the only county that said you can get a DUI was not going to even talk about a wet reckless, let alone a dry reckless which is another talk for another day. They refused to negotiate, but now a lot of pressure has been put on them to modify this law. My take in this instance is just a guess, but this is not talking with people involved in the system. There are many trials in Marin County that did not need to happen because someone was at 0.08% or 0.09% alcohol level. Negotiating it to a lesser charge might have made the difference for someone who needed the charge negotiated down for purposes of work, immigration, or for their driver’s license.

Someone with a commercial license, who gets a wet reckless, might have a much better chance of saving their job and their license if they got a regular DUI, which results on the first time, a one-year loss of commercial license. The change that has occurred is something that the DA’s office hopes the courts hope will lessen the number of cases that go to jury trial. In some cases, if someone’s blood alcohol level is between 0.08% and 0.10%, the DA’s office will consider a reduction of charges and stay a wet reckless. If they are willing to give a wet reckless, they would be pleading to a wet reckless, and having that on their record, but just the terms of the plea would be the same as a DUI, unless they are convinced that they should be the terms of a wet reckless.

The difference is about $1,000 in fines, in Marin County, with the wet reckless. I do not believe that they would shorten the probation period, which would still be three years. The other place where the attorney was able to win the DMV hearing, was if that person got a wet reckless in Marin, and the DA’s office could issue a twelve-hour DUI school instead of a thirty-two-hour DUI school. That would help as well, but in exchange for either the minor lesser penalties on a wet reckless, the DA’s office is saying, “Well, we are going to make the punishment more serious for all other DUI cases”. What they have done is they put out a policy in writing, and they sent it out to a number of people in the county who are involved in the system.

What it says is that on a first offense DUI, whereas before, they did not require any sheriff’s work program or jail, but now they are going to require two days, which can be done on a sheriff’s work program. Someone must jump through many hoops to qualify. It takes a lot of time, it takes money but it is a way to avoid jail if you can get on the sheriff’s work program. Everything else on a first offense pretty much stays the same, but it does have the two-day jail sanction, and then they have made some modifications if someone has a blood alcohol level above 0.20%. They are given an additional five days in jail. If there is an accident, they will be given additional ten days in jail. If someone had a prior that is more than ten years old, which they are not supposed to be punished for, they will receive an additional five days in jail, and in exchange for this, they will consider someone who has a 0.08% to 0.10%, consider a plea to a wet reckless.

In certain circumstances, but the problem is this concession that they are making and this willingness to negotiate a wet reckless is that they have their automatic disqualification areas where they will not even consider someone who would not otherwise qualify for the lower blood alcohol level for a wet reckless. Those would be when there is a collision, as I mentioned, and there are injuries. If there are narcotics, real high blood alcohol levels, prior DUIs or prior wet reckless, other charges or other offenses in addition to the DUI, and they do not tell us what those are, could be or refusal to take a blood alcohol test which is someone’s right.

You can assert your rights, but if you do not take the test, they are not going to consider reducing charges, which I think is wrong. The other one that they mentioned is if there are children or minors in the car, they will not consider doing a wet reckless. I have seen them agree to reduce charges when I have a client who does not have any extra disqualification issues. They need this for a reason, whether it is for a job, whether they are in school or a future employment at stake. The DA’s office wants to see a reason. They need to have a compelling reason.

They are really making you fight to get one of these which should not be like this. They are trying to reduce the number of trials. I had a case where the client was in an accident, which is clearly due to mechanical failure, and there was no injury of property, no injury to any other people. The only damage was to the vehicle that my client was driving, and because there was an accident, a single car accident, because police responded and the ambulance responded, in that case, the expeditor was under instructions from the supervisors from these rules to not issue a wet reckless.

It is a very small area where they are using this program, and the trade-off with the entire extra jail or sheriff’s work program they are dishing out seems unfair. I have witnessed them getting tougher on DUIs, and asking for a number of commissions that they were not asking for years ago as penalties, like attending AA meetings, and additional jail cases, and community service. A lot of counties do that, but this trade-off here is putting a lot of pressure on the probation department that has to deal with all these people who have these first time DUIs, and who need to get signed up for the sheriff’s work program, and pay additional fees. We need more supervision.

This is not what is going to get people to not drive under the influence. What we need is education, and that is something that the DUI school is all about, but adding additional jail time is not the answer. It will be interesting to see next year when the trial is over what they will learn from this. So stay tuned.

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Aaron Bortel

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