Articles Posted in DUI

WJTV News Channel 12 recently reported on the fatal crashes happening across Mississippi during the month of December. Already, from December 12 to December 14, there have been 11 possible crash deaths, which is 8 more than this time last year. The holiday season is notorious for an increase in deadly and injury-causing crashes across the country. Not only are there more commuters and travelers on the roadways, more people are having holiday celebrations with alcohol this time of the year. It’s a dangerous mix, which means that the roadways are not as safe as they are during other times of the year.

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over
Local and state law enforcement agencies will be stepping up their efforts to catch drunk drivers this season. In addition to “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” national ad campaigns, additional officers will be dispatched over the holidays to increase visibility and enhance enforcement.

The Facts on DUI’s and Crash Fatalities
• During the 2012 holiday season (December 12-31), 1,698 people were killed in crashes across the U.S.
• Nearly a third of those fatalities occurred in drunk driving related wrecks.
• On Christmas day in 2012, 26 people were killed by impaired drivers.
• In December of 2012, 830 people were killed by drunk drivers.
• In 2012, 33,561 people died in motor vehicle crashes across the U.S.

On October 1 of this year, the DUI laws in this state got a face-lift. As with most changes to our laws, there are some very happy groups and some not-so-happy groups. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was very happy about this change in penalties for driving under the influence–though http://www.newsms.fm/legal-limit-recommendation-could-affect-mississippi/some groups originally pushed for a lower Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Luckily for restaurateurs and social drinkers, the desired change of BAC from the current 0.08 to 0.05 did not occur. However, the DUI laws did see some substantial changes in the latest legislative session.

THE GOOD: Until this new legislation went into effect, one convicted of a DUI could not get that DUI expunged from his record, nor was he eligible for non-adjudication. But now there is hope!

Any first-time offender (who does not have a commercial driver’s license) may petition the Circuit Court of the county in which the conviction stands for an expunction of the charge. There are some restrictions, however:
• The petitioner must wait five years after the successful completion of all terms and conditions of his sentence.
• It is only available when all terms and conditions have been met (all fines are paid, all classes attended); if the person submitted to an Intoxilyzer test; if the results of that test were below .16%; if there are no other pending DUIs or convictions; and if the person provides justification to the Court.

Over the holiday weekend, law enforcement officers with the Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) made 20 DUI arrests in the Metro area. Statewide, there were 203 DUI arrests by the MHP. According to WJTV News Channel 12, the MHP started their holiday operational hours from Thursday evening to Sunday. It’s not uncommon for local and state law enforcement authorities to step up their efforts to catch suspected drunk drivers over holiday weekends. The total number of DUI arrests in Jackson and statewide is unknown, because these numbers don’t reflect arrests made by local law enforcement authorities.

Need to Know: DUI in Mississippi

In Mississippi, it is illegal for drivers to be under the influence of alcohol while they’re behind the wheel or while having a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08% or higher. Read that again, because it does not say “driving drunk.” And if there is not a breath test, the officer can still charge a driver with driving under the influence of intoxicating beverages or under the influence of some other substance. For drivers under the age of 21, a BAC of .02% or more is illegal, and for commercial drivers, a BAC of .04% or more is illegal. If your or a loved one has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence, you need to contact a skilled DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. The negative effects of a DUI conviction can follow you for years to come.

What if I Refuse the Breath Test?

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I’ve recently had several people call in about getting ticketed for having an open container of alcohol, usually in conjunction with being arrested for DUI. Many of these callers have all said the same thing: “But my friend told me there were no such things as open container laws in Mississippi! They can’t arrest me for that!” In doing some research for this post, I also found this article on Huffington Post, which may be where my potential client’s “friend” got his information. And while I still caution you on using any legal advice or information given to you by your friend–unless, of course, your friend is a lawyer–in the case of open container laws in Mississippi, he might be right.

Now before you start erecting a drive-thru daiquiri stand or open a bottle of your nicest cabernet sauvignon for the drive home, pay attention: although there is no statewide prohibition against having an open container in a car or on a street corner, most counties and cities do prohibit open containers. If you are caught with an open container in these places, you can get be ticketed for it, even though there is no statewide prohibition against it. Not only do most cities and counties prohibit open containers in vehicles, but there are 34 counties in Mississippi that are completely dry when it comes to hard liquor and 36 counties that are dry when it comes to beer and light wine. If you are driving through one of these “dry” counties with alcohol in your vehicle, whether or not it’s in an opened container, you could face penalties for mere possession of these intoxicating substances.

But let’s say you are lucky enough to be enjoying a drink while driving in a location without open container laws. Are you completely safe? Probably not. It’s legal to have a drink while driving, but only if your blood alcohol content stays below the legal limit. What’s more, if a law enforcement officer sees the Bud Light can you’re sipping from, he then has probable cause to pull you over and inquire about your alcohol consumption. (Mayo v. State, 843 So.2d 739). Which, as we all know, can then lead to a number of problems.

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Asserting your rights when you have been pulled over by a police officer for DUI is difficult for most people to do. Besides the worry that you may be wrong about your legal rights, there is also the fear that comes along with being pulled over. The result is that most times, drivers allow police officers to trample their rights without having any recourse.

Recently, a group in Florida has created “DUI flyers” that can be used if a person is stopped at a checkpoint. The flyer sends a very clear message to the police officer (I’m not talking, I don’t want my car searched, I DO want my attorney). An example of the flyer can be seen below:

The purpose of the flyer is to communicate to the police officer that the driver is fully informed of his or her rights and to remind the driver about what should be done during a DUI checkpoint. The flyer reminds the driver to not speak to the police officers and that they are not required to cooperate with the police. The flyer appears to give the driver sounds advice about what they can do to protect their rights.

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Recently, the Mississippi Supreme Court handed down a very favorable decision regarding DUI convictions. The case, Freeman v. State of Mississippi
Freeman v. State
, litigated by Coxwell & Associates’ very own Chuck Mullins, resulted in a very favorable outcome for our client, as it is not very often the Supreme Court reverses a DUI conviction.
Dr. Freeman was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) first offense, by the Madison County Justice Court. On appeal, the State was put under a court order to preserve specific video evidence, vital to Freeman’s defense. However, this key evidence was eventually destroyed, in violation of the court order mandating the State to preserve this evidence. As a result, the Supreme Court determined that, without this key evidence, Dr. Freeman would be unable to present a complete defense. The arresting officer even admitted at trial that this evidence would have cleared up any unanswered questions regarding Dr. Freeman’s traffic stop and arrest.
When Dr. Freeman agreed to a continuance, he did so under one stipulation – that the video recording of the traffic stop would be preserved for defense counsel’s use at trial. However, this evidence was destroyed while the arresting officer was away on active military duty. Without this objective video evidence, which undoubtedly would have cleared up any unresolved questions regarding the traffic stop, the Supreme Court decided that Dr. Freeman would be unable to present a complete defense without the evidentiary support and aid of the videotaped arrest. As a result, the Court reversed and remanded Dr. Freeman’s DUI conviction – a great result for our client.
At Coxwell & Associates, the best advice we can give clients regarding drinking and driving is simple: NEVER, under any circumstances, get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. However, as Dr. Freeman can attest to, the attorneys at Coxwell & Associates are here for you if you, or a loved one, ever have any questions regarding DUI convictions. Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys will work hard to achieve the results you expect. To learn more about DUI defense, click here.

Click here to read the full opinion of Freeman v. State.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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Getting charged with driving under the influence (DUI) is getting to be an everyday event for celebrities. Over the past year there have been several arrested. Just this week Reese Witherspoon and her husband were arrested in Georgia. He was arrested for DUI, Mrs. Witherspoon for disorderly conduct. In and around the Hinds, Madison, and Rankin county area, in the municipalities of Clinton, Jackson, Brandon, Flowood, Reservoir area, City of Madison, Ridgeland, and the other small cities, there are thousands of DUI arrests every year. Many of these DUI arrests occur exactly like the arrest of Reese Witherspoon and her husband. The attorneys at Coxwell & Associates have years helping people evaluate whether their arrest was legally proper and whether the clients have a good chance of successfully defending against a bad DUI arrest.

I can tell you as an attorney with thirty two (32) years of experience that the arrests of Mrs. Witherspoon and her husband are exactly like the arrests of hundreds of other people. They went out for dinner and had a drink or two. They decided to leave and go home and neither was “drunk” so they did not call a cab or arrange a ride in advance. They did not realize that under present DUI law driving drunk is not even mentioned. Let me repeat what I just said. Driving drunk is not in the law! Does that mean you can drive drunk and not be violating the law? Of course not!

The law in Mississippi and most states makes it illegal to drive while under the influence of intoxicating liquors or some other substance that impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. So, of course if you are drunk you are going to be under the influence and in violation of the law. But, the other area that catches most people is the blood alcohol content. Mississippi makes it illegal to drive under the influence of intoxicating substances and it makes it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of .08% or greater as measured by the Intoxilizer. This is the magical machine at most police stations that law enforcement officers ask the suspect to blow into and after they blow and if it prints out a .08% or greater, the suspect is arrested. I have even seen some instances when the machine printed out lower than .08% and the suspect was still arrested and charged with being under the influence of intoxicating liquors or some other substance. Hum, sounds like a no-win situation doesn’t it. A “damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.” In many ways it is.

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As I sit hear preparing to defend a DUI case in the City of Jackson Municipal Court, I am reading a news story about 3 Doors Down bassist Todd Harrell’s alleged involvement in a DUI related homicide. According to news reports, Harrell was speeding through a Nashville neighborhood when he clipped a pickup truck driven by Paul Howard Shoulders, Jr. Shoulders lost control of his car and wrecked. Mr. Shoulders subsequently died. (Reports indicated that Mr. Shoulders was not wearing a safety belt).

Harrell was questioned by police and admitted to drinking hard cider and taking Lortab and Zanax. Harrell’s troubles continued when he got to jail for booking. Officers found numerous pills (Xanax,. 24 oxycodone pills and four oxymorphone) in a plastic bag which were hidden in his sock. Harrell was charged for illegally bringing these drugs into a jail. (This charge seems silly since the law seeks to prohibit a person from bringing drugs in a jail to distribute them to inmates; clearly Harrell was not doing this). Harrell remained in jail on $100,000 bond and has a court date this Thursday.

This is another tragic accident caused by drinking and driving. I don’t want to be piling on Harrell here by Monday Morning Quarterbacking but this is a perfectly avoidable crime. If you want to go out and have some “hard cider with your Lortab and Xanax” you should have a designated driver or plan to call a cab. I’ve seen 3 Doors Down record sales and I’m pretty sure Harrell could have arranged for a driver. That’s it. End of story.

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Jackson, Mississippi celebrity chef Cat Cora received a DUI in California last year. Ms. Cora bumped into another car and the police were called. Ms. Cora claimed that she only had three (3) beers BUT she took a breath test which revealed her blood alcohol content was .19 (the legal limit in California is .08 just like Mississippi).

California has much harsher DUI penalties than Mississippi. Ms. Cora struck a plea deal in which she paid fines of over $2,000 and received 120 jail sentence which was suspended, meaning she doesn’t have to serve the time as long as she doesn’t get into any more trouble.

To make matters worse for Ms. Cora, the driver of the other car videoed her after the wreck. She did not exactly come off as she does when she is doing a cooking show as you can see here.

For over thirty years attorneys at Coxwell & Associates, PLLC have been providing advice to clients when it comes to DUI cases in the Jackson metropolitan area and all over the state of Mississippi. When you hire an attorney at this firm, you receive help with everything involved with your case AFTER you are arrested. Many times current clients ask us, “What should I have done when the officer pulled me over that night?” This article is written to address a few of those concerns. If you or someone you know is stopped and investigated for a possible DUI charge, keep the following advice in mind for DUI “Do’s & Don’ts”

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1. Do…use a designated driver – someone who is not going to consume any alcohol whatsoever while you are out. Our office represents far too many people who were asked to be the “DD” simply because they had “less to drink than everyone else.” This is never a good idea.

2. Do…remain calm with the officer, and cooperate when given an order by the officer.
As soon as you are pulled over, remember to remain calm with the officer. If you are “freaking out”, I guarantee you the officer will testify at trial that you were being belligerent. Go ahead and have your license and proof of insurance ready to give to the officer. You are not required to answer any questions, but you are required to command any order given by the officer. If the officer orders you to get out of the car, do exactly that. On the side of the road is not the place to argue with the officer.

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