When corruption is uncovered in the media, it is often referred to in relation to an abuse of power of those we consider in high positions of power. However, Orange County has recently started investigating a local court clerk for corruptive practices concerning over 1,000 DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and misdemeanor cases.
DUI Penalties In California
Like the rest of the U.S., it is illegal for a person to drive with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more. California Vehicle Code, Section 2315. Most DUIs are misdemeanors and the minimum penalties include the following:
- a $390 fine with additional assessments up to $1,000;
- a two day jail sentence or a three month license restriction;
- attendance and completion of a $500 three month alcohol treatment program (the program is longer if the offender’s blood alcohol content level was above .20%); and
- no driver’s license for at least 30 days.
For those with multiple DUIs, the penalties are significantly steeper when a second DUI occurs within 10 years of a first DUI:
- ten days or 96 hours in jail;
- completion of an 18 or 30 month second offender alcohol treatment program (costing $1800) to bring a two year suspension down to one year with two years of license restriction to drive to and from work;
- installation of interlock device on all vehicles the offender owns.
For third or subsequent DUI conviction within 10 years of a previous DUI:
- 120 days for third offense, 180 days in jail for a fourth offense;
- license revocation for three years (third offense) or four years (fourth offense);
- completion of 30 month multi-offender program to get license back.
If bodily injury or death resulted from a DUI incident, the driver could be facing felony charges and could be sentenced for up to 5 years.
DUI and Misdemeanor Court Clerk Corruption
DUIs can be expensive and very inconvenient for offenders, especially those who have previously been convicted of one or more DUIs in the past. So it is no surprise that many people jumped on the opportunity to take advantage of the court system by paying a lump sum for a clerk to “fix” their documents before they appeared in front of a judge. A court employee discovered one incomplete DUI case handled by the guilty clerk who had vacated the position and found some alarming discrepancies. Now, all of the vacated clerk’s cases are being reviewed for falsified documents.
About 1,000 DUI and misdemeanor traffic cases throughout Orange County are being investigated and have been considered “fixed”; some of these cases even date back five years ago. This “big time corruption” is all tied back to only one court clerk. Various attorneys were listed as counsel for clients they claim to have never represented and defendants were offered plea deals and lighter penalties based on falsified records of time served in prison and falsified records of attorney representation. Now the court is in the correction process, which began last week as the defendants are reappearing before a judge. For those that acknowledged the falsity of various documents, the fines and fees were reinstated and defendants were given opportunities to discuss plea bargains with prosecutors. The incident is also being investigated by an Orange County public corruption task force.