Tuesday, December 29, 2015

DUI in a Golf Cart? And Other Surprises from Catalina Island

The Catalina Island Courthouse, Avalon, CA

Section 23152 of the California Vehicle Code makes it a misdemeanor to operate any motor vehicle while the you are "under the influence" of alcohol or drugs. Many of my clients are surprised to learn that golf carts are considered "motor vehicles" under California law. Yes, you can be arrested for DUI on a golf cart.

This situation arises frequently on Catalina Island. The island allows very few gas-powered vehicles, so most locals and tourists navigate around the town of Avalon in electric carts. Avalon is a resort town, nestled beside pristine beaches. It attracts tourists from around the world, who come to admire its natural beauty, do some fishing, rent a golf cart, and drink like it's a contest. Unfortunately, many of these visitors end up calling my office after they get arrested for DUI.

If you are convicted of DUI on Catalina, get ready for surprise #2. The city of Avalon (and the rest of Catalina Island) are part of Los Angeles County. For the past few years, LA County has been participating in a pilot program that requires all first-time DUI offenders to install Ignition Interlock Devices in their vehicles before they can reinstate their drivers' licenses. An Ignition Interlock Device, or "IID", is a little breathalyzer that a driver must blow into before his or her car will start. This rule applies regardless of where the defendant lives (even if you live outside of LA, but your DUI occurred anywhere within the county of Los Angeles). If you're convicted of a golf cart DUI on Catalina Island, your driver's license will be subject to the IID restriction.

If you are arrested for DUI on a golf cart in Catalina, call us for a free attorney consultation. In most cases, we can make your court appearances for you so that you don't need to make an expensive trip back to the island. Our goal is always to protect your rights, save you money, and make the whole process as stress-free as possible for you. 

Cited for illegal fishing on Catalina? Catalina Island and its surrounding waters are home to several "marine protected areas", including state and federal "marine reserves", "conservation areas" and "special closures". If you received a ticket from local wardens of the California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, you probably also got some bad legal advice. You might have been told that you could simply appear at the Long Beach Courthouse at your convenience to address the matter. In most cases, this is false. If the Los Angeles District Attorney files misdemeanor charges against you for fishing in a protected area, you (or your attorney) must appear before a judge in Catalina.  

And you may not simply appear "at your convenience". The citation you received probably says that you must appear in court "on or before" a particular date. The Catalina courthouse, however, is only open on alternating Fridays. If you show up when court is not in session, you will find a dark building with a locked door.  

Fishing citations in Catalina are almost never processed by the date printed on your citation. If you invest the time and money to appear in court as instructed, there's still a significant chance that your case will not be listed on the day's calendar. Another wasted trip.  

As Catalina Island's leading private attorney, I can make your appearances so you don't have to deal with the hassle. Of course, there are worse places to spend a day, but making the trip to Catalina is an expensive hassle that you don't need.  

If you or a loved one has been cited or arrested on Catalina Island, call us to speak with a local attorney. Consultations are always free.  (714) 449 3335. Ask for John. 

Thanks for reading.