A drunk-driving arrest can ruin your life for many years to come

Dan Watson Santa Clarita Sheriff's Deputy Daryl (cq) Peacock asks if the occupant of a small truck has their drivers license as Sheriff's deputies funnel cars down to one lane at a DUI checkpoint on Lyons Avenue in Newhall on Thursday night. 071113
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Bump, bump, bump, bump.

You’re finding it increasingly difficult to stay between the bright, white reflective lane markers.

At this point, the certainty of being in the correct lane has disappeared along with a clear visual of the slick roadway.

The spinning tires groan from exchanging blows with the concrete curb.

A pair of low beams in your rearview mirror appear to flash and you’re blinded by a deluge of red, white and blue strobe lights.

Loud and booming, a voice, somewhat muddled by impaired comprehension, gives instruction over a loudspeaker.

“Pull to the side at your earliest convenience,” the female voice commands.

Hand over hand, the steering wheel turns clockwise; the sound of gravel under the tires wrestles with the thumping pace of your heartbeat.

The tap of a flashlight rapping on the window startles you. The window rolls down. A brief exchange of information ensues.

The woman, a sheriff’s deputy, makes note of your bloodshot eyes and slight scent of alcohol.

“Sir, follow my finger,” the sheriff’s deputy says.

“Slowly reach your hand out the window and open the door,” the woman says.

You follow the instructions, exit the vehicle and proceed to the sidewalk.

The deputy closely observes your movements. You manage to articulate a couple of words, handicapped by a dizzying sensation.

“I only had a few drinks ma’am.”

The admission did little to change the situation. The deputy had already noticed typical hallmarks of intoxication.

She asks you to recite the alphabet from A and to stop at a letter other than Z.

Your attention is divided between the task at hand and the deputy’s unbroken gaze.

She asks you to walk a straight path – you fail. A slate-colored device is thrusted toward your lips.

“Blow into this as hard as you can,” the woman with a gold nameplate bearing the name “Meyers” says.

Taking in a heave of air, you expel into the plastic gray mouthpiece.

The machine beeps and Meyers lets out a sigh.

“Point zero, nine, five,” she reads aloud. Her partner reaches behind his back and unlatches a pair of glossy gray handcuffs.

Because your blood-alcohol concentration was over the California’s legal limit of 0.08 percent, you’re declared intoxicated.

The pitter-patter of raindrops begins to fall, the stormy water mixing with tears, washing away any evidence of remorse from your face.

You’re read your rights and corralled into the back of a patrol vehicle where the hintings of a stark reality overtake dulled consciousness.

Your car is put on the flatbed tow truck and impounded. The cost: $134 for the tow and $35 for each day it sits in the lot.

Sarah Meyers and her partner Curtis Buchanan transport you to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station where you’re digitally fingerprinted and housed, pending a release on citation.

You hang onto the green cage as the jailers monitor you from afar. On average, a person sobers at a rate of 0.2 percent per hour. The jailers anticipate releasing you after about four hours.

If you had hit and killed someone, the chance of being released would diminish.
You’re handed a citation for a pending court date to be filed with the county district attorney’s office.

Your future becomes an uncertainty. If the judge orders you to jail, it can be a much as six months or, because it’s your first offense, as little as informal probation for three to five years.

Fines can exceed $1,000. Your driver’s license can be suspended for 30 days or up to 12 months. If you were speeding more than 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit at the time you were pulled over, or had children in the car, or caused damage — expect the penalties to climb.

At this point, with a DUI conviction, your car insurance skyrockets, or at worst, is suspended.

In Los Angeles County, it’s mandatory to install an ignition interlock device, which requires you to blow into it to start the car. Your blood-alcohol concentration cannot register above zero percent if you plan to drive.

And if you hit and cause great bodily injury to or kill someone, you can assume you’ll trade in your shirt and tie for an orange jumpsuit.

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