CA teen who livestreamed drunk driving crash that killed her sister is charged

From the L.A. Times:

A California teen accused of driving drunk as she livestreamed a crash that killed her younger sister was charged Wednesday with half a dozen felony criminal offenses, including gross vehicular manslaughter, prosecutors said.

Along with a felony manslaughter while intoxicated charge, Obdulia Sanchez, 18, is facing another count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, according to the Merced County district attorney’s office.

She is also charged with two counts of driving under the influence resulting in injury and two additional counts of driving with a 0.08% blood alcohol content causing injury, the district attorney’s office said…

[The prosecutor Harold Nutt] said Sanchez, whose blood alcohol content was 0.10%, was not paying attention while driving. She was driving erratically and not holding the wheel, he said.

Nutt said the video “reflects some depravity and some stupidity.”

If Sanchez is convicted, she faces up to 13 years and eight months in prison, according to the district attorney’s office. She is being held in lieu of $560,000 bail.

The case received international attention after she recorded the moments before and after the crash on Instagram Live on Friday.

The Stockton resident filmed herself behind the wheel of a 2003 Buick as her 14-year-old sister, Jacqueline Sanchez, and a second 14-year-old girl sat in the back seat.

The California Highway Patrol said Sanchez was driving north of Los Banos when she swerved off the road and over-corrected her turn. She then veered across the road and crashed into a wire fence and her car rolled into a field.

The two girls in the rear seat, who were not wearing seat belts, were ejected from the vehicle, the CHP said.

Read the whole story here:  http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-california-teen-livestream-fatal-crash-charges-20170726-story.html

Driving Drunk is Dangerous Enough, Don’t do it While Doing Topless Snapchats as well!

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Here is a story about a college student who not only was alleged to have drove while intoxicated, she also was attempting to do a topless snapchat at the same time.

This didn’t work out too well for her.  She crashed into a squad car.

At least no one was injured.

Read the story here:  http://abc7chicago.com/news/cops-college-student-crashes-into-patrol-car-after-attempting-topless-snapchat/1576058/

Take My Advice: Posting on Social Media May be Hazardous to your legal health

Lately I have seen several stories about people who brag about committing crimes or avoiding arrest on social media.  Inevitably, the person is arrested, and their statements, photographs or videos become part of the prosecution’s case.  Here is the latest story, about a Connecticut man who made it home before the police could arrest him for DUI.  His “victory” didn’t last long.

From RawStory.com:

Driving while under the influence is never smart, nor is running from police when they try to pull you over.

But then bragging about it on social media afterward? That’s a whole new level of ineptitude.

Local news station WFSB reports that a Connecticut man named Aaron Morrissette was arrested by state police after he boasted of outrunning five state police cruisers after they tried to pull him over on suspicion of driving while under the influence.

The police had originally been called to respond to a domestic disturbance in Killingly, Connecticut on Wednesday night. When officers arrived at the scene, Morrissette was seen “fighting with several people” and then “smashed the window of a vehicle and drove a pickup truck” toward the officers.

The police pursued him for several miles before they stopped due to public safety concerns. Among other things, Morrissette “ran several red lights and nearly caused a crash” in his attempts to flee.

But after his escape, he wrote about the incident on social media and declared that “I won” the chase against the police.

Police found him at a home in Killingly the next day and took him into custody without incident.

He has been charged with domestic violence, disorderly conduct, harassment, reckless endangerment, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, disorderly conduct, interfering with a police officer, engaging the police in a pursuit, operating under suspension as a result of a DWI, operating an unregistered motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle without insurance.

DUI, Race and the Chicago Suburbs

There has been a viral facebook post by Brian Crooks about growing up black in suburban Naperville.  So far, it has garnered over 25,000 shares.  Please read it.

I wanted to excerpt part of it about the numerous DUI and other traffic investigatory stops that he endured, because the key to solving our current policing crisis is through listening and understanding:

I got pulled over a lot in high school. Like, a lot a lot. By this point, I was no longer driving the Dodge. I had a Mazda of my own. It was flashy and loud, but this was 2002 and everybody with a Japanese car was doing a Vin Diesel impression, so it’s not like mine stood out that much more than anyone else’s. I spent a ton of money on my car and was especially aware of its appearance. You can understand, then, why it was weird that I was routinely pulled over for a busted taillight. After all, that’s the kind of thing I would’ve noticed and gotten fixed, especially if that taillight tended to burn out once a week or so. My parents had told me how to act when pulled over by the police, so of course I was all “Yes sir, no sir” every time it happened. That didn’t stop them from asking me to step out of the car so they could pat me down or search for drugs, though. I didn’t have a drop of alcohol until I was 21, but by that point I was an expert at breathalyzers and field sobriety tests. On occasion, the officer was polite. But usually, they walked up with their hand on their gun and talked to me like I’d been found guilty of a grisly homicide earlier in the day. A handful of times, they’d tell me to turn off the car, drop the keys out the window, and keep my hands outside the vehicle before even approaching…

Once, when I came home from college, I was pulled over less than a block from my parents’ house. It was late, probably about midnight or so, but I hadn’t been drinking and it was winter so I wasn’t speeding because it had snowed that day. The officer stepped out of his car with his gun drawn. He told me to drop the keys out the window, then exit the car with my hands up and step back toward him. I knew he was wrong, but I wasn’t about to be shot to death down the street from my parents’ house because my failure to immediately comply was interpreted as me plotting to murder that officer. So yeah, I stepped out and backed up toward the officer. He hand cuffed me and refused to tell me why I had been pulled over, or why I had been asked to exit my vehicle. Only when I was sitting in the back of the police car did he tell me that there had been reports of gang activity in the area and that a car fitting my car’s description with a driver fitting my description had recently been involved in said gang activity. Gang activity. In south Naperville. Committed by a Black male driving a bright blue Mazda MX-6 with a gaudy blue and white interior. Yeah, alright. He was very short in asking me what I was doing in the neighborhood so late at night. I explained that my parents lived at that house with the glass backboard over there. He didn’t believe me. He took me back out of the car and put me face down on the hood of the police car to frisk me. I’d already been searched once before he put me in the car. Then, he spent about 15 minutes searching my car while I stood hand cuffed in the cold. My ID had my parents’ address on it, but he still didn’t think I lived there. I could tell he wanted to accuse me of having a fake ID. About a half hour after being pulled over, when he found nothing on me, nothing in my car, and nothing on my record, he reluctantly let me go. He didn’t even say sorry, or explain that it was his mistake; he must’ve been looking for another Black man in a bright blue Mazda MX-6 who was a gang leader in south Naperville. He sat in the street until I drove to my parents’ house, opened the garage door, drove inside, and then closed the garage door.

By the way, for the younger readers, I want to make it clear that having stories like this in the public conversation is not a new thing. When I was a young man in the 1980’s I read plenty of accounts of “driving while black.”  Perhaps the most memorable news item in this vein this was from 2000 when it became a temporary news story when it was revealed that Highland Park, IL police officers admitted that “they were taught to spot Mexican drivers to pull over by looking for large hats. A radio dispatch transcript submitted as evidence includes a Highland Park officer saying, “We got a winner,” after a sombrero sighting.” – Chicago Tribune story from March 31, 2000.  But then after a few weeks or months, stories like this pass away and nothing gets done.

I have said this before on this blog, but I will say it again.  DUIs are a very easy crime to fake.  They are also good tools for police departments that want to harass “unwanted” characters to keep them out of town.  All it takes for a DUI arrest is an officer’s “opinion” that a person was intoxicated because had “bloodshot eyes” and an “odor of alcohol.”  They can not offer a breath test and claim that the defendant “refused.”  It is also easy to make up probable cause for a drug or gun stop.  Let’s say an officer suspects someone is dealing drugs.  He can conduct a stop and frisk.  If there are no drugs, you walk away..If there are drugs, then you say you saw it in “plain sight.”  Or you can create some probable cause by heading straight to the suspected dealer and getting him to make a “furtive move” or run away.

This is not to say that this happens every time, but keep it in mind when you hear that someone was arrested for DUI.  Ask the critical questions:  why were they stopped?  what evidence is there?  Is there video evidence?

This is why video evidence is so crucial.  It is frustrating to me that even in 2016, it is common to have DUI, drug and weapons cases without any corroborating dash cam or body cam video evidence.  This should be mandatory.  Video evidence will often (if not always) establish whether the officer had probable cause, acted in a professional manner, and whether the defendant was violating the law or was just driving while black.

Man charged with DUI after stopped for driving with tree embedded into hood of car

From the Roselle, Illinois Police Department’s Facebook page:

A few weeks ago, a Roselle police officer saw a car driving southbound on Roselle Road with a 15-foot tree embedded in the front grill of the car. After stopping the driver, he also noticed the airbags had been deployed (apparently from hitting the tree). After an investigation, the Roselle officer arrested the driver for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol.

Yet another reason why you should not drink and drive!

Man flees DUI crash, tries to hide in Nativity scene

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From Newser.com:

Jesus Saves” probably doesn’t refer to getting someone off the hook for a crime, as one suspected drunk driver recently found out in the UK. A man slammed his Mini Cooper into a metal barrier in Yorkshire on Saturday and then fled the scene, seeking sanctuary from law enforcement in a Nativity scene about 220 yards away, reports the Telegraph. The North Yorkshire Police posted a pic of the car and decimated barrier on Twitter and noted the suspect had been “located & arrested.”

Social media had a bit of fun with the story, with commenters making appropriate holiday puns rounded up by the Telegraph. “God arrest ye merry gentleman,” reads one post, while another pipes in, “Obviously not one of the wise men.”

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A Cautionary Tale for Attorneys: Don’t take photos in court!

This morning an attorney showed me the 2016 Chicago Traffic Court “key” calendar, which not only had all the “key dates” for next year, but also, by implication, the two weeks when court will be closed for judicial seminars (which is a good thing for attorneys to know).  (By the way, those seminars will be held the weeks of February 1rst and April 4th).

The attorney asked if I wanted to take a picture of the schedule.  I declined to take a picture, but instead typed in the information into my phone.  Why, you may ask, did I write down the information when taking a picture would be so much easier?  Because taking a picture in court violates the Court Rules.

Obviously, this information is easy enough to forget, as this attorney, who has been practicing for over 20 years, did, and, as it turns out, so did a partner at  Loop law firm firm, who got into trouble for taking pictures of exhibits in a “high-profile” Federal “spoofing” trial and tweeting them, along with his comments, to his twitter followers.

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Jason Meisner):

A partner at a large Chicago law firm is in hot water after he was caught taking photos on his cellphone and tweeting them from the courtroom during the recent high-profile “spoofing” trial of a New Jersey-based trader.

Vincent “Trace” Schmeltz, a co-chair of the financial and regulatory litigation group at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, has been ordered to appear before U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo on Dec. 8. He faces possible sanctions for nine photos he tweeted during the trial of Michael Coscia, according to a court filing late Friday.

Schmeltz was in the spectator’s gallery of U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber’s 19th floor federal courtroom in Chicago on Oct. 28 when an FBI agent spotted him holding his phone at chest-level and snapping photos, records show. Court officials later saw nine tweets on Schmeltz’s Twitter page, @TraceSchmeltz, each with a caption describing evidence that was being displayed in the trial.

“Prosecution trying to impeach … with this email,” Schmeltz wrote in one post, which included a photo of the email as it was being displayed in court on a flat-screen monitor, the filing stated.

Photographing or recording of any kind is forbidden at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse except in the lobby.

Leinenweber had specifically barred all cellphone use in his courtroom for Coscia’s trial, which was the first of its kind in the nation and was closely watched by players in the controversial world of high-frequency trading.

On the day Schmeltz sent his tweets, there was a 4-foot sign posted outside the courtroom that read “PHOTOGRAPHING, RECORDING or BROADCASTING IS PROHIBITED,” according to the filing.

Reached at his office Monday, a contrite Schmeltz said he was caught up in the moment, calling the trial a “unique civics lesson” that he wanted his 244 Twitter followers to know about. He said that even though he is a seasoned attorney, it was one of the first times he’d ever been in court for a case that wasn’t his and he simply failed to notice the ban on cellphone use.

“I’m not used to being a spectator,” Schmeltz said. “It’s a lesson learned on my part.”

Schmeltz, who immediately deleted the offending tweets when he was notified of the violation, said he was careful to photograph only the evidence on the screen, not witnesses or jurors.

He was admitted to the Illinois bar in 2000 and has no disciplinary record as an attorney, according to online records with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

A federal jury deliberated for less than an hour last week before convicting Coscia of all 12 counts of fraud and spoofing.