Understanding Vandalism Charges

The word vandalism spray painted on a cement wall

If you or a loved one is charged with vandalism in Missouri, whether it be tagging or graffiti or defacing property, the result can be serious charges and severe penalties. If damage resulting from the vandalism is bad enough, you can face steep fines, a criminal record, jail time and even time in state prison.

Many do not realize that parents of minors are financially responsible for the damage that their children cause.  Parents of minors charged with vandalism or tagging need to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to handle their case.

Types of Vandalism
  • Carving into a piece of glass or wood such as a table, chair, desk or bench with a knife or any other tool
  • Breaking windows or doors
  • Tagging with markers or paint
  • Damaging somebody else’s property including mailboxes, cars, plants, lawn or other personal property with intent
Difference Between Misdemeanor & Felony Vandalism

For a person to be found guilty of vandalism prosecutors must prove that they maliciously intended to damage or deface personal property of another person.

Charges of Misdemeanor or Felony depend of the severity of the damage caused. Typically damage under the amount of $750 is considered a misdemeanor while damage of $750 and over is considered a felony.

Acts of vandalism will automatically be felonies if they are proved to be “hate crimes.”

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your case as well as help you get the best possible result in court. In some cases, your case may even be dropped if there is not enough evidence.


Here’s What Happens When Your Uber Driver Gets a DUI

front view of a car driving fast at night

When Katie Gallion’s Uber driver started swerving across the road’s rumble strips only 15 minutes into her ride near Durham, North Carolina, on June 3, she decided to give him a pass. At 10 p.m., it was dark outside and raining hard, she told BuzzFeed News. She didn’t know he’d polished off four beers before starting to drive for Uber that night.

When the car crossed over a grass median, coming precariously close to the oncoming traffic lane, Gallion began considering her options. “I was getting really scared and contemplating that maybe I should nicely ask him to pull over,” the 33-year-old pharmacist said.

But she waited, and after turning onto a two-lane country road, the driver veered off the road and into a ditch, where the ride continued. “I was a crying mess, thinking, Oh my god, what if he doesn’t let me out of the car?” Gallion said. “Then I yelled, ‘What is going on? Let me out!’”

Finally, the driver pulled into the parking lot of a closed minimart and let Gallion out of the car. “I’m a good driver,” Gallion said he told her in a halfhearted attempt to convince her to continue the ride. Then he offered to call her another Uber.

Gallion called a friend instead, and together they called Wake County police. “I really could have died,” Gallion said. “I don’t know what would’ve happened … if I didn’t get out of the car.”

Gallion’s Uber driver was arrested for driving while impaired at 11:09 p.m. — about an hour after her ride began. According to Wake County Superior Court records, he had a blood alcohol level of 0.15 — nearly four times the .04 legal limit for commercial drivers. The driver, who had no prior arrest record, was also charged with failure to heed a light or siren.

Reached for comment, Gallion’s Uber driver told BuzzFeed News he had accepted one other fare on the night of the incident. He said his memory of Gallion’s ride is unclear. “I remember knowing that she was uncomfortable and it was raining,” he said.

Gallion reported the incident to Uber at around 1 a.m., after reaching her friend’s house. About 12 hours later, the company responded with a boilerplate email and a refund of $69.24 for her ride. In a follow-up phone call, a company representative told Gallion it was “working diligently” to investigate the incident but could not discuss it in detail because of its privacy policy. She asked if he had been deactivated. Uber declined to tell her, citing a company mandate “to respect the privacy of all users.”

“Uber has a zero tolerance policy for the use of drugs and alcohol, and upon learning of these allegations, we immediately removed the driver’s access to the platform,” an Uber spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. Uber said this driver in particular had no prior safety complaints and was “highly rated.

BuzzFeed News reported in March that screenshots of Uber’s internal customer support platform showed the company’s instructions for how representatives should handle incidents involving alcohol and drug use. “If rider does not wish to escalate with LE (law enforcement) or media, follow strike system, issue warning, and resolve without escalating.” Under resolution suggestions, the screenshot showed that for the “1st strike,” customer service representatives were instructed to issue a “final warning,” and to permanently ban drivers at strike two.

Emails provided to BuzzFeed News show that Uber first reached out to Gallion’s driver by email at 1 p.m. the following day, about 12 hours after she reported him to the company for drunk driving. Unable to reach him over the phone (he was in jail), a company representative asked the driver when he was available discuss a “concerning report” by phone. When he checked his Uber app, he saw he had already lost access to the platform.

The next day, June 5, Uber conducted a brief interview during which Gallion’s driver was asked to review the details of the allegations against him. The driver told BuzzFeed News that he confirmed to Uber that he had indeed been arrested for driving under the influence. The following day he received an email notification from Uber saying he’d been deactivated and his “partnership” with the company ended. “They handled it quickly,” the driver said.

This isn’t the first time an Uber driver has been arrested for driving under the influence. That said, Uber notes that ride-hailing can be a wise alternative to driving after drinking. According to a study the company conducted with the nonprofit group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Uber’s entry into a number of markets correlated with subsequent declines in DUI arrests.

Uber says it depends on riders to rate drivers and provide feedback, which its safety team reviews. “Uber may also deactivate a driver who receives several unconfirmed complaints of drug or alcohol use,” the ride-hail giant’s deactivation policy reads. The company told BuzzFeed it has a team of former law enforcement professionals on staff to help with police investigations. When BuzzFeed News asked if it has a system for learning about drivers’ law enforcement incidents instead of just relying on riders’ alerts, Uber said in some states background checks are “periodically” updated. Uber did not respond when asked if North Carolina is included among those states.

On Wednesday, Uber announced it is piloting app features aimed at making rides safer. In several markets across the U.S., drivers will receive daily reports on their braking, acceleration, and navigation. The goal, Uber told BuzzFeed, is to lay the groundwork to eventually create a system that gives the company real-time alerts about erratic drivers.


Cheating the Breathalyzer: Urban Legends

In fear of failing a breathalyzer test, many people over the years have tried and failed to successfully discover a means of being able to cheat the test. Many urban legends exist as to how one can actually consume a level of alcohol which is over the legal limit yet still pass a breathalyzer test when stopped by the cops. However, no matter how believable these “success stories” may sound, you can bet that they are actually false.

A common misconception is if the alcohol cannot be smelled from your breath, then you will not fail a breathalyzer test. This had led to people drinking alcohol which left a minimal odour on your breath or chewing gum or mints to hide the smell of alcohol in the belief that would pass should they be pulled over for a breathalyzer test. Unfortunately, the smell of alcohol on your breath will do nothing to affect the results of the test. A breathalyser will still be able to discover your blood alcohol content.

Similarly, if you think a mouthful of mouth wash or some breath spray will do the trick, think again. Most mouthwashes and breath sprays actually contain levels of alcohol so essentially, all that you will be doing is further adding to the level of alcohol in your system. Another common urban legend involves sticking pennies or one cent coins under the tongue to try and cheat a breathalyzer test. The general thought beyond this claim is that the copper in the pennies or coins can somehow counteract the presence of alcohol. This however is completely false – and in fact, U.S. one cent coins are actually largely made of zinc. In truth, you are probably just putting yourself at risk of choking on coins or absorbing dangerously high levels of zinc!

There have also been many bizarre stories about how one can successfully cheat a breathalyzer test by stuffing crazy things in your mouth. Do not even bother putting yourself through the embarassment and hassle of doing such a thing because you will undoubtedly still fail the test. Although you might provide a source of amusement for your arresting police officers! Despite what people may think, stopping off for some fast food and a coffee will not affect the results of the test either. It may satisfy your intense hunger or thirst but absorbing food or drink will not lower your breath alcohol levels.

Finally, holding your breath before taking the test or belching into the device are also believed to be “successful” ways of cheating a breathalyser test. Unfortunately guys, this is merely an urban myth. By holding your breath before the test, you could actually be even allowing further amounts of alcohol to enter your lungs which can result in a higher reading.

Do you know what the only truly successful way of a cheating a breathalyzer test is? Abstaining from alcohol before driving! Do not ever try to “guess” if you are over the legal alcohol limit to drive. If you intend on having a drink, you need to bring a personal breathalyser with you to test yourself before deciding whether to drive home. If your reading is over the limit, it is time to start flagging down a cab.


Keeping New Year’s Eve DWI Free

a man holding a class of alcohol with car keys in hand. there is a clock turning midnight in the background

New Year’s Eve is the second most likely night for people to receive a DWI charge. Only Thanksgiving sees more DWIs than New Year’s, and the accident rates soar during this time of year, according to official sources. However, it is important to remember that DWIs can happen at any time, and the same rules for keeping New Year’s Eve safe and DWI free apply throughout the year as well.

A DWI conviction can have many life changing consequences including:

  • Having an arrest record
  • Incurring expensive fines
  • Serving jail time
  • Being placed on probation
  • Being required to install an ignition interlock device
  • Being forced to attend mandatory counseling or education classes

A DWI conviction has a serious impact on your life. It is much easier for you to avoid a DWI altogether than to deal with the consequences of such a charge.

What Can I Do To Avoid a DUI Charge?

There are no magic formulas to help you avoid a DWI. Common sense is the best weapon you have in the fight against a DWI charge, but sometimes a bit of knowledge about how the system works can also be beneficial. Here are some tips for avoiding DWI charges:

  • Designated drivers do not get DWIs. It is a simple fact that a designated driver who consumes no alcohol is the best defense against a DWI charge. It is also the best way for you and your friends to stay safe when you are out enjoying the evening. You could also arrange for a cab or other transportation.
  • The less said, the better. It is important not to talk too much to police officers when you are pulled over for any infraction. Police officers are trained to talk to you and get you to say things that can then be used as they build a case against you. While police officers are just doing their jobs, they are not your friends when you are pulled over and you should try to avoid talking to them too much, no matter how polite or nice they seem to be.
  • Call an attorney. If you are charged with DWI, an experienced DWI attorney is your best bet for reduction or dismissal of the charges.

Contact me,  Adam Woody, at The Law Office of Adam Woody if you are arrested or booked on DWI charges. I’m here to fight for you.


DWI Field Sobriety Testing: Post 3 of 3 Post Series – One-Leg Stand Test

Over the past several months I have discussed in detail the various field sobriety tests that police officers utilize during their investigations of DWI’s.  Today is the final installment of the series with what is typically the final field sobriety test conducted roadside, the One-Leg Stand Test.  Obviously, standing on one foot for up to 30 seconds is rarely easy for anyone.  However, studies show that when the failure of this test is coupled with the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test and the Walk and Turn Test, it can demonstrate with a high probability whether someone is too impaired to operate a motor vehicle safely.

On the One-Leg Stand Test (OLS), there is a possibility of four different potential indicators of impairment.  Like the Walk and Turn Test, the OLS is considered a divided attention test.  While the subject is standing on the foot of their choice, they are required to look at the other foot and count out loud until being told to stop.  This then pairs a physical task, standing on one foot, with a mental task, counting.  Although the combination of balancing, listening, and counting out loud does not seem very daunting to most, it can actual be quite difficult for someone who is impaired.

As with WAT, the OLS requires a surface that is dry, hard, level, and non-slippery.  If the subject is wearing heals that are over 2 inches in height, the officer must give them an opportunity to remove their shoes.  Studies have also suggested that individuals over 65 years of age, people with back, leg, or inner ear problems, and people who are 50 or more pounds overweight may have difficulty performing the test.  If the test is conducted on any of these individuals, their attorney should be able to discredit the officer for even continuing with the test once these issues are discovered.

The instruction phase of any of the sobriety tests are of critical importance in ensuring any level of accuracy.  On the OLS there are eight distinct instructions that must be given to the subject by the officer performing the test.  If instructed or demonstrated improperly by the officer, the results can be drastically compromised.  The following instructions must be given by the officer, and must be given from a safe distance:

1) Tell the suspect to stand straight, feet together and arms at their sides, and not to begin until instructed to do so, followed by “do you understand”;

2) Tell the suspect to raise one leg, either leg, approximately 6″ above and parallel with the ground (toe pointed out or down slightly), followed by a demonstration;

3) Tell the suspect to hold the elevated foot in this position and count in the following manner, one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three, and so on until told to stop, followed by a demonstration;

4) Ask the suspect if he or she understands;

5) Tell the suspect that throughout the test, to remember to: a) watch the elevated foot; b) count like instructed; c) keep both arms at the sides; d) keep both legs straight; e) should you put your foot down, lift it back up and continue counting from where you left off;

6) Ask the suspect if he or she understands;

7) Ask the suspect if he or she feels like they can perform the test as explained;

8) Tell suspect to begin and check the time (Must be timed for 30 seconds)

If any of the above instruction are left off, the particular clue should not be counted by the officer or the Court, and it could serve to discredit the officer’s credibility.  Although there are  a total possibility of four potential indicators of impairment on this test, it takes two to fail.  The following are potential indicators of impairment, or “clues”:

1) Sways while balancing (side to side or back and forth motion while the subject maintains the OLS position. Slight tremors do not qualify);

2) Uses arms for balance (subject moves arms 6 inches or more from the side of the body in order to keep balance);

3) Hopping (subject is able to keep one foot off the ground, but resorts to hopping in order to maintain balance);

4) Puts foot down (the subject is not able to maintain the one leg stand position, putting the foot down one or more times during the 30 second count).

If two of the above indicators are present, it will be determined that the subject has failed the test, indicating the possibility of impairment.  Again, however, if any of the instructions are left out during the instruction phase by the officer, the validity of the entire test comes into question.  This is another test in which it is valuable to have it captured on video and audio from the car of the officer.  Whether it is or isn’t captured on the dashcam, it takes a skilled and experience criminal defense attorney to advocate for you at trial.  To effectively cross-examine the officer, attorneys must have a well-rounded knowledge of how DWI’s are investigated and must have a thorough understanding of the field sobriety tests.

This concludes my 3 part series on Field Sobriety Testing.  Once again, I hope the posts have been informative as I aim to put the public on a level playing field with police officers when requested to complete FST’s on the side of the road.  Don’t hesitate to contact my law office should you ever find yourself in the position of needing a skilled criminal defense attorney.