The Los Angeles DUI Law Blog

Bobby Brown Takes Plea Bargain in DUI; TMZ Seems Confused

TMZ broke the news on Wednesday -- Bobby Brown has taken a plea bargain with no additional jail time. Brown agreed to one day in jail, which has already been served, plus fines and three years of summary probation. He will also have to take a 90-day alcohol program. This is the minimum sentence for a first-time DUI.

However, our favorite celeb gossip site may have incorrectly reported that in exchange for the plea of no contest, the prosecutors dropped the DUI charge. Brown did in fact end up walking out of the courthouse with a DUI conviction in hand, at least according to the Los Angeles Times.

We don't blame them, or you, for being confused. California charges DUIs in a confusing and unique manner. Because the intricacies of DUI charging can become unclear to readers and TMZ writers alike, we'll clear it up for you.

When someone is charged with driving under the influence, and the officer believes that the person had a blood alcohol content of over 0.08, they are often charged with two overlapping offenses for a single crime. The reasons for the weird charging do make sense, once you understand how the law is used. The sections that apply are Vehicle Code 23152(b) and 23152(a).

The first, VC 23152(b), is a DUI charge for driving with a BAC of over 0.08. This is easy for the prosecution to prove if a blood or breath test gave a reading of more than 0.08. However, tests are not always done accurately, or in time. There is also the possibility that the driver was on other drugs.

That is the purpose of the second charge, VC 23152(a). This is the driving while impaired provision. It allows someone to be convicted of a DUI for being under the influence of any drug that might impair their driving ability, such as sleeping pills, pain pills, marijuana, hand sanitizer, or crack cocaine. It also is a "catch-all" for drivers who were swerving all over the road but still had below a 0.08 BAC by the time they were tested.

The two are legally equivalent and have the same punishment. Someone cannot be convicted of both without being punished twice for the same crime. They are alternates.

For Bobby Brown, he didn't catch a break for being a celebrity, as some of the TMZ readers might believe. Instead, he got the same plea bargain that is pretty standard for first-time DUI offenders. Brown's only other DUI offense was back in 1996 in Georgia, which was too distant temporally and geographically, to be relevant to the current charges. And because they cannot convict him of both current charges, one has to be dropped when the other is pleaded to.

As for TMZ, don't worry, we're glad to help. You keep breaking the news and on the rare occasion where it is needed, we'll fix it.

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