‘Kern Under the Influence’: Series highlights local DUI epidemic

February 20, 2019 | 6:00 am


You are more likely to die of a DUI related crime in Kern County than any other county in the state of California.

It’s with that startling fact that Eyewitness News (KBAK-KBFX) recently presented a five-part, in-depth investigation into Kern County’s DUI epidemic titled “Kern Under the Influence.” The series, by reporter Jeff Platt, highlights how deadly Kern County’s roads truly are, how difficult it is to keep repeat DUI drivers off our roadways, how officers try to keep our streets safe, how crash victims are affected, and how we can prevent future DUI crimes.

The series also features Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer Matt Clark, who shares his experience in representing DUI crash victims, and the suffering that they incur. Clark is a board member on MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board, and his law firm serves annually as the presenting sponsor for the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, which raises funds to help innocent victims of DUI crashes, helps raise awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and helps fund MADD Kern County programs.

Clark also serves as a speaker for the MADD Victim Impact Panel, a program that has victims and other DUI crime experts speak to first-time DUI offenders in an effort to prevent future and repeat DUI offenders. Clark also took part in a special Eyewitness News Victim Impact Panel segment that followed the five-part series.

To view each of the five parts in the Eyewitness News series and the special Victim Impact Panel segment, scroll down to “Media Coverage” section at the bottom of this post. Here is a breakdown of each of the parts:

 

Part I: Drunk Drivers in Kern County

Every day, drivers in Kern County are sharing the roads with drunk drivers. In fact, local officers arrested nearly 4,300 DUI drivers last year. And that’s just “a drop in the bucket” in terms of how many DUI drivers are actually driving on local streets, local officials say.

According to Eyewitness News, there are 15 DUI drivers on the road at any given moment, with a peak between midnight and 3 a.m., where are nearly 80 DUI drivers in Kern County. And each one of them is a tragedy waiting to happen.

 

Part II: Repeat offenders hardly punished

One of biggest problems involving DUI drivers is that state laws force our county to let them drive drunk over and over again.

In California, drunk drivers get a second chance, a third chance, and in many cases a fourth chance after they are caught before getting any real jail time. As Eyewitness News shows, in between those chances, they’re driving on Kern County’s roadways, and sometimes they claim lives.

Victims are left with little trust in the system, but want lawmakers to address and fix this problem.

 

Part III: Busting drunk drivers

For police, catching DUI drivers sometimes is like finding a needle in a haystack, and other times it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The worry always is how many they are not able to catch.

The fact is, drunk drivers outnumber the police and officers can’t be everywhere at once. But local police use such strategies as check points, saturation patrols, and having every officer DUI-trained to catch DUI drivers. They also hope other motorists look out for DUI drivers and report them to police to keep other drivers safe. A 9-1-1 call with a location and partial plate could be the difference between a fatal crash, or a driver under the influence ending up behind bars.

After all, DUI is a community issue, which will take a community effort to stop it.

 

Part VI: The insurance myth

There is a myth that many victims of DUI crashes get rich in court. In fact, the opposite is true.

A combination of old insurance laws, minimal enforcement of those laws, and rising costs of medical care has created a new normal where DUI crash victims who live end up smothered in debt. In cases of death, victims’ families are sometimes left with nothing.

“Defendants in drunk driving cases often times have no insurance or far too little insurance to cover an injury or God forbid a death,” attorney Matt Clark explained.

Two major issues are at play. One, insurance companies and the DMV don’t communicate, making it too easy to drive without insurance. The second issue is the minimum coverage rates in California barely cover an ambulance ride to the hospital.

Clark suggests increasing your uninsured/under-insured-driver coverage on your policy.

 

Part V: Your choice

Many of the solutions to end DUI driving would take huge government action, including stiffer penalties. But one solution is in our hands: every single one of us deciding to make the right choice and help others make the right choice, too. Impaired driving, after all, is 100-percent preventable.

 

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MEDIA COVERAGE: KERN COUNTY UNDER THE INFLUENCE

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash due to the fault of a DUI driver, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

New year, new laws for California drivers, bicyclist, scooter riders

January 2, 2019 | 11:10 am


As usual, the New Year brings about new laws to California. And for 2019, several new laws involve measures that affect most of us in the state: driving safety, civil rights, sexual harassment in the workplace, and more. Here are short descriptions of some of these new laws, many of which are a focus for us at Chain | Cohn | Stiles:

 

TRAFFIC SAFETY

DUI Devices (SB 1046): Drivers who have been convicted of two DUIs will have to install breathalyzers, or ignition interlock devices, in order to start their vehicles. This allows drivers to keep their driving privileges instead of having their licenses suspended. Industry experts say ignition interlocks show a 74 percent reduction in repeat DUIs.

Motor Scooters (AB 2989): Helmets are no longer required for motorized scooter riders over 18 or older. Motorized scooters are also allowed on Class IV and Class II bike paths. It is still illegal to ride a motorized scooter on a sidewalk. The law also allows scooters to ride on roads with speed limits up to 35 mph. Learn more about scooter safety by clicking here.

Bike Hit & Run (AB 1755): Hit-and-run laws will be expanded to include bicyclists on bike paths. That means, if a bicyclist hits a person, resulting in a death or injury, the bicyclist must stay at the scene. The bicyclist can be held accountable, CHP said. Learn more about bicycle safety here.

Helmet Safety (AB 3077): Anyone younger than 18 not wearing a helmet on a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or skates will be issued a “fix-it” citation. If the minor can show they took a bicycle safety course and has a helmet that meets safety standards within 120 days, the citation will be non-punishable.

Loud Vehicles (AB 1824): Drivers in a vehicle or motorcycle with an excessively loud exhaust will be fined. Previously, they would have been cited with a “fix-it” ticket.

 

CIVIL RIGHTS & POLICE TRANSPARENCY

Body Cameras (AB 748): Requires that body camera footage be released within 45 days of a police shooting, or when an officer’s use of force causes death or great bodily harm.

Police Records (SB 1421): Allows public access to police records in use-of-force cases, as well as investigations that confirmed on-the-job dishonesty or sexual misconduct.

 

EMPLOYMENT LAW & SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Reporting Harassment (AB 2770): Protects employees who report sexual harassment allegations without malice from liability for defamation of the people they accuse. Also, allows employers to indicate during reference checks whether an individual has been determined to have engaged in sexual harassment.

Nondisclosure (SB 820): Bans nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment, assault and discrimination cases that were signed on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

Settlement Agreements (AB 3109): The law invalidates any provision in a contract or settlement agreement that waives a person’s right to testify in an administrative, legislative or judicial proceeding concerning alleged criminal conduct or sexual harassment.

Harassment Protections (SB 224): Expands employee harassment protections to include those who are not only employers but who could help establish a business, service or professional relationship. This could include doctors, lawyers, landlords, elected officials and more.

Burden of Proof (SB 1300): Expands liability under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA. It lowers the burden of proof to establish harassment and provides stricter guidance on what is or isn’t unlawful harassment. It also expands protections from harassment by contractors, rather than just sexual harassment. Defendants can’t be awarded attorney’s costs unless the action was frivolous. It prohibits release of claims under FEHA in exchange for a raise, a bonus or as a condition of employment or continued employment.

Harassment Training (SB 1343): Requires employers with five or more employees to provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention to all supervisory employees and at least one hour of sexual harassment training to nonsupervisory employees by Jan. 1, 2020. Training should take place every two years after that. Employers also need to make the training available in multiple languages.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident in an accident at the fault of a DUI driver, sexually assaulted, or had their civil rights violated, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Check your (safety) list twice for an injury-free holiday season

December 19, 2018 | 6:00 am


As Santa checks his list, you also should be checking your list this holiday season — your safety checklist, that is.

The holidays are ripe with dangers, from roadway hazards during holiday travel, to dangers at home from keeping warm and holiday decorating. It’s important you and your family take careful steps in celebrating, and make it through the holiday season injury-free.

Take note of these important safety tips courtesy of the accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

 

Holiday Travel

California Highway Patrol is conducting a DUI “maximum enforcement period” during the holidays, and encouraging Californians to use other travel options if they choose to consume drugs and alcohol, including medications, prescription or over the counter drugs that are common during the cold season.

Bakersfield Police Department, too, is helping spread the message about the dangers of drunk and drugged driving to get impaired drivers off roads. In partnership with California Office of Traffic Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, officers are launching the high-visibility enforcement campaign “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” through January 1. During this time, more officers will be on the streets of Bakersfield conducting saturation patrols, looking for drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving aggressively or distracted, and making sure drivers are properly licensed.

During the Christmas and New Year’s weekends in 2017, 25 people were killed and 643 injured on California roads, according to CHP. Don’t let yourself be a statistics this year.

“Any arrest during the holidays means a family that won’t have a loved one present during the holidays — due to an arrest or worse — because of a decision made to drive while under the influence,” said Matt Clark, attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Not only are you putting your life at risk, you are putting the lives of other innocent families at risk by driving under the influence. Just don’t do it.”

If you’re traveling long distances, plan your trip ahead of time and prepare for any potential emergencies.

 

Decorating Safely 

Decorating is one of the best parts of the holidays, but it also leads to thousands of emergency room visits every season. Here are a few tips to prevent accidents and injuries:

  • Hang breakable ornaments at top of the tree. This leaves room for kids to decorate the bottom with non-breakable items.
  • Always use the proper step ladder; don’t stand on chairs or other furniture.
  • Keep harmful plants out of reach. Some popular holiday plants are poisonous to children and pets, including mistletoe and holly berries.
  • Be aware of devices with button batteries. Keep those devices out of children’s reach.

 

Staying Warm

Thousands of deaths are caused by fires, burns and other fire-related injuries every year, and 12 percent of home candle fires occur in December, according to the National Safety Council, due to increased usage of candles and fireplaces, combined with an increase in the amount of combustible, seasonal decorations in many homes. To prevent fires and burn injuries at home:

  • Water natural trees regularly. When needles are dry, they can catch fire easily.
  • Turn off decorative lights before leaving home or going to sleep. Regularly check lights for exposed or frayed wires and loose connections.
  • Keep candles and matches out of reach. Lit candles should be at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and don’t forget to blow them out when you leave the room or before you go to sleep. Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight.
  • Check smoke alarms. Make sure there is a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and near sleeping areas. Review your fire escape plan with family members and guests.
  • Don’t burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace.
  • Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, contact the accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com

Grants galore! Local agencies receive hundreds of thousands to combat unsafe driving in Kern County

November 21, 2018 | 6:00 am


Drivers beware: Local authorities have received hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat unsafe driving in Kern County.

Bakersfield’s California Highway Patrol branch recently received a grant to provide enforcement and education to local motorists about aggressive driving with the goal of decreasing injuries and deaths on our roadways. The Bakersfield Police Department received two grants recently: one aimed to teach youth and adults about traffic rules, rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian and bicyclist, and a second for a year-long enforcement and public awareness program intended to educate the public on safe roadway habits and deter people from violating traffic laws or practicing other unsafe behaviors. Lastly, the Kern County Probation Department’s grant will allow the department to focus on lowering deaths and injuries due to traffic collisions due to drivers being under the influence.

“Nearly every crash can be prevented simply with safer driving. Never drive while under the influence, and don’t speed or drive recklessly,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matthew Clark. “It’s important for us all to be educated on the best driving practices, and to share the road with our fellow motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists to make our community safe for all.”

Learn more about each of the grants below:

 

AGGRESSIVE DRIVING

California Highway Patrol grant campaign, called Regulate Aggressive Driving and Reduce Speed (RADARS) III, aims to reduce the number of crashes where speed, improper turning, and driving on the wrong side of the road are the main factors.

Speed and aggressive driving are California’s two main contributors in traffic collisions, according to CHP. Speed is a factor in about 45 percent of all fatal and injury collisions in the state.

“With this grant, the Californian Highway Patrol will strive to change this dangerous behavior through increased enforcement and education,” said CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley in a statement.

The California Office of Traffic Safety provided funding for the program through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 

BIKE AND PEDESTRIAN SAFETY

The safety of people who use roadways to walk or ride their bike is the focus of a bicycle and pedestrian safety education program with the Bakersfield Police Department.

The $30,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety will fund the year-long program that includes a variety of educational activities like bike rodeos, classroom presentations and community events aimed at teaching youth and adults about traffic rules, rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian and bicyclist. And throughout Bakersfield, any efforts are needed to decrease the record number bicycle and pedestrian accidents.

Earlier this year, the City of Bakersfield announced a “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan,” a partnership with California Department of Transportation to examine the city’s roadways and determine which are the most dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians. The goal was to recommend design improvements, including more bike lanes, more signage, and new pedestrian and bike paths away from traffic.

Educational efforts funded by the grant will promote safe behaviors by pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers, including avoiding distractions like cell phones, looking for parked cars that may be pulling out or opening a door, and making yourself visible by wearing bright clothing during the day and reflective materials at night. Educational components on bicycle and pedestrian safety will be especially geared toward children and older adults.

These are efforts Chain | Cohn | Stiles can stand behind, and are actually helping toward. Currently, Project Light up the Night hosted by the local bicycle advocacy nonprofit Bike Bakersfield aims to make Kern County’s roads a little safer for drivers and cyclists by giving out free bicycle lights, helmets, and safety lessons at various locations throughout Bakersfield and Kern County. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to support Project Light up the Night each year by providing the helmets and lights. Bike Bakersfield representatives hand out the free helmets and lights on select Thursdays in November throughout Kern County.

 

DUI & UNSAFE DRIVING

The Bakersfield Police Department has also been awarded a $405,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety intended to educate the public on safe roadway habits and deter people from violating traffic laws or practicing other unsafe behaviors that lead to injuries and fatalities. Specifically, the grant will provide:

  • DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols to take suspected alcohol/drug-impaired drivers – and those unlicensed or with a revoked/suspended license – off the road.
  • Traffic safety education presentations for youth and community members on distracted, impaired and teen driving, and bicycle/pedestrian safety.
  • Patrols at intersections with increased incidents of pedestrian and bike collisions.
  • Checking for seat belt and child safety seat compliance.
  • Motorcycle safety operations in areas with high rider volume and where higher rate of motorcycle crashes occur.
  • Speeding, red light and stop sign enforcement.
  • Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets” identifying repeat DUI offenders.
  • Specialized DUI and drugged driving training to identify and apprehend suspected impaired drivers.

The Kern County Probation Department received a $150,000 “DUI Offender Grant” to focus on lowering deaths and injuries due to traffic collisions due to drivers being under the influence.

The grant will fund various education and enforcement activities, including:

  • Warrant service operations targeting multiple DUI offenders.
  • Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets” identifying repeat DUI offenders.
  • Probation supervision of high-risk DUI offenders.
  • Referrals for services to address the needs of DUI offenders.
  • Alcohol monitoring and testing to identify intoxicated DUI offenders.
  • Collaborating with the court and district attorney to ensure DUI offenders are held accountable.
  • Standardized Field Sobriety Testing training to identify and apprehend impaired DUI offenders.
  • Participate in “stings” to cite DUI offenders found driving on suspended or revoked licenses.

If you or someone you know is involved in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to submit a contact form.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Bakersfield’s 2018 ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash’ – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – raises over $65,000, brings together 1,000-plus in fight against DUI crimes

October 4, 2018 | 7:42 pm


Kern County came together Saturday morning at the Park at River Walk to support victims of DUI crashes, call for an end of drunk and drugged driving, and raise more than $65,000 in the process.

The fifth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash – presented by the Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles – is aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in locally, raise funds for MADD Kern County’s educational programs and victim services, and support local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes. Bringing out nearly 900 walkers and runners for this cause, plus hundreds more in attendance, the event featured a kid’s fun run, 5K and 10K in what has become one of the largest fundraising walking and running events in Kern County, according to Bakersfield Track Club.

The morning featured an opening ceremony with statements from representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, victims of DUI crashes, outgoing Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green, and Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh, among others. It was followed by a kid’s fun run presented by the Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club, timed 5K and 10K runs, with medals awarded in age categories, and a march by victims, their families and supporters from our community.

“This is one day our community can come together to remember those affected by DUI crimes, and advocate for a day with no more victims,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “Our aim is to no longer have a day dedicated for this purpose. In the meantime, we hope everyone will dedicate the other 364 days of the year toward making sure they and their loves ones drive safe and sober always.”

Making the event possible were sponsors Chain | Cohn | Stiles (presenting sponsor), Chevron, Special Treatment Education & Prevention Services Inc., Clinica Sierra Vista, Vince Fong for Assembly, Kern County Prosecutors Association, and Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, among many others.

From Chain | Cohn | Stiles, marketing director Jorge Barrientos serves as the event planning committee chairman, and also sits on the Board of Directors for the MADD Kern County Advisory Board. Attorney Matt Clark is also a board member, and for the event served as the awards ceremony emcee.

Medals and trophies were awarded to the fastest runners in their respective age categories, with results being posted on the Bakersfield Track Club website. Awards were also given to the following top fundraisers:

  • Top Friends and Family Team: Prayers for Jourdan
  • Top Individual Fundraiser: Jourdan Bacot / Farnsworth
  • Law Enforcement Challenge: Kern County District Attorney’s Office
  • Corporate Challenge: Kern Schools Federal Credit Union

Through August this year, CHP has investigated 260 crashes in Bakersfield where DUI was a primary factor, 9 of which resulted in fatalities. That’s at least one DUI crash per day. Additionally, Kern County is averaging more than 11 DUI arrests per day. Each year in Kern County, dozens of innocent lives are lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families affected – from this 100 percent preventable crime.

Since 2014, the annual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash has raised more than $300,000, including this year. It’s not too late to donate – donations are being accepted through October at www.walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to complete a contact form. 

Chain | Cohn | Stiles helps local family affected by crash caused be alleged DUI driver

September 19, 2018 | 9:29 am


On Aug. 18, Bakersfield attorney Henry Noto allegedly got behind the wheel of his vehicle while under the influence, despite previously receiving two misdemeanors — in 2014 and 2016 — for DUI, according to news reports.

On this occasion, however, this decision caused severe injuries to several people when he failed to stop at a stop sign at on Highway 43 and struck another vehicle head on. He had a blood alcohol content of .16 percent at the time of the crash, according to CHP reports.

Noto, 62, was charged on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury in connection with the collision. According to news reports, Noto faces a felony with years of prison time.

Recently, The Bakersfield Californian spoke with Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark regarding the DUI crash that injured 26-year-old David Perez, who suffered substantial physical injuries, including a brain injury, when Noto crashed into his vehicle. Clark is assisting the Perez family in the civil case with charge, or pro bono.

The crash and case comes before the fifth Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash on Sept. 29, in which Chain | Cohn | Stiles is the presenting sponsor. The event aims to raise awareness of the DUI problem in Kern County, raise funds for MADD Kern County’s educational programs and victim services, and support local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes.

You can read more about Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ involvement in the civil case against Noto below. You can also listen to an interview with Clark on the Richard Beene Show by clicking here.

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By Jason Kotowski

A Bakersfield DUI attorney waived his preliminary hearing Monday and will stand trial in connection with an alleged drunken driving crash last month that injured four.

Also, new details have been released regarding the injuries suffered by one of the victims, a correctional officer whose vehicle was struck by attorney Henry Noto.

David Perez, 26, suffered “substantial” physical injuries including a brain injury, attorney Matthew C. Clark of civil law firm Chain Cohn Stiles said Monday.

“It’s going to be a long road for this young man,” he said.

The correctional officer is undergoing therapy at a local rehabilitation center. He can talk and carry on conversations, but Clark said it’s been his experience from representing others with head trauma that it takes time before the full extent of the injuries is known.

Perez had about 30 staples in his head after the crash, he said.

The firm is representing Perez pro bono and expects to soon file a lawsuit against Noto, Clark said. It’s likely they’ll be limited in what they can do for Perez, he said, because whatever money Noto has won’t be enough to pay for the officer’s treatment.

Noto, 62, failed to stop at a stop sign while exiting Interstate 5 at Highway 43 on Aug. 18, according to the California Highway Patrol. He hit Perez’s vehicle and pushed it into opposing lanes, where a third vehicle struck it.

The attorney and a female passenger, Heather Rush, 31, were also injured and taken to a local hospital. The driver of the third vehicle, 32-year-old Lucus Cotter, suffered moderate injuries but declined treatment, according to the CHP.

Noto’s blood-alcohol content was 0.16 percent, twice the legal driving limit, officers said. He’s charged with two felony DUI charges.

Court records show Noto has two prior DUI convictions, both for misdemeanors.

“It’s the same story over and over again,” Clark said. “A guy with multiple DUIs gets into another DUI accident and causes substantial life-changing injuries. It’s getting to be an old story.”

It’s especially troubling, Clark said, because Noto specializes in DUI cases.

“He practices an area of law where he’s fully aware of the risks of driving while intoxicated,” the attorney said. “And he did. He did it multiple times.

“There’s just no excuse for it.”

Noto’s next court hearing is Sept. 27. He remains in custody.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash caused by a DUI driver, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Kern County calls for ‘No More Victims’ with 2018 Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles

September 12, 2018 | 7:59 am


Kern County will come together on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Park at River Walk in Bakersfield to proclaim “No More Victims.”

The fifth annual Bakersfield “Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash” – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – is aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, raise funds for local MADD Kern County educational programs, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes.

Each year, several innocent people die from crashes caused by people who choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence. Those local lives lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families – are affected from this 100 percent preventable crime. In addition, Kern County is averaging a shocking 11 DUI arrests per day. MADD Kern County – together with victims, local businesses and community supporters – join hands to do something about drunk driving in our community.

“We pray for a day when no one else is hurt in a crash caused by someone driving under the influence,” said David Cohn, managing partner for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “To accomplish this, we need to have our roadways free of DUI drivers, and it’s up to all of us to make sure our friends and family members always drive sober. It’s time we proclaim, ‘No more victims’.”

Since 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising more than $250,000 through annual MADD Kern County events. The walk and runs bring together the entire community – surviving victims of DUI crashes, families and friends of injured and deceased victims, local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and other community leaders and members – to march, rally and run for the cause.

Victims of DUI crashes and their families, law enforcement, advocates and community leaders/members marching and running for the cause in a family-friendly event, with kid’s activities, fun run and costumed superheroes.

You can help by signing up for the 5K or 10K (walk or run), as a team captain, or volunteer. Parents: The event also features a free kid’s “fun run.” You can even get involved if you aren’t able to attend by signing up as a “virtual walker,” or by asking a donation toward a participant or team who has been affected.

For its work with MADD Kern County, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions, including in 2018.

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.

To join Chain | Cohn | Stiles at the 2018 Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, visit walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

MADD Kern County honors local officers, Chain | Cohn | Stiles for contributions in local fight against DUI crimes

June 20, 2018 | 9:37 am


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County has recognized and honored our local law enforcement officers and prosecutors for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes, and also honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.

The 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony was held Wednesday, June 13, at Hodel’s Country Dining in Bakersfield (Liberty Hall). In all, more than 50 officers from throughout Kern County agencies were awarded, as well as a prosecutor from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. Awards were handed out to the top prosecutor, top probation officer, and the top law enforcement officer, among others.

“This is our chance to give a big ‘thank you’ to the men and women in Kern County who are dedicated to keeping our streets as safe as possible,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County.

For a full list of award winners, and to see media coverage of the event, please see below.

The awards ceremony was organized by MADD Kern County volunteers, and made possible by the financial support of local sponsors: Chevron, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, UBS Financial, Sally Herald CPA, STEPS Inc., and Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with 4,120 DUI arrests in 2017, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. Representatives from all local enforcement agencies will be in attendance.

The awards luncheon is one of two MADD Kern County signature events aimed to bring awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and fight toward ending DUI crimes here, the second being the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, taking place this year on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Park at River Walk.

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TOP DUI ARRESTING OFFICER OF KERN COUNTY

Officer Rodney Black – 120 DUI Arrests

California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield

PROSECUTOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

James Simson

Supervising Deputy District Attorney of Kern County

PROBATION OFFICER OF THE YEAR AWARD

Officer Luis Gomez

Kern County Probation Department

COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD

Marsha Williams

A Life Interrupted

COMMUNITY CHAMPION AWARD

Chain Cohn Stiles

TOP ARRESTING OFFICER PER DEPARTMENT

  • Arvin Police Department Officer Kevin Archuleta – 9
  • California Highway Patrol, Fort Tejon Officer Jason Lachaussee – 11
  • California Highway Patrol, Grapevine Officer Rex Hornibrook – 2
  • California Highway Patrol, Mojave Officer Don Mulligan – 61
  • Kern County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Steven Davis – 11
  • McFarland Police Department Officer Tyler Helton – 41
  • Ridgecrest Police Department Officer Jose Farias – 12
  • Shafter Police Department Officer Jeffrey McCuan – 27
  • Taft Police Department Officer Andrew Avila – 6

CENTURY AWARDS

More than 100 DUI arrests in 2017

  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Brianna Pace – 104
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Richard Robles – 103
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Dallas Plotner – 106

DEUCE AWARDS

Between 1 and 49 DUI arrests in 2017

  • Arvin Police Department Officer Jacob Pelletier – 4
  • Arvin Police Department Officer Emilio Quezada – 4
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Logan Holmes – 46
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Audrina Doll Schneider – 37
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Jose Diaz – 27
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Jacqueline Hernandez – 30
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Tiffany Salazar – 20
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Isai Ocampo – 28
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Christopher Denman – 27
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Sergeant Kelly Olson – 10
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Sergeant James Nabors – 14
  • California Highway Patrol, Fort Tejon Officer Jeffrey Burdick – 9
  • California Highway Patrol, Mojave Officer Alejandro Zuniga – 31
  • California Highway Patrol, Mojave Officer Sean Galloway – 26
  • McFarland Police Department Officer Roberto Souza Moita – 26
  • McFarland Police Department Officer Marisela Herrera – 26
  • Ridgecrest Police Department Officer Matthew Rowland – 9
  • Shafter Police Department Officer Anthony Erwin – 16
  • Shafter Police Department Officer William Draucker – 16
  • Taft Police Department Officer Chris Gonzales – 5

MADD AWARDS

Between 50 and 99 DUI arrests in 2017

  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Johnny Moreno – 93
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Andrew Marquez – 82
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Robert Tyo – 67
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Brandon Carey – 62
  • Bakersfield Police Department Officer Imadd Nuriddin – 50
  • California Highway Patrol, Mojave Officer Jason Carroll – 60
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Art Aldrete – 91
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Jose Bravo – 51
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Jaime Cervantes – 73
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Daniel Dinsing – 76
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Matthew Iturriria – 82
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Mike Galvez – 70
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Gregory Jorgensen – 71
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Ahearn Lucas – 81
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Brandon Matthews – 72
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Eric Medrano – 70
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Hector Organista – 74
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Victor Valadez – 58
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Jessie Velasquez – 83
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Juan Vidal – 54
  • California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Officer Jason Wood – 67

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles nominated as ‘Corporation of the Year’ in 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Awards

June 6, 2018 | 8:44 am


For its work and partnership with the Kern County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to raise awareness of DUI crimes and help put an end to them locally, Chain | Cohn | Stiles was nominated for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award.

The Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm was nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference. The Beautiful Bakersfield Awards annually honors the efforts of local individuals, groups, businesses and organizations that help improve the quality of life in Bakersfield.

Learn more about the Chain | Cohn | Stiles partnership and the awards.

 

NO MORE VICTIMS 

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has played a vital part of Kern County’s community for decades and has played a key part in making a significant impact locally. In fact, a significant portion of the company’s energy and budget is dedicated toward giving back to Bakersfield, and actively participating in campaigns that aim to make our community a better, safer place to live. Attorneys and staff log hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours, belonging to local boards of directors and nonprofits, and actively helping with various local causes.

In particular, the law firm has worked closely with victims’ rights groups, specifically Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. The law firm and its staff have been key organizers of MADD Kern County’s annual events, helping raise nearly $250,000 in the last five years in the fight to end drunk and drugged driving locally.

“Without the contributions of the law firm, MADD Kern County would not be able to do its work in our community,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County.

The law firm’s professional focus is assisting and helping people move forward after they have been seriously injured due to the fault of someone else, and many times it’s due to the negligent conduct of another. Impaired driving is an epidemic in Kern County, which sees more than 11 DUI arrests per day. Sadly, many impaired drivers aren’t stopped in time, and instead cause major damage to innocent lives. So, Chain | Cohn | Stiles partnered with the Kern County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to raise awareness of this issue, and help put an end to DUI driving locally.

The Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash in Bakersfield — presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles — has become the largest fundraising runs locally, and one of the largest such MADD events in the country. The event brings together more than 1,000 people each year including surviving victims of DUI crashes, families and friends of injured and deceased victims, local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, our local media, and other community leaders and members. They come together to say, “Enough is enough,” and, “No more victims.”

All funds raised from this event stay in Kern County to raise awareness of the DUI problem locally, raise funds for MADD Kern County’s educational programs and victim services, and support local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes. This year’s event will be held Sept. 29, at Park at River Walk.

Victims and community members share how much they appreciate the work of MADD Kern County and the work of volunteers like those at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. As an example, take the family of Leslie Balderrama, a Tehachapi teenager who was struck and killed by a DUI driver in 2015. The law firm represented the family in the wrongful death case and connected the family with MADD Kern County. This connection allowed the family to form a network with others who experienced similar circumstances, was assisted through the foreign court process, and gave the family an opportunity to heal and give back. The family donated $2,500 to MADD Kern County in 2017, and the law firm matched that donation.

“When we became victims of a DUI crime, MADD Kern County became our advocate and worked hard to make sure we had a voice, and treated our family with compassion,” said Denise Natividad, mother of Leslie Balderrama. “We’re able to give back now and help another local family who unfortunately will have to deal with the aftermath of the actions of a drunk or drugged driver.”

 

OSCARS OF BAKERSFIELD

Dubbed the “Oscars of Bakersfield,” the 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Awards highlighted over 120 nominees in 15 categories, making this year the largest nominee class for the event.

In the end, the winner of the “Corporation of the Year” category was Jim Burke Ford Lincoln. According the chamber, “this automotive company launched the Ford Dimension and Dream Builders programs as a way to provide service and leadership opportunities for local youth. It also selects a company charity that its employees volunteer to support throughout the year.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles was has been nominated once before. In 2016, the law firm was nominated in the “Renovation/Tenant Improvement” category for its work in helping revitalize downtown Bakersfield with a six-month, seven-figure renovation of an old 30,000 square-foot building.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Record numbers to hit the road for Memorial Day weekend, nation’s deadliest travel holiday. Here’s how to stay safe.

May 23, 2018 | 8:51 am


Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, and Americans will kick off the season by hitting the roads over the weekend in near-record numbers.

In fact, according to AAA, more than 41.5 million people in the United States will travel this Memorial Day weekend, which is 5 percent more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years, USA Today reports.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is joining safety advocates, including MADD Kern County and California Highway Patrol, to remind drivers to practice safe driving habits this Memorial Day, which also happens to be the deadliest travel holiday of the year.

And safe driving habits mean driving sober, driving with proper safety equipment, including seat belts and car seats, and focusing on the roads and only on the roads.

“Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor our nation’s heroes who sacrificed their lives for the safety of our country, and ultimately, for all Americans,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “You can honor them by making sure your holiday, and entire summer, is as safe as possible.”

MADD KERN COUNTY

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County, for years in the name of making our streets as safe as possible. This Memorial Day weekend, MADD Kern County is bringing attention to the increase in drunk driving crashes during the weekend.

In 2016, drunk driving claimed 160 people during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. If your celebrations include alcohol, plan ahead and make sure to use taxis, public transportation, rideshare services or call a non-drinking friend. Remember, drunk driving deaths are 100 percent preventable, 100 percent of the time.

MAXIMUM ENFORCEMENT

Kern County’s branches of the California Highway Patrol will be conducting a “maximum enforcement period” during the Memorial Day weekend, where the aim is to educate motorists and enforce traffic safety laws throughout the state to ensure a safe holiday.

Officers will also be watching carefully for those violating seat belt laws, those who are driving distracted, and also for those who are impaired by drugs or alcohol.

About 70 percent of the vehicle occupants who died in CHP jurisdiction in the 2016 and 2017 Memorial Day weekends were not wearing seat belts, according to the department. A total of 45 people died statewide in Memorial Day weekend collisions in 2017. During the same period, there were 921 arrests in California for driving under the influence in 2017.

CHP is also reminding motorists to protect child passengers by placing them in age-appropriate restraint devices, whether a safety seat or booster seat. The law requires that children under age 8 to ride in the back seat, and a child under age 2 is secured in a rear-facing child passenger safety seat.

CHP is taking part in the nationwide “Click It or Ticket” campaign led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that emphasizes seat belt use until June 3. On a national level, nearly half the passenger vehicle occupants killed in collisions in 2016 were not wearing seat belts, the administration reports.

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If you or someone your know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to submit a contact form, or chat with a representative.