A DUI offense can bring you stress immediately after the arrest, through the criminal trials and conviction. The consequences of a DUI arrest or conviction stays with you for ten years. It can have a detrimental impact on your educational and career pursuits. Having a Descanso Junction DUI Attorney by you throughout the process can be helpful. Your lawyer will guide you through the complex laws involving DUI, the charges, penalties, your defense options, and other issues that you should iron out to recover your driving privileges.
Driving under the influence is a serious offense charged when one operates a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .085 or higher (VC 23152 (b)). The BAC limit may vary depending on the type of license you have, your age and criminal record.
If you are an underage driver, the California zero-tolerance laws that prohibit driving with a BAC of .01% or higher applies to you. Holders of commercial driver’s licenses should not operate a vehicle with a BAC of .04% or higher.
The penalties for a DUI are often severe and increases with the number of offenses you commit. The prosecution will use your past DUI record for up to ten years of the first offense. Some of the penalties you are likely to face include jail or prison time, fines, probation, license suspension, and attendance of a DUI school.
The penalties you get differ depending on whether the offense is a misdemeanor or a felony and the presence of aggravating factors such as causing injuries or death, refusing chemical tests or committing a DUI while on probation for another DUI offense.
In addition to criminal penalties, the DMV imposes administrative penalties on all DUI offenders. The penalties begin immediately after a DUI arrest. The arresting officer confiscates your license, and the suspension takes effect within thirty days of the arrest unless you book a hearing within ten days. If you hired a Descanso Junction DUI Attorney soon after the arrest, he or she would arrange a DMV hearing on your behalf.
A DUI investigation begins before the officer stops you and involves five major steps, including:
- Driving symptoms - an officer can stop you if your driving is a probable cause for suspicion.
- Personal symptoms - like having an alcoholic odor, slurred speech, and a flushed face.
- Field sobriety tests
- Incriminating statements - when you make admissions about having taken alcohol before driving, the prosecution can use such statements against you in court. However, if you made the statements before the officer read your Miranda rights, you can contest the evidence. It is advisable to avoid self-incriminating remarks.
- Chemical tests
The police officer who stops you has to provide a report of the reason for stopping you and the results of the DUI investigation. In cases where the officer notices intoxication, yet your BAC level is below the legal limit, then he or she may suspect a DUI of Drugs. In such cases, the officer may require additional checks to determine whether you are under the influence of drugs by calling an expert to examine you. You will also have to take a blood test after the arrest.
When a DUI arrest happens at a DUI checkpoint, the officer does not need to have probable cause to stop your car. DUI checkpoints are legal in California, as long as they meet the legal standards such as:
- The supervising officer makes all the operational decisions
- The officers must follow neutral mathematical criteria for stopping motorists
- The checkpoint must be located in a reasonable area where most DUI related arrests or accidents occur
- The checkpoint must adhere to safety precautions to ensure that motorists can see the roadblock
- The checkpoint should be installed at a time and duration that reflects good judgment
- The checkpoint should show its official status by using warning signs, flashing lights, marked police cars and uniformed police officers
- The officers should detain the drivers briefly; the officer should release the driver immediately if there are no signs of intoxication. The officer must have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to warrant delaying the driver further.
- The officers should provide a public notice of the presence of a DUI checkpoint
Under California law, avoiding a DUI checkpoint is not a crime; neither can an officer follow you for avoiding a checkpoint unless you commit another traffic offense while avoiding the checkpoint. However, once stopped at the checkpoint, refusal to cooperate is an offense. Your attorney will examine the DUI checkpoint to determine whether any regulations were ignored and whether the officer was biased when stopping you. Such errors will work to your favor since evidence obtained from an unlawful checkpoint is inadmissible in court.
Field Sobriety Tests in a DUI Stop
Field sobriety tests are a means of collecting evidence by the police. The NHTSA has developed a number of standardized tests that police officers can use when detecting intoxication in a driver. These approved tests provide results that are more accurate; therefore, police officers should perform them. The tests include:
In this test, the officer monitors the behavior of your eyes as they follow an object about six inches away. The police officer will hold his or her finger at six inches from your nose, and move the pencil vertically and horizontally. If you have a problem following the pencil, or your eyes keep wavering, the officer will deduce alcohol impairment.
Standing on one leg
Alcohol or drug impairment affects your balance. The stand-on-one-leg test measures your balance and attention. When standing on one leg, the officer may instruct you to count, or maintain that position for thirty seconds. Sometimes, the officer may request you to stand erect for thirty seconds.
Walk and turn
The officer will request you to take several heel-to-toe steps and back. The officer uses this test to determine your attention, stability, and ability to follow instructions.
Finger to nose
In this test, the officer will ask you to stand with your feet together, extend your arms, and touch your nose. The officer uses the test to check your ability to follow instructions, your stability, muscle tremors, and whether you touch your nose.
In this test, you should stand erect and tilt your head backward for thirty minutes. You are the one who estimates when thirty seconds are up. The officer uses this test to check for muscle spasms, tremors, and your perception of time.
Blood, Breath and Chemical Tests in DUI
In California, you are likely to get two breath tests during a DUI investigation. The officer administers the first one at the traffic stop or a DUI checkpoint and the second one at the police station after your arrest.
A Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test is the first test administered at a traffic stop using a handheld testing equipment such as the Breathalyzer. The test in the field is usually not mandatory unless you are on DUI probation or are an underage driver.
After a lawful arrest, a DUI breath test becomes mandatory. Refusing the test is an offense. The only exceptions to taking a breath test include:
- You choose to take a breath test
- The driver is unconscious or dead
- The driver requires medical attention and is at a hospital
- The officers suspect a DUI of drugs
A blood test produces more accurate results, although it is more invasive compared to a breath test; it shows the exact amount of alcohol in the body. The advantage of taking a blood test is that the officers will save part of the blood sample for the defense, should they need it.
Title 17 Code of Regulations provides guidelines on the collection, handling, analyzing, and storing a DUI chemical test sample. It provides rules on who should administer these tests. Failure to adhere to these regulations provides the defense with an attack angle for disputing the admissibility of blood test samples.
In addition, Title 17 regulations have a provision for the maintenance of breath test kits. If the officers do not maintain their kits or use those with defects, then the defense can dispute the evidence, leading to the dismissal of charges.
DUI Arrest and Trial
If after conducting field sobriety tests and breath tests, the officer finds reasonable cause to arrest you, he or she will take you to a police station for booking. The booking process involves the collection of any personal items you have, entry of your bibliographic data such as age, height, gender, collection of fingerprints, and mug shots. The officer then prepares a report about the offense and the arrest. The officer will allow you a phone call to your friends, relatives, or lawyer. If you have a lawyer, it is advisable you call him or her so that he or she will organize bail on your behalf.
The next step after arrest (whether you are released on bail or not) is the arraignment where the charges against you will be read formally. This marks the start of your criminal trial, which can go on for months. Once the charges against you are read, you take your plea. A guilty plea marks the end of the criminal proceedings as you are immediately sentenced and transported to the incarceration facility.
If you give a not guilty or no contest plea, you will have to go through the trial and pretrial motion. Your case can end during the pretrial motions where the lawyer and the prosecution weight the strength of each other's case and the evidence against you. Your Descanso Junction DUI Attorney will advise you on the best course of action.
If the case proceeds to trial, the prosecution and defense will both present their cases. The prosecution will present the evidence that proves that you committed all the elements of the crime without a reasonable doubt. The work of your defense attorney is to challenge the evidence of the prosecution to create dents that create doubt in the eyes of the jury. The jury then weighs the evidence against you.
The criminal case ends in acquittal, sentencing, or dismissal. If you are found guilty, the sentence will depend on:
- Prior DUI convictions
- The circumstances of the crime and whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony
DUI and Commercial Driver’s License
It is a crime to drive a commercial vehicle with a BAC level of .04% or higher. The law defines a commercial vehicle as a vehicle that requires a Class B license or one that requires a Class C license with a commercial driver endorsement. These vehicles include large trucks, school buses, tank vehicles, and some farm vehicles.
DUI laws are strict on commercial drunk driving and subjects the offenders to both administrative and criminal penalties. The criminal penalties include:
- Summary probation
- 6 months in county jail
- Fines of $390-$1000
- DUI school for three months
- License suspension for one year
California laws are intolerant of commercial drivers who commit subsequent DUI offenses. The second DUI offense leads to a lifetime suspension on your commercial driver’s license. In addition, you cannot get a restricted license after the suspension. You can only downgrade to a Class C non-commercial license or a restricted license for a non-commercial vehicle. The loss of your commercial driver’s license after a second DUI applies whether you were driving the commercial vehicle or not, at the time of the DUI.
If you are a commercial driver and are arrested for a DUI, you need to hire an attorney as soon as possible to help you fight these charges and protect your driving privileges.
When you are arrested for a DUI, the incident goes into your driving record and your criminal record. Your driving record shows the number of DUI arrests you have had in the last ten years. An entry is made into your record on the day you are arrested. Your driving record is accessible to the DMV, your insurance company, and law enforcement.
Your criminal record, on the other hand, shows the number of DUI-related convictions you have had in the last ten years. A criminal record can appear in background searches and can affect your career pursuits, education, and professional licenses.
Luckily, with the help of your Descanso Junction DUI Attorney, you can expunge your DUI records. The law allows you to expunge your records if:
- You have set the conviction penalties including payment of fines, victim restitution and have completed your probation
- You did not go to state prison for the offense
- You are not facing any criminal charges
You can also expunge your records of you had a felony conviction. First, you will have to go through court procedures to reduce your charges to a misdemeanor, and then proceed with the expungement.
After the expungement of your record, employers or educational institutions cannot access your criminal record. At this point, it is legal to say that you have never had a conviction.
A DUI conviction negatively affects your car insurance. Under California DUI insurance laws, you are required to report to your insurance company when you are arrested for a DUI. In addition, you are required to provide proof of auto insurance (SR-22) before you can reinstate your license after a suspension or before getting a restricted license with an IID.
Your auto insurance provider files an SR-22 insurance certificate with the DMV to confirm that you meet the minimum auto-insurance liability coverage under California law. You also need to file for an SR-22 certificate if you were uninsured at the time of an accident.
An SR-22 certificate shows proof of financial responsibility, and you should maintain the certificate for three years. Even if you are not the owner of the car you are driving, you have to apply for a nonowner's SR-22 liability coverage.
When you request an SR-22 certificate from your insurance company, there is a probability that it may cancel your policy or raise your premiums. In case they cancel your policy, you have to shop for another company that insures high-risk drivers. You may have to pay higher rates. In most cases, you can expect to pay $300-$800 to get an SR-22 certificate.
Getting an SR-22 certificate can be complicated and time-consuming. Therefore, you can let your Descanso Junction DUI attorney handle the matter.
Find A DUI Attorney Near Me
You should never fight DUI charges on your own. You should always hire a lawyer anytime you are arrested for a DUI. An attorney will help you in many ways, from giving you advice, preparing a defense and dealing with other matters arising from a DUI arrest or conviction such as DMV hearings, obtaining an SR-22 certificate and expungement of your criminal records. At the San Diego DUI Attorney, we understand the pressure you may be feeling from your arrest or conviction. We commit ourselves to provide you with all the information you need to know about your case. We involve you in at all the stages before, during, and after trial. Contact our team today at 619-535-7150.