The DUI laws in California are strict; contacting an Elfin Forest DUI Attorney should be a priority the moment you or your loved one is arrested for a DUI offense. An attorney will inform you about the DUI process so that you are aware of what’s ahead of you.
Driving under the influence refers to the crime of operating a motor vehicle with a BAC level above the legal limit. The legal limit is .08% for drivers, .04% for commercial drivers, and .01% for underage drivers.
The DUI Process
When you or a loved one has been arrested for a DUI, you are filled with questions about what will happen next, the consequences of the crime and how you are going to get yourself out of jail. The California DUI process follows the following steps:
A DUI investigation is the first step that takes place before you are arrested. The purpose of a DUI investigation is to identify whether you are driving under the influence of alcohol or alcohol and drugs. A DUI investigation begins with a police stop at a designated DUI checkpoint or when the officer notices that a violation might be taking place.
Before stopping you, the officer must have probable cause. For example, if the officer notices you are driving on the wrong lane or for a traffic violation. As you stop, the officer will note the stopping sequence. Once you have stopped, the officer will observe how you get out of the car and your behavior.
The officer will check whether you show physical signs of intoxication such as a flushed face, slurred speech, or have an odor of an alcoholic beverage. The officer then asks you to perform field sobriety tests. These tests identify your ability to respond to instructions and your balance and stability.
If the officer has probable cause to believe you are intoxicated, he or she will request that you take a preliminary breath test. You may refuse to take the test, after which the officer may release you or arrest you.
If you are found to be a violation of a DUI law, then the police officer will arrest you and take you to a police station, jail, or hospital for a blood test. The officer will also take your breath test to determine whether it is above the legal limit.
If it is lower than the legal limit, the officer will take a blood test to check whether you are under the influence of drugs. Refusing to submit a chemical test after you are arrested leads to additional charges and penalties in California.
You may request to have bail, or the officer may release you on your own recognizance. Whether or not you get released before the court date depends on your criminal history and the circumstances of your case.
The officer also prepares a report of the evidence and submits it to the local prosecutors. The prosecutor decides to press charges or refuses to file the charges.
Hiring A DUI Attorney
After the charges are filed against you, you can choose to represent yourself, hire a lawyer, or get represented by the public defender. Representing yourself is usually a doomed task, especially if you do not have the experience in fighting DUI charges. The court appoints a public defender for defendants who cannot afford a private attorney. Public defenders usually have a backload of work to deal with, may not have sufficient time to deal with your case, and may not be the best fit for you.
The best option is always to hire an attorney who has experience and knowledge in DUI cases. An Elfin DUI attorney can help you navigate the DUI court system with much ease. They also take on the responsibility of representing you in criminal proceedings, present your evidence and defense against the prosecution.
You need to take your time before hiring an attorney to ensure that you choose the best you can afford. Most people tend to stop with the first one they get, not bothering to determine if they are the right fit. Before hiring an attorney, ensure that:
- They are licensed to operate in California
- The lawyer has experience in DUI cases and has a good number of successful settlements
- The lawyer has excellent customer service, is willing to listen to your case and does not always have a one-size-fits-all for all circumstances
- The lawyer is affordable
Make sure that you can relate well with the lawyer since you might be seeing him or her for several months.
The DMV Hearing
Whenever you are arrested for a DUI violation, the police officer collects your license and issues you with a notice of suspension from the DMV. The suspension goes into effect thirty days after the arrest unless you request for DMV hearing in ten calendar days after your arrest.
Your Elfin Forest DUI attorney will request a hearing and may represent you. The hearing can be conducted over the phone. The DMV will identify whether there was probable cause for the officer to suspect a DUI if you're lawfully arrested and whether you had a DUI level of .08% or more.
Your lawyer could use the DMV hearing to gather evidence, which is relevant to your case, including the police report and witness testimonies. If your hearing is successful, your driving rights will be restored. They may be suspended or revoked later if you are found guilty of a DUI charge.
You can also apply for an IID, which allows you to drive with an IID restricted license. The license lasts for four months for a first offense and one year for subsequent offenses.
DUI Arraignment and Court Proceedings
An arraignment is the first stage of the DUI court process. During the arraignment, you have the chance to plead guilty, not guilty, or no consent to the charges you are facing. If you plead guilty, then you are either sentenced to jail or are placed on probation. Your case ends when you are put in jail or when you complete your probation term and meet all the obligations.
If you plead not guilty, your lawyer must examine the evidence against you and present evidence proving your innocence. The prosecution will also present its evidence to show you are guilty of a DUI offense.
The pretrial stage of the criminal proceedings involve an investigation into the scene of the arrest, maintenance records of BAC equipment, cross-examining witnesses, blood split motions and investigating the prosecution's evidence to identify flaws and weaknesses that may be used in your favor.
If the prosecution’s case against you is weak, the defense is likely to engage in pretrial motions and your charges may be reduced. In addition, your Elfin Forest DUI attorney can request the court to introduce hearing to contest the reason for arrest or to suppress evidence obtained illegally.
In other cases, your lawyer can request a plea bargain where he or she will point out the weaknesses and flaws in the prosecution’s case. The prosecution may then reduce the charges to wet reckless or dry reckless charges. If the prosecution’s case is particularly weak, then the charges against you may be dismissed.
If your case is not settled during the pretrial phase, the court will engage in a jury trial. The jury trial starts with the selection of the jury and ends with the verdict and sentencing. It is at this phase that the prosecution and defense will present their cases.
During the trial, the prosecution is supposed to prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Before going to trial, your lawyer will tell you about the pros and cons of a DUI trial and the chances you stand in the trail, depending on the evidence against you.
By pleading guilty or are found to be guilty of a DUI offense, you face several penalties depending on the DUI offense. The sentence you receive depends on whether you have prior DUI convictions in the last ten years and the circumstances of your case. Punishment can include prison or jail term, probation, fines, and attendance to DUI School.
Types of DUI Offenses
First Offense DUI
A first offense DUI is the first DUI or DUID offense for which you are convicted. A first offense DUI is a misdemeanor whose penalties include
- Misdemeanor probation
- Six months to one-year license suspension
- 48 hours to 6 months or one year in county jail
- Attendance of an alcohol or drug program for 3-9 months
- Fines of between $390 and $2000
You can request a restricted license by installing an IID device in your vehicle. In some cases, you are only allowed to drive to DUI school and work.
Second Offense DUI
A second DUI offense within ten years increases the severity of the penalties you get. The punishment for a second offense DUI include:
- License suspension for two years
- Fines between $390 and $1000
- A 90-day to one year term in county jail
- 3-5 years of misdemeanor probation
- Mandatory attendance of a DUI school for 18 months
- SCRAM monitoring for between 30 days to one year
Third Offense DUI
If you are arrested for a third DUI in ten years, the court will start to believe you have a drinking problem. The penalties get stiffer with every additional offense within ten years. The penalties include:
- Fines between $2500 and $3000
- A county jail term of between 120 days and one year
- DUI school attendance for 30 months
- Misdemeanor probation of 3-5 years
- Mandatory installation of an IID for two years
- Designation as a habitual traffic offender
DUI with injury
When convicted of a DUI causing injury, the crime is punished as a misdemeanor a felony. A misdemeanor charge is where the victim suffered a minor injury. The court also looks at your criminal history to determine whether to convict you of a misdemeanor. The penalties include:
- 3-5 years, misdemeanor probation
- Five days to a one-year county jail term
- Fines of $390-$5000
- 3, 18 or 30 months attendance of a court-approved DUI school
- IID installation for at least six months or a one-year license suspension
- Payment of victim restitution to all victims
If a DUI with injury is convicted as a felony offense, the penalties are:
- A state prison incarceration of between 16 months and ten years. The sentence may be increased by 1-6 years depending on the number of victims and the severity of their injuries
- Fines ranging from $1015-$5000
- 18-30 months of DUI school
- A three-year designation as a habitual traffic offender
- Payment of victim restitution
The fourth and subsequent DUI convictions in ten years is a felony. You can also get a felony charge if a victim dies from a drunk driving accident. The penalties include:
- A state prison term of either 16 months, two years or three years
- Felony probation
- Fines of $390-$1000
- Up to four years of driver’s license suspension or a mandatory IID installation for one year
- A strike on your criminal record
- Designation as a habitual traffic offender
You may face a felony DUI charge if you have a prior DUI felony charge or you caused the injury or death of a person.
DUI Hit and Run
It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident even if you are not the one who caused it. Under the laws of California, you are required to stop at the safest point, examine the scene for injured parties, and exchange contact information with other drivers or pedestrians involved in the crash.
You should provide your license registration and insurance details and your address before leaving the scene. Call 911 if there are injuries. DUI hit and run is a wobbler offense. The penalties for a misdemeanor include:
- Incarceration in a county jail for six months
- Three years of misdemeanor probation
- Fines of up to $1000
- Two points on your license
- Payment of victim restitution
A felony DUI hit and run have penalties such as:
- Up to three years in state prison, and four years if the victim suffers serious injury or dies
- Fines of $1,000 to $10,000
Fighting DUI Charges
Your Elfin Forest DUI attorney has the experience in fighting DUI charges by developing a strong defense strategy. As we mentioned earlier, you should hire a DUI attorney as soon as you are arrested for giving your attorney sufficient time to review the evidence, visit the crime scene, and prepare a strong defense. Some of the accepted legal defenses for DUI charges you Elfin Forest Dui attorney may use include:
- Breath test errors: breath testing equipment can produce errors due to malfunction, mishandling, environmental factors, and psychological or medical conditions that give a false BAC level.
- Mouth alcohol which increases the BAC reading. You can use mouth alcohol as a defense if you burped before the test, you used an alcohol-based mouthwash, chewed tobacco, or have medical conditions that can result in a false BAC reading.
- Ketosis: when you are on a keto diet or are suffering from diabetes, your body metabolizes fat to release energy. During this process, the body releases ketones, which are converted into isopropyl-alcohol. The compound has similar effects to a Breathalyzer as alcohol.
- Rising blood alcohol levels: your blood levels of alcohol increase with time as more alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. Therefore, if you finish driving and start driving immediately, by the time you get to a police station, the amount of alcohol will have increased.
- Blood test errors: like breath tests, DUI blood tests are prone to errors such as blood fermentation, poor storage of blood samples, and contamination of the blood sample. If the police officer of the lab made errors in collecting or storing your blood sample, your Elfin Forest DUI attorney could use these errors to discount the evidence against you. Most lawyers request a blood-split motion for independent testing.
- Violations of Title 17 regulations which set the standards for collecting, analyzing, and storing chemical test samples. These regulations exist to ensure that the results of the tests are the most accurate. If these regulations are not adhered to, then the faulty BAC evidence cannot be used in court.
- Unlawful arrest: a police officer must have probable cause for a DUI stop. If the police officer cannot show probable cause, then the evidence obtained cannot be used; resulting in a reduced charge or dismissal of DUI charges.
- You were not read your Miranda rights: the arresting officer is supposed to read your Miranda rights when arresting you. These rights notify you of your rights to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. However, if you say self-incriminating sentences before your rights are read, then the statements cannot be used as evidence in court.
- Illegal DUI checkpoint: if a DUI arrest occurred at an illegal checkpoint, then the defense can challenge your arrest.
Find a DUI Attorney Near Me
Most people find themselves unsure or confused about hiring a DUI attorney. When you are facing DUI charges, you need to hire an attorney who will represent you in court and present a strong defense on your behalf. If you are in Elfin Forest, get in touch with the San Diego DUI Attorney today at 619-535-7150.