The realities of a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction in the state of California can be personally devastating. As Orange County DUI attorneys, we know that the legal penalties are harsh: fines, a license suspension, and possible jail time. But a DUI conviction will also impact your finances, your job prospects, and more.
You’re about to read a brief overview of the DUI legal process in California. You’ll learn about the penalties for driving under the influence, and you’ll learn about the separate “administrative” procedure that the California Department of Motor Vehicles initiates against DUI defendants.
You’ll also learn what you will need to do to protect your freedom and your future.
When you’re placed under arrest for driving under the influence in California, your arrest launches two separate processes.
WHAT ARE THE TWO PROCEDURES THAT BEGIN WITH A DUI ARREST?
If it’s your first offense, and if there are no aggravating circumstances, you’ll face a misdemeanor DUI charge in the criminal courts, but a DUI arrest will also trigger a separate process at the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend your driver’s license.
You’ll require the advice and representation of an experienced DUI lawyer to deal with both procedures, and you’ll need to contact that attorney at once, because you’ll have only ten days to request a hearing with the DMV to challenge its suspension of your license.
At the time of your DUI arrest, the arresting officer will take your driver’s license and give you a Notice of Suspension which informs you that the Department of Motor Vehicles has started a license suspension procedure.
If you choose to contest your driver’s license suspension – and you should – you have ten days to request a DMV “Administrative Per Se hearing” where your attorney can argue against your license suspension.
FOR HOW LONG WILL THE DMV SUSPEND YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE?
If you fail to act within ten days, you waive your right to a DMV hearing, and the DMV will automatically suspend your license after thirty days. If it’s your first DUI offense, it’s a four-month license suspension. For subsequent DUIs, the DMV license suspension is for one year.
At the DMV hearing, your attorney will explain why your driver’s license should not be suspended. A request for a restricted license will not be considered at the DMV hearing. If your license is suspended, you’ll have to apply for a restricted license at a DMV field office.
But whether or not the Department of Motor Vehicles suspends your driver’s license after the DUI arrest, you will still face a criminal charge for driving under the influence.
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR WHEN YOU SEEK A DUI ATTORNEY?
In southern California, you must have an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer advise and represent you before both the DMV and the criminal court. Your attorney should be someone who exclusively represents defendants charged with driving under the influence.
In the 21st century, both the science and the law involved in DUI cases are exceedingly complicated, so your lawyer must have extensive knowledge of California DUI law and substantial experience representing DUI defendants.
Your lawyer should have a reputation for ethics, professionalism, and success. Finally, your lawyer must be someone who gives you confidence – someone you trust.
HOW WILL YOUR LAWYER DEFEND YOU AGAINST A DUI CHARGE?
In many DUI cases, a defense attorney looks first at the police officer or officers who made the arrest. If the suspect’s rights were violated in any way when the suspect was stopped, questioned, and arrested for driving under the influence, it’s possible that the DUI charge can be dropped.
Your attorney may also challenge the results of any DUI breathalyzer, blood, or urine test. If an arresting officer testifies against you at trial, your attorney may dispute the officer’s testimony.
DUI attorneys in California win a considerable percentage of cases for their clients with dismissed charges and not guilty verdicts. However, if a suspect is actually guilty as charged, and the evidence of that guilt is overwhelming, a plea bargain may be a DUI defendant’s best option.
For example, when a defendant in a DUI case pleads guilty or no contest to “wet reckless” (which is the usual plea bargain offer for a first DUI offense), no driving under the influence conviction goes on the defendant’s record.
IF YOU ARE CONVICTED OF DUI, WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES?
The criminal penalties for an adult who is convicted of a first-offense, misdemeanor driving under the influence charge in this state may include:
1. jail for up to six months
2. probation for up to five years
3. a fine of up to $1000
4. enrollment in an alcohol treatment program or education class
5. a driver’s license suspension – separate from the DMV suspension – for up to ten months
6. installation of an IID (ignition interlock device) in the offender’s vehicle
WHAT ARE DUI ENHANCEMENTS?
California “enhances” DUI penalties – even for a first offense – with a lengthier jail term, a harsher fine, or a longer driver’s license suspension if:
1. A passenger under the age of 14 was in the vehicle when it was stopped.
2. The defendant refused to submit to a chemical DUI test.
3. The defendant caused property damage, injury, or death.
4. The defendant’s blood alcohol level measured at or above 1.5 percent when the driver was tested.
5. The defendant drove more than 20 miles per hour over the limit on a surface street or more than 30 mph over the limit on a highway.
Before an enhancement can be attached to a DUI sentence, a California prosecutor must prove the enhancement beyond a reasonable doubt – just as a prosecutor must prove any other criminal charge.
HOW CAN YOU ENTIRELY AVOID DUI TROUBLE?
Driving under the influence is the most common crime charged in California. Every year in this state, more than 150,000 arrests are made for DUI. What’s the best way to avoid DUI trouble?
It’s the same advice that you’ve heard a thousand times before: Don’t Drink and Drive. The reason that you’ve heard it so often is because it is excellent advice.
If you plan to drink away from home, arrange for a designated driver or a ride-for-hire. Taxis and limos, along with Lyft and Uber, provide 24-hour-a-day service in southern California every day of the year.
Every DUI case is different. If you are charged with driving under the influence in Orange County – or anywhere in southern California – it is imperative to obtain a DUI attorney’s help immediately. An attorney’s help is your right.