Author Archives: Lawrence Taylor
How Long Does a DUI Case Take in California?
It can be frightening to be arrested for DUI in California. Once the worst has passed, you probably want to put it all behind you and move on with your life. However, you may wonder how long a DUI case can take in California. How long will it be before you can put this behind you?
How Long Do Police Officers Have to File DUI Charges in CA?
However, some drunk driving offenses could have longer filing deadlines to bring charges. Offenses punishable by death have no deadlines. Also, criminal charges punishable by more than eight years in prison have a six year statute of limitations.
Therefore, the police officers or prosecutor could bring DUI charges months or years after the officers stop you for drunk driving.
What Is the DUI Process in California?
Understanding the DUI process can help explain how long your DUI case could take. While the process will differ in some cases, the steps below offer a general timeline for most DUI cases in California.
DUI Process – A Roadmap of How the Court & DMV Work
The time it takes to complete each of the following phases in a criminal case depends on many factors. Simple, straightforward cases tend to move faster. However, more complex cases involving injuries, deaths, and felony charges could move much slower.
We summarize each phase and then discuss the phases in more detail below.
1st PHASE: DUI Investigation in CA
If a police officer has reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime or even a traffic offense, they can pull you over. The officer could also be responding to a reported traffic accident.
Based on the officer’s observations, if they believe you are intoxicated, they generally begin a roadside DUI investigation. The officer will request that you take a preliminary alcohol screening (“PAS”), such as a breathalyzer or cheek swab. They may also ask you to perform field sobriety tests (“FSTs”). We discuss the DUI investigation in greater detail below.
2nd PHASE: DUI Arrest in CA
If the police officers believe they have probable cause for an arrest, they can arrest you for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The DUI charge could be driving under the influence or driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit.
3rd PHASE: Choosing to Hire your CA DUI Lawyer
Most people do not understand the DUI process, especially if this is a first time DUI offense. It could be the first time they have been arrested for a crime. Therefore, obtaining legal advice as soon as possible is in their best interest.
Attempting to represent yourself or “being your own lawyer” places you at a disadvantage when you are charged with a DUI in California. Prosecutors are trained, experienced attorneys who have the full resources of the state behind them. Unless you are also a lawyer, you likely do not have the knowledge of the judicial system or the resources to battle the prosecutor’s office. Even then, it is best to hire a lawyer who specializes in DUIs or criminal defense law. Experienced California DUI lawyers have the skills, resources, and experience to investigate and defend drunk driving charges.
If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you can also apply for a public defender. Public defenders are court appointed lawyers who represent defendants in criminal court. However, most public defenders are inexperienced and overworked. Therefore, if you can afford to hire a private attorney to handle your case, it can protect you from being treated unfairly or having your legal rights violated during the DUI process.
4th PHASE: Your DUI and the DMV of CA
After your DUI arrest, the police officer takes your driver’s license and issues you a Notice of Suspension. You have 10 days to request a driver’s license suspension hearing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
If you do not request the hearing, the DMV initiates an administrative license suspension after 30 days. The duration of the license suspension depends on your criminal history for DUI convictions and whether you refused a chemical test.
You have the right to legal counsel at the DMV hearing, and you should strongly consider hiring a California DUI attorney immediately. The hearing is held by a DMV officer who has the “evidence” against you. In other words, the hearing already leans heavily in favor of the DMV.
Three questions generally determine whether your license is suspended:
- Did the officer have probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs?
- Were you lawfully arrested?
- Was your blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) over the legal limit?
If the DMV hearing officer finds all the above criteria true, you will lose your driving privileges for a specific period of time. The driver’s license suspension stands even if you beat the DUI charges, and it is an addition to any court-ordered driver’s license suspension or revocation.
Having an attorney represent you at the DMV hearing can make a difference. Your lawyer understands DUI laws and evidence. If the police officers made mistakes or committed any wrongdoing, your lawyer argues that at the hearing. Your attorney also understands the process for presenting evidence and witnesses and cross-examining the DMV witnesses.
5th PHASE: DUI Court Process in CA
The criminal case against you begins with your arraignment. If you do not have an attorney by your arraignment hearing, you can plead not guilty. Pleading not guilty allows you time to request a court appointed attorney or hire a private attorney to handle your DUI case.
6th PHASE: The DUI Arraignment Process
An arraignment is a short hearing. The parties present at an arraignment include you, your lawyer, the prosecutor, and the judge. First, the judge will read the criminal charges against you. If you have an attorney, your attorney may waive the reading of the charges to save time. Next, the judge explains your rights to you, such as your right to be represented by legal counsel. The court can appoint legal counsel for you if you cannot afford an attorney on your own. (Learn more about the benefits and costs of hiring an attorney at our recent blog post, here.)
The judge will then ask you to enter a plea. In most cases, your lawyer has you enter a plea of not guilty. Pleading not guilty allows your lawyer to request discovery documents from the prosecution. Through discovery, the prosecution will likely be required to disclose all evidence they have against you, including any information or documentation that could help prove your innocence. This information could include, but is not limited to:
- Copies of the police reports;
- Investigative notes by police officers;
- Results of the chemical tests, including breath tests, blood tests, and urine tests; and
- Maintenance records for the breathalyzer machines and blood testing instruments.
Obtaining the discovery documents allows your lawyer to begin developing a defense strategy.
The judge may also determine bail at the DUI arraignment. You might be released on your own recognizance (personal signature with no money), or you might be required to post a bond or bail to secure your release from jail.
7th PHASE: The CA DUI Defenses Most Commonly Used
The DUI defenses your lawyer may use depends on the facts and circumstances of your case. However, common California DUI defenses include:
- Challenging the results of chemical tests (blood and urine tests);
- Challenging the accuracy of the calculations used to determine BAC from a breath test;
- Lack of probable cause for a DUI arrest or reasonable suspicion for a DUI stop;
- Rising alcohol levels between the arrest and chemical testing;
- Residual mouth alcohol and medical conditions that could cause a falsely high BAC level on a breathalyzer test;
- The accuracy of and the method used for field sobriety tests;
- Title 17 violations related to the collection, testing, and storage of blood and urine;
- Violations in procedures that could have resulted in falsely high BAC levels; and
- The alcohol or drugs in your system did not impair your driving ability.
Experienced California DUI defense lawyers conduct thorough and comprehensive investigations to determine all potential defenses that could result in a dismissal or acquittal.
8th PHASE: The DUI Pre-Trial Motion and Plea Bargain Process
Before the DUI trial, the lawyers may file one or more pre-trial motions. The motions deal with questions of law and evidence. Examples include:
- Motion to Suppress evidence that was obtained illegally;
- Discovery motion to compel the prosecution to turn over evidence;
- Pitchess motion to examine an officer’s record to reveal misconduct;
- Motion to split a urine or blood sample for independent testing;
- Motion to dismiss the case based on a lack of evidence; and
- Probable cause hearing to challenge whether the arrest was lawful.
The court also holds a pre-trial conference. The pre-trial conference provides the court with the case status. The lawyers must tell the judge whether they are ready for trial, if they need to address any issues, and the status of any plea negotiations.
The most serious plea negotiations occur after the parties complete discovery. Your lawyer now understands the evidence against you, your defenses, and any weaknesses in either case. Using that information, your lawyer aggressively negotiates with the prosecutor for favorable terms for a plea deal.
Generally, defense lawyers negotiate for a reduction of criminal charges. For example, your lawyer may suggest dropping the DUI charge to a “wet reckless” or “dry reckless” charge. If the charge is a felony DUI, your lawyer might suggest dropping the charge to a misdemeanor.
In addition to charge reductions, the attorney negotiates for a reduced sentence. For example, no jail time if you complete probation or participate in a DUI program.
9th PHASE: DUIs and Jury Trials
If you cannot agree to a plea deal and your attorney suggests that a trial is your best option, the case is placed on the trial docket. When the case comes up for a trial, you can expect to go through the following steps:
- Selecting a jury;
- Final pre-trial motions;
- Opening statements by both sides;
- Prosecution’s case;
- Defense’s cases;
- Closing arguments by both sides;
- Jury deliberation; and
- Jury verdict.
If the jury acquits you of the charges, you are free to leave. However, if they find you guilty of drinking and driving, the judge proceeds with sentencing.
10th PHASE: Sentencing and Punishment for a DUI in CA
The punishment for DUI in California depends on several factors. Aggravating factors, past DUI convictions, the county in which you receive the DUI, and the facts of the case can increase the severity of your punishment. Potential DUI penalties include:
- Fines and assessments that could total thousands of dollars;
- Time spent in county jail or state prison;
- Restitution paid to the victims you injured driving while intoxicated;
- Three to five years of probation;
- Attending DUI school and other DUI programs;
- Community service and other probation requirements;
- Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID);
- Driver’s license suspension or revocation;
- A strike against the Three Strikes Law for a felony DUI conviction; and
- Designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender.
The collateral consequences of a DUI conviction generally include higher insurance premiums for at least three years. Additionally, you could lose your job or find it more difficult to find employment. In addition, some professional licenses could be suspended or revoked, and it could be more difficult to qualify for specific government benefits and student loans.
What Happens During a Typical California DUI Investigation?
The DUI investigation begins with a traffic stop. The police officer watches you for signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, blurry or red eyes, fumbling, lack of coordination, a smell of alcohol, and a flushed face. Next, the officer asks questions, including whether you have been drinking or taking drugs and where you have been.
The officer asks you to take a preliminary alcohol screening (“PAS”) test, which is a roadside breathalyzer test or a cheek swab for drugs. Most drivers can refuse these tests without losing their driving privileges. However, underage drivers and individuals on probation who refuse PAS tests may lose their driving privileges for the refusal.
The police officer will also ask if you’d prefer to take field sobriety tests (“FSTs”). Again, you are not required to complete these tests. If the officer believes you are under the influence of drugs, they may call a Drug Recognition Expert (“DRE”) who takes over the investigation.
If the officer believes they have probable cause for an arrest, they can place you into custody and transport you to the police station or a medical facility for chemical testing.
What Happens After a California DUI Arrest?
California’s implied consent laws require drivers to take a chemical test after a lawful arrest. The officer should give you a choice between a breath or blood test. Urine tests are only used when blood or breath tests cannot be performed. Your refusal of a chemical test will result in an administrative license suspension by the DMV.
After the chemical tests, you are processed and booked into jail or released. The arresting offer completes and files the police report, which is submitted to the local prosecuting agency. Then, your case proceeds according to the DUI process guide discussed above.
What Are the Most Important DUI Court Proceedings in a Given Case?
Criminal cases may have numerous hearings. In DUI cases, the three most important court proceedings are the following:
- Pre-Trial Proceedings (i.e., discovery, plea negotiations, and pre-trial motions); and
- The jury trial.
At any point during these proceedings, your case could be dismissed. Experienced legal representation is the key to improving your chances of winning a DUI case. Your lawyer guides you through each phase of the DUI process, providing legal advice and counsel to help protect your rights and best interests.
Throughout each phase, your lawyer searches for evidence that can reduce or dismiss the charges. Only trained, experienced, and skilled legal minds see evidence that other people might miss.
How Long Can You Be in Jail For a DUI?
If you have a clean criminal record, took the chemical test, and have no aggravating factors, you might spend no time in jail or just a few days. However, past DUIs and sentence enhancements result in mandatory jail time. Felony DUI convictions could result in years in state prison.
Is Your License Suspended Immediately After a DUI?
As discussed above, the officer gives you a Notice of Suspension. You can drive for up to 30 days. However, the DMV suspends your license immediately after 30 days if you do not request a DMV hearing within 10 days.
How Long Does It Take for A DUI To Come Off Your Record in California?
DUIs and wet reckless convictions are offenses that will later count as “priors.” This means that they will count against you for new drunk driving offenses which occur within the next 10 years. Felony DUIs count against you for new drunk driving charges forever. Even if you have a DUI expunged, it still counts against you for future DUIs.
Hiring a California DUI Attorney
California has some of the most strict DUI laws and punishments for drunk driving in the United States. Representing yourself is never your best option. Many California DUI attorneys, such as the Law Offices of Taylor & Taylor offer free consultations. You can get answers to your questions and legal advice from a trusted legal advocate for individuals facing criminal allegations.
You should never go it alone when dealing with DUI charges. An experienced attorney can help you achieve far more positive consequences than are likely if you do not have the advice of legal counsel. If you’d like to learn more, you can speak a DUI Defense attorney today by reaching out to us at this link.
Interested in this topic and want to learn more? Check out our recent post on being charged with DUIs months later, and other related topics on our blog, which is updated regularly.
When Can a DUI Lead to a More Serious Charge?
Most DUIs in California are misdemeanor charges that can carry jail time, probation, fines, penalties, license suspension or restrictions, and many other consequences. However, there are situations where a DUI can lead to more severe charges, such as a felony.
California state law treats drinking and driving very seriously. The consequences of a DUI conviction get more significant with each subsequent drunk driving conviction within a ten-year period. If you have three or more prior DUIs, one or more felony DUI convictions in ten years, or someone was hurt or killed as a result of you driving under the influence, you can expect to face more serious charges.
Circumstances Leading to a DUI Charge
Most DUI charges start with law enforcement pulling over a person suspected of driving under the influence. California law prohibits anyone from driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or with a blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) of .08% or more. Similar laws also prohibit riding bikes, scooters, and boats while intoxicated.
Is A DUI In California A Felony?
A DUI in California is not a felony in most circumstances, but rather a misdemeanor. However, if one of the three previously mentioned circumstances is present, a DUI can be prosecuted as a felony. This can lead to serious consequences, including time in prison.
How Long Can You Stay in Jail for a DUI in California?
The likelihood and length of potential jail time for a DUI in California will depend on several factors, including whether the incident is being treated as a misdemeanor DUI or felony DUI.
For a first offense misdemeanor, you could receive up to 6 months jail time, 3-5 years of probation, a suspended or restricted driver’s license, fines and monetary penalties, be required to carry special insurance, be mandated to attend DUI school, and install an ignition interlock device on your car.
For a second misdemeanor DUI conviction, you could receive between 96 hours to 1 year in jail time, in addition to the items listed above. Some counties may have alternatives to jail, such as a sheriff’s work program or home detention.
A third-time misdemeanor DUI conviction can lead to anywhere between 120 days-1 year in jail. There is a one-month mandatory jail time requirement, and every county handles the minimum time differently.
You can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony DUI for any fourth or subsequent offenses. Despite this, at this point a prosecutor will likely seek felony charges against you. As long as no injuries or deaths result from driving under the influence, you will face jail time of up to three years.
How Likely Is Jail Time for a First DUI in California?
Jail time is not always guaranteed for a first offense. A prosecutor may be more willing to offer a reduced charge for a person’s first offense. However, there are minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines for a first-time DUI. That being said, each county will handle minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines differently. Some counties offer alternatives to jail time, such as local work programs, home monitoring options, and the ability to break up a jail sentence into multiple sessions.
Depending on your circumstances, a California DUI attorney may be able to get your charge lessened to a “wet reckless” charge. There are significant advantages to getting this charge over a DUI. The first is shorter jail time. A first-time DUI offender could get up to six months in jail, and repeat offenders could get up to a year. However, the maximum possible jail time for a “wet reckless” charge is 90 days.
DUI Punishments and Penalties
When charged with a DUI, some of the possible consequences include paying fines and penalty assessments, being subjected to multiple years of probation, and being required to attend a “DUI school” for a certain amount of time. Other possibilities include license suspension or restrictions on driving purposes, such as only being allowed to drive when going to work. You may also be required to pay for an ignition interlock device to be installed on your car, which also requires special insurance.
Penalties plus court assessments can range anywhere from $2,000-$10,000. Depending on your number of prior convictions and whether there are any aggravating circumstances in your case, you may also be faced with restitution costs. If you are worried about possible fees and costs you will have to pay for your DUI charge, reach out to one of our California DUI lawyers today.
If you can lessen your charge to a “wet reckless,” fines are also much lower. The most you could be required to pay is $1,000, while a DUI will likely result in a fine and assessments of several thousand dollars. There is also no mandatory license suspension with wet reckless charges. In contrast, a DUI can carry a 6-month compulsory suspension for a first-time offense and a year or more for repeat offenses.
Is a DUI a Felony or a Misdemeanor?
A DUI can be either a misdemeanor or felony. Whether this is your first, second, third, or fourth DUI in the last 10 years will also affect this determination. Additionally, whether anyone was injured—either fatally, or only slightly—and whether there are aggravating circumstances that “enhance” the severity of your case will impact this determination.
When Is a DUI a Misdemeanor?
Most people charged with a DUI are usually looking at a misdemeanor charge. If you have had no more than three prior convictions in the past 10 years and no one has been injured or killed, chances are high that you will not be charged with anything other than a misdemeanor. However, it is important to remember that each case is different.
4 Ways a DUI Can Become a Felony
A DUI can lead to felony charges in the following circumstances:
- You have three or more DUIs in a 10-year period;
- You have previously been convicted of felony DUI;
- A DUI accident you were involved in resulted in someone’s death; or
- A DUI accident you were involved in resulted in injury to someone else.
Driver’s License Suspension and Ignition Interlocks
In California, there are two kinds of license suspensions for drunk driving. One occurs through the DMV and one through the courts. The DMV’s license suspension will likely happen before your court case concludes.
When you are initially pulled over and arrested for a DUI, the police notify the DMV, and the DMV suspends your license. You then have approximately ten days to attend an administrative hearing regarding your license. The DMV can suspend your license for four months or longer, even if you are not convicted in court. You may be able to obtain a restricted license so you can go to work, go to medical treatments, and so forth.
If you are ultimately convicted of any DUI charge, your license gets suspended by the court as part of the penalties. The court informs the DMV of the conviction, and then the DMV handles the rest. You cannot appeal this suspension. The length of your court-determined suspension will largely depend on whether you are a first-time offender, a serial offender, or if there are aggravating circumstances.
You may also have to pay for an ignition interlock device installed on your car. The DMV has an ignition interlock device program that requires all repeat or injury-causing offenders to install this device on their vehicle for anywhere between one to four years. First-time offenders may have a court-ordered device for up six months after conviction.
An ignition interlock device is a small device wired to your vehicle’s ignition. To start your car, you must breathe into the machine. The vehicle will not start if any alcohol is detected. The device will also require you to provide breath samples during your drive to ensure there is no alcohol in your system.
Alternative Forms of Punishment
Although all California DUIs include minimum jail sentences, many people convicted of a DUI will never see a jail cell. Judges realize that many DUI offenders are not violent criminals and will not benefit from being locked up. California law allows judges to offer alternative sentences if they believe the circumstances warrant it.
If you are given an alternative sentence, you can fulfill another requirement—such as attending a DUI program—instead of serving jail time. Your jail sentence will be stayed conditioned on you completing the alternative sentence. If you complete it as directed by the court, you do not have to serve jail time. However, if you do not follow through, you will be back in court, and the judge will likely send you to jail.
The most common alternative forms of punishment to receive in lieu of jail time in California are:
- Alcohol or drug treatment programs, including rehab, twelve-step programs, and sober living homes;
- DUI deterrent programs;
- Community service;
- Roadside work;
- Work furlough—working during the day and spending the night in a monitored setting that is not a jail; and
- House arrest.
A person will be more likely to be offered an alternative sentence where it is their first offense, their blood alcohol content was close to the legal limit, they have expressed genuine remorse for their actions, they have legal counsel, or they have taken proactive steps such as enrolling in a treatment program.
What Leads to an “Aggravated” DUI?
There are certain factors that, if present in your case, can increase your jail or prison sentence. These aggravating factors will also increase your penalties, regardless of whether you have any prior alcohol-related offenses on your record. Common examples include:
- Having a blood alcohol content of 0.15% or more;
- Refusing a breath test or urine test;
- Driving at high speeds;
- Child endangerment by virtue of driving under the influence with a child under the age of 14 in the car; and
- If you are under age 21 at the time of the DUI.
California Felony DUI Sentencing Guidelines
The sentencing guidelines for a felony DUI are much more consequential than for a misdemeanor DUI. For a first-offense felony DUI where there is an injury or death, you may look at anywhere from 16 months to 16 years in state prison. For any other felony DUI, you may look at anywhere from 16 months to 2 years or 3 years in state prison.
Can You Be Charged with a Felony if You Have No Prior DUI Convictions?
Yes, you can be charged with a felony DUI conviction even if you have no prior convictions. This can occur when intoxicated driving results in injury to another or, worse, someone’s death.
If you injured another person while driving under the influence, you could be charged under California Vehicle Code section 23153 (a) and or (b). If the injuries are minor, you may only be charged with a misdemeanor DUI. However, if your actions resulted in great bodily injury, a prosecutor will likely be seeking to charge you with a felony DUI. This is true even if it is your first offense.
If your actions resulted in someone’s death, you could be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter. A prosecutor will have to show you acted with gross negligence for you to be charged with a felony. If they cannot show this, then you would be looking at a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge.
If you are charged with gross vehicular manslaughter as a felony, you are potentially looking at:
- Felony probation;
- State prison time;
- Fines, penalties and restitution; and
- Other consequences.
If you are faced with this situation or have upcoming court dates, you should seek the advice and counsel of an attorney as soon as possible.
Talk To A DUI Defense Attorney
You may have defenses to felony charges or may be able to get them reduced to a misdemeanor or “wet reckless” charges. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and discuss your options with you. A lawyer serving DUI clients will often offer a free no obligation consultation and everything discussed is protected by the attorney client relationship.
Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.
Interested in this topic or want to learn more about DUIs in California? Check out our blog, which is updated regularly!
What Happens if I Can’t Afford to Hire a California DUI Attorney?
Many people believe they cannot afford to hire a private lawyer when arrested for driving under the influence in California. However, before you give up the idea of having a private lawyer represent you in a DUI case, schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.
Most DUI lawyers offer free case evaluations. Therefore, your starting point should be seeking legal advice from a qualified criminal defense attorney who handles DUI cases by asking for a free consultation. You might be surprised at how affordable it can be to hire a DUI lawyer in California.
If I Can’t Afford a DUI Lawyer, How Do I Follow the Arraignment Paperwork Stating I Need to Bring an Attorney?
The arraignment is one of the first steps in the criminal process. At the arraignment, the judge formally states the criminal charges against you. Then, they will inform you of your rights, including the right to be represented by legal counsel. The judge will also tell you that if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the court can appoint an attorney for you.
Unfortunately, that second statement can be misleading. First, you must meet the qualifications to have the court appoint a public defender to handle your DUI case. We discuss those qualifications in another section of this article.
Lastly, the judge asks you to enter a plea. You have three choices. You can plead guilty to the DUI charges. If so, the judge may sentence you or set a sentencing hearing. If you plead not guilty, your case is placed on the trial docket. Your third option is a plea of “no contest.” That means you do not admit to driving under the influence, but you are not fighting the DUI charges. Again, the judge could sentence you then or set a sentencing hearing.
If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer or find a private attorney before the arraignment, you can plead not guilty. Pleading not guilty gives you time to seek legal advice to learn about your options for fighting drunk driving charges. You can also enter a guilty plea at a later time if you determine that is your best option for resolving the DUI case.
Getting a Lawyer’s Opinion About Your Case
The punishments for driving under the influence in California can be severe. If you face felony California DUI charges, your prison sentence could be more than 10 years, depending on the facts of your case. Even if you are facing misdemeanor California DUI charges, you could spend up to a year in jail, pay high fines, and have your driver’s license suspended.
Therefore, getting the opinion of an experienced California DUI lawyer is crucial. Most DUI attorneys offer free consultations for individuals facing drunk driving charges. Even if you must pay a small fee for the initial consultation, the legal advice you receive could significantly affect how you handle your case. At the very least, you may receive answers to legal questions that can help you decide how to proceed.
When Do You Need a Lawyer for a DUI/DWI Charge in Criminal Court?
It is always wise to have legal representation whenever you face criminal charges, including DUI offenses. Prosecutors have training, experience, and resources that you do not possess. Therefore, you are disadvantaged if you try to negotiate a DUI plea agreement on your own or represent yourself in court.
Prosecutors want guilty verdicts. Therefore, most of them have standard DUI plea deals they offer first-time misdemeanor DUI offenders with no aggravating factors and a clean criminal record. A standard offer is likely to be the same whether you have legal counsel or represent yourself.
However, the prosecution might not consider any mitigating factors or weaknesses in the case that could result in a lower sentence for you.
Experienced DUI defense attorneys investigate the circumstances of your DUI arrest. They analyze the reason the police officers made the traffic stop to determine if there could have been a violation of your Constitutional rights. Officers must have reasonable suspicion or belief that you committed a crime or are committing a crime to pull you over. Otherwise, it could result in an unlawful arrest.
Likewise, your lawyer analyzes whether the arresting officer had probate cause for a DUI arrest. If not, the evidence against you could be inadmissible in court.
DUI attorneys also review all evidence the prosecution has against you to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the case. Then, based on the attorney’s evaluation of the evidence and the case against you, the lawyer advises you whether accepting a standard plea deal is advisable in your situation.
A skilled DUI lawyer might be able to use the evidence in the case to negotiate a better plea deal. Likewise, if you have one or more viable DUI defenses, it might not be wise to accept a plea bargain. Therefore, contacting a lawyer to discuss misdemeanor DUI charges and DUI felony offenses is in your best interest before you make any decisions regarding your case.
How Much Does a Private Attorney Charge for a DUI?
Most DUI private attorneys charge an hourly rate for their time. They generally ask for a retainer fee when you hire them, which could be anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000. A few attorneys might charge a flat fee for a simple misdemeanor DUI case.
The fee depends on many factors, including the charges against you, the attorney’s legal experience, and whether the attorney specializes in DUI cases. The more time the attorney works on the case, the higher the fee. Also, the attorneys’ fees increase if the case goes to trial.
How Much Does a DUI Lawyer Cost in California?
How much you’ll spend on a California DUI attorney will vary depending on several things. Factors that determine the cost of hiring a DUI lawyer in California include:
- The complexity of the case;
- Whether the case is a felony or misdemeanor charge;
- Your criminal history (i.e., Is this offense a first-time DUI, or do you have multiple DUI convictions?);
- Whether the attorney has experience handling DUI cases or the attorney just starting to practice law and has minimal experience;
- The DUI attorney’s current caseload;
- The location of the DUI case;
- The lawyer’s experience and reputation;
- Whether the case is expected to go to trial; and
- Whether the primary attorney or an associate attorney handles does most of the work.
As discussed above, the cost of a DUI lawyer can range from $500 to a few thousand dollars. It all depends on the specific issues relevant to your case. Fees vary widely for a DUI attorney because each case is unique. The key is to take advantage of the free consultation offered by DUI lawyers to obtain basic legal advice to help you decide what you need to do about your case.
What Is Meant When Someone Says “Low-Cost” DUI Attorney?
Beware of “low-cost” DUI attorneys. These attorneys generally do not have very much experience. Therefore, they take cases for lower fees to gain experience. In other words, they will use your case as part of their learning curve.
Another problem with low-cost attorneys is that you generally receive poorer quality of legal services. For example, the lawyers may not work as hard on your case to develop a solid DUI defense that could win the case or result in a better plea deal.
Deciding Whether to Represent Yourself, Go with the Public Defender, or Retain a Private Attorney in a DUI Case
It can be challenging and frustrating to decide whether to hire a private DUI lawyer, get a public defender, or represent yourself. Any reputable attorney will advise you that you should always seek legal counsel for a DUI arrest. A reputable DUI lawyer will tell you if you do not need a lawyer for your case. Therefore, taking advantage of the free case evaluation or low-cost consultation with a highly respected and experienced DUI attorney with an excellent track record is generally the best first step.
However, if you cannot afford an attorney or to pay for a consultation, there are other options.
How to Get Legal Help if You Can’t Afford a Lawyer
If you can’t afford a lawyer, you may qualify to have a public defender handle your case, or you might be able to apply for legal aid or find a pro-bono attorney.
How Can I Get a Private Attorney for Free?
Some individuals might qualify for legal aid. Legal aid provides an attorney at a significantly reduced price or free of charge. Attorneys who offer their services free of charge are called pro-bono lawyers. You can contact The State Bar of California for a list of pro bono groups and court pro bono programs.
Do You Have Too Much Money to Get Legal Aid?
If you do not qualify for legal aid or a pro bono attorney, contact the court about having a public defender appointed to your case. You might be required to pay an application fee to request a public defender, but the court does not charge attorneys’ fees for their services.
What Is a Public Defender?
A public defender is an attorney who works for the state. Their job is to represent individuals who have been judged “legally indigent.” If you are labeled as legally indigent, it simply means you cannot afford to hire a lawyer to represent you in a criminal case.
It is important to note that public defenders are licensed attorneys who only handle criminal matters. However, many public defenders do not have a great deal of experience in DUI specific matters and have high caseloads. They also do not have the resources private lawyers have to investigate and pursue evidence that could help win your DUI case.
However, ask the court to appoint a public defender if you cannot afford an attorney. Having a public defender is better than having no legal advice.
Is There a Fixed Amount of Income for Public Defenders?
You must meet specific financial requirements to qualify for a public defender. Contact the public defender’s office in the county of your DUI case. Generally, the office provides the financial forms and applications you must complete to begin the process of qualifying for a public defender.
Talk to a DUI Defense Attorney in California
Regardless of your situation, if the police arrest you for DUI, you need to talk with a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Waiting to talk with a lawyer could result in driver’s license suspension and other penalties that could have been avoided had you been represented by a lawyer. Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.
Interested in this topic or want to learn more about DUIs in California? Check out our blog, which is updated regularly!
Paul Pelosi’s DUI: Truth, Consequences, and Political Privilege
It’s been all over the news lately: Paul Pelosi, husband of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, was arrested and charged with a DUI. This arrest has led to a lot of discussion about political privilege and how it can be abused. But what does the truth really look like in this situation? Here, we’ll take a closer look at the facts and consequences of Mr. Pelosi’s arrest.
What Happened the Night Paul Pelosi Crashed His Porsche?
The story of Paul Pelosi’s May 28, 2022, DUI arrest has been widely reported. We are told that Mr. Pelosi had been at an upscale dinner party in Napa County, where presumably, he had been drinking.
He got into his Porsche 911 to drive back to his Napa Valley country home sometime around 10 P.M., according to a police report. After traveling for under a mile, he collided with another car, which hit his car as he made a left turn.
Police arrived at the scene and arrested Mr. Pelosi on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a .08+ blood alcohol content (“BAC”) level. They allegedly smelled alcohol on his breath and observed him moving in an impaired manner. The other driver was not arrested.
Subsequently, authorities revealed that a blood test just after midnight showed Mr. Pelosi had a .082% blood alcohol content. This is a violation of California law, as the legal limit within the state is .08%.
What Charges Were Brought Against Paul Pelosi?
On June 23, 2022, the Napa County District Attorney issued a press release stating it would issue a criminal complaint and file charges against Paul Pelosi. They charged him with driving with a .08% blood alcohol level or higher, causing injury, and driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury. They explained the charges could be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony. However, at their discretion, only misdemeanor charges were filed due to the minor injuries to the other driver.
Mr. Pelosi’s court date was set for August 3, 2022, and he was released on $5,000 bail, promising to appear for an arraignment in the Napa County Superior Court on that date.
Were the DUI Charges Against Pelosi Dropped?
The District Attorney did not drop the DUI charges against Mr. Pelosi, and the court proceeded as planned to hold the August 3, 2022 court date. Mr. Pelosi initially pleaded not guilty to the charges against him through his attorney. Because he was charged with a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, California law allows him to appear by counsel instead of in person.
On August 23, 2022, he changed his plea to guilty, although he did not personally appear in court. Per another press release, the presiding judge sentenced Mr. Pelosi to five days in jail and three years of probation. However, he received credit for the two days he had spent in jail for the crime previously, as well as credit for 2 days based on good conduct. For the remaining day of jail time, Mr. Pelosi will be allowed to substitute 8 hours of service through the court’s work program. In addition, Mr. Pelosi must attend three months of DUI school, put an ignition interlock device on his car and pay about $7,000 in fines.
Many people feel Mr. Pelosi received excessively light consequences due to his political or other privileges. Although Mr. Pelosi may have arguably been treated more favorably than others, this is likely due to having an experienced legal professional help navigate the judicial process. Once again, this is why it is so important to have a good DUI lawyer if you are charged with a DUI in California.
What Are the Typical Penalties for the Type of Charges Pelosi Faced?
California law imposes penalties for first-time DUI misdemeanor charges, which can include a maximum of five years of probation, a minimum of five days and a maximum of six months in county jail, installation of an ignition interlock device, fines and penalties, DUI school, and other terms to be set by a judge. The decision of which penalties to be implied varies per case.
In addition, you will face consequences related to your license that can start immediately upon your arrest. There may be a court-mandated six-month license suspension upon conviction plus a DMV administrative license suspension which generally begins immediately unless you fight it. Therefore it is essential to hire a DUI attorney as soon as possible if you are arrested or charged with a DUI.
What Types of Defenses Might Have Been Available for Pelosi?
Although Pelosi pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charges against him and received a punishment on the lighter side, not all people in a similar situation may do so well. However, many DUI defenses may convince a prosecutor to reduce charges or even dismiss charges in your case.
Inaccurate Breath Test
Believe it or not, law enforcement frequently mishandles DUI investigations. One of the most common issues is errors related to the use and application of DUI breath tests, leading to an erroneously high BAC reading.
These tests are not perfect, frequently malfunction, are not always correctly administered, and can be affected by environmental and other factors. As such, these tests are arguably inaccurate. You may have a defense that a breath test does not show you were driving under the influence or above the legal limit.
Medical Conditions Affected Result of DUI Test
Another defense may be that a person’s medical issues caused a breath test to read inaccurately. For example, many people suffer from acid reflux, heartburn a hiatal hernia. These medical conditions can create mouth alcohol which a breath test can capture and misread as impairment. As a result, if you suffer from one of these conditions, you may have a defense to DUI charges.
Rising Blood Alcohol Content
A person may also have a defense to DUI criminal charges related to rising blood alcohol. The idea is that because alcohol takes time to be absorbed by your system, a blood or chemical test after an arrest may not accurately portray the BAC you actually had when driving. You may be able to argue that you were not above the limit and/or that the test is inaccurate.
Given the timing of the chemical test given to Mr. Pelosi several hours after the incident, this may have arguably been one of his better defenses.
Errors in Chemical Tests
There are also arguments related to errors in blood tests or standard protocol that can serve as a potential DUI defense. If the blood sample was improperly stored, there was any contamination or blood fermentation, the test could potentially be inaccurate. If this is the case, the test may be excluded from the evidence that may exist against you.
No Probable Cause
Another prevalent defense is that a police officer did not have probable cause to pull you over. Probable cause means that before law enforcement can stop your car, detain you for purposes of a DUI investigation or arrest you for DUI, they must have a reasonable suspicion that you were violating the law.
Suppose law enforcement doesn’t have probable cause before conducting a DUI investigation. In that case, any evidence obtained from the investigation can be suppressed. This means that a prosecutor cannot use this against a person to prove the DUI case. As a result, this can lead to a dismissal or reduction of charges.
Miranda Rights Failure
Although Miranda rights are not required in every situation, they are mandatory when (1) a person is being arrested, and (2) an officer is asking questions designed to solicit incriminating responses after their arrest. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
“Miranda rights” refer to the following statement that must be read to a person being arrested: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” Although this phrasing is the most common and well known due to pop culture, it does not need to be an exact match of what is listed above. So long as the essential elements of the above statement are included and conveyed to those taken into police custody, courts will find that sufficient Miranda rights have been provided.
If an officer does not advise a person of their Miranda rights, any statements they give may be excluded from evidence. Depending on what is being excluded, a prosecutor may have to dismiss or consider reducing charges.
Errors in A Field Sobriety Test
Field sobriety tests are not always the most accurate indicators of impairment. They must be very precisely administered and scored; unfortunately, this is not the case in many situations. In addition, factors that have nothing to do with the test subject can affect their results.
For example, very common issues such as officer behavior during a test, poor weather or lighting, uneven surfaces where a test is conducted or even what the test subject is wearing, can all cause a person to “fail” a field sobriety test.
Because of this, many of these tests can be discredited in court, and a prosecutor who doesn’t have much else against you may have to dismiss or reduce charges.
There are many more potential DUI defenses you may be able to exercise. Many defenses can lead to charges being dismissed against you or being reduced to a less severe and less costly offense, such as a “wet” or “dry” reckless charge.
Is It Better To Plead Guilty to DUI Charges In California?
Not necessarily. Though it may have been better in this specific case, the reasons why Mr. Pelosi changed his plea from not guilty to guilty are private and subject to his attorney-client privilege. However, one can imagine there was probably significant public relations pressure on him which may have influenced his decision. It may not have looked good for the wealthy spouse of a prominent politician to display his vast resources and fight his case, which could have kept the story in the public eye for an extended period.
However, for most people who are first-time offenders or similar, pleading guilty is not the best option as it can have very negative consequences. While a dismissal of charges may not always be possible, downgraded charges are common. Possibilities include reduced charges known as a “wet” reckless or “dry” reckless.
A “wet” reckless charge is where a person is charged with driving recklessly while alcohol is involved. It will count as a prior drunk driving offense should you ever be arrested for DUI again. However, the consequences are generally less severe regarding jail time, DUI school, probation, and financial costs.
A “dry” reckless charge is where a person facing DUI criminal charges agrees to accept a reckless driving charge, where no alcohol is involved. This will result in the most minor negative consequences of all. These include less jail time, no DUI school, less probation, less costly fines, and it will not count as a prior drunk driving offense.
You should never go it alone when dealing with DUI charges. An experienced attorney can help you achieve far more positive consequences than are likely if you do not have the advice of legal counsel. If you’d like to learn more, you can speak a DUI Defense attorney today by reaching out to us at this link.
Can You Be Charged with a DUI Months Later?
Getting arrested for driving under the influence (a “DUI”) in California is a stressful and frightening experience.
When police officers pull you over for a suspected DUI, you expect the officers to arrest you on the spot. However, what happens if the police officers do not arrest you? The officers collect evidence at the traffic stop, finish the DUI investigation, and then let you go. What happens next? Contact one of our California DUI Attorneys
DUI Charge the Next Day or Days After the Fact
DUI arrests don’t always take place immediately. If you are pulled over for a DUI, you can be arrested in the days or months following your DUI stop. Sometimes, it could be years before a prosecutor issues criminal charges against you. The amount of time the state has to pursue DUI charges depends on the details of the case and the charges you face.
If officers stopped you for a DUI but did not arrest you, should you call an experienced DUI lawyer? Absolutely! It is in your best interest to obtain legal advice from a skilled California DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. The steps you take now could improve your chances of beating DUI charges if you are arrested at a later date.
How Do After-the-Fact DUI Arrests Happen?
Law enforcement officers might not believe they have probable cause for an arrest at the traffic stop. Probable cause is the reasonable basis for believing a crime may have been committed. Therefore, police officers might not arrest you immediately if they believe they need additional evidence to prove probable cause.
Therefore, do not assume a DUI arrest after the fact might not occur. If the police officers continue investigating the drunk driving stop, they could find evidence to support probable cause. If so, they could take the evidence to a judge to ask for an arrest warrant. They could also turn the evidence over to the prosecutor, who might seek an indictment for your arrest.
DUI Charges and the California Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a deadline for filing civil or criminal charges. In criminal cases, if the prosecution does not file charges before the deadline in the statute of limitations, the state cannot arrest you and they cannot pursue legal action against you.
The deadline for filing DUI charges depends on the type of charge. In some cases, the statute of limitations depends on the punishment you could receive if you are convicted of drunk driving. Let’s look at some examples of California’s statute of limitations for DUI charges.
How Long Do the Police Have to File Charges of DUI in California?
The general statute of limitations to file DUI charges is one year for misdemeanor DUI offenses that are not punishable by life in prison or imprisonment in state prison.
The general statute of limitations to file felony DUI offenses is three years for charges punishable by incarceration in state prison. However, there are exceptions to these general rules.
California Penal Code §799 states that offenses punishable by death or life in prison have no statute of limitations. Furthermore, California Penal Code §800 places a six year limitation on criminal offenses punishable by eight years or longer in state prison.
Some DUI offenses could result in lengthy prison sentences and/or life in prison. For example, the potential state prison sentence for felony charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is 10 years. Some DUI offenses can carry up to 20 or more years in prison, including life in prison.
Can I Be Charged with a DUI After an Accident in California?
California Vehicle Code §23153 makes it a crime to drive a motor vehicle under the influence and cause an accident that injures another person. Therefore, if the police officers believe you were drinking and driving when you caused the accident, they could arrest you for DUI causing injury.
As a wobbler offense, DUI causing injury is a misdemeanor or felony. The circumstances of the case and the severity of the injuries can impact the prosecutor’s decision whether to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor charge.
A misdemeanor conviction for DUI causing injury in the state of California is punishable by up to one year in jail. Felony DUI causing injury convictions can carry a state prison sentence of up to four years.
However, in addition to incarceration, you also face other penalties, including probation, fines, assessments, driver’s license suspension or revocation, DUI school, and other punishments.
Furthermore, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated if you kill someone in a DUI accident. Other charges related to DUI with injury offenses are child endangerment and felony hit and run involving injury or death.
How Long After an Accident Can I Be Charged With a DUI?
As discussed above, it would depend on whether you were charged with a misdemeanor or a felony offense. For example, if you caused minor injuries with no aggravating factors and a clean criminal record, you might be charged with a misdemeanor offense, which would have a one-year deadline to file charges.
However, if you caused severe injuries or a wrongful death, the deadline to file felony charges could be three years. The deadline could be longer if your offense carries a longer prison sentence.
How Long Is DUI Case Open and Continued in California?
It depends on the facts of the case and the specific DUI charges. Once the police arrest you for DUI, your case begins moving through the court system. If you plead innocent, your case is placed on the docket for a trial. A DUI trial could take months or more than a year to begin. Again, it depends on the case and the court’s schedule.
If you plead guilty, your case is scheduled for a hearing with the judge for sentencing. That could take just a few weeks to occur. On the other hand, if you hire a criminal defense lawyer and negotiate a plea deal, it could take a few months to be sentenced for DUI. It depends on how long your lawyer takes to complete their investigation and negotiate a fair plea agreement with the prosecutor.
In any of the above situations, hiring a California DUI attorney gives you the best chance of resolving your drunk driving charges in the best way possible and as quickly as possible. Conversely, handling the charges on your own could negatively impact the timeline to resolve the case and the outcome you receive.
Reasons Why the Prosecution May Wait to file Criminal Charges for a Charge of DUI
Why does it take some prosecutors longer to decide to file DUI charges? In most cases, the prosecutors must wait until law enforcement officers and the prosecutor’s investigators complete the DUI investigation. Then, they must gather evidence to determine whether they have sufficient evidence to prove the legal elements of a DUI charge.
In some cases, the prosecutor must wait for the results of the BAC tests from your blood test or urine test. Completing chemical tests could take time, depending on the lab’s workload and schedule. If the lab is backed up, it could take several weeks for the results to be available.
Get Legal Help Handling Delayed DUI Charges and a DUI Arrest in California
The prosecution can wait until the last day before the statute of limitations expires to file criminal charges against you. However, that does not mean you should wait to get help handling delayed DUI charges in California.
First, you need a DUI attorney to quickly help you with the California Department of Motor Vehicle’s administrative license suspension hearing. You have just 10 days to request an ALS hearing. An experienced California DUI lawyer can help you prepare for the hearing to fight losing your driving privileges.
Also, hiring a California DUI attorney sooner rather than later gives your lawyer more time to investigate the potential DUI charges against you while the evidence is still fresh. The longer you wait to begin an investigation and gather evidence, the more chance there is that critical pieces of evidence that could win a DUI case could be lost or destroyed.
What Are the Elements of a DUI Offense?
California Vehicle Code §23152 is the primary DUI law in California. The code states that it is unlawful for anyone to operate a motor vehicle when:
- They are under the influence of any alcoholic beverage;
- Their blood alcohol content is above the legal limit;
- They are under the influence of any drug;
- They are addicted to the use of any drug; or
- They are under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
It is important to note other DUI laws in California have lower legal limits for underage drivers and individuals currently serving probation.
To prove you were guilty of drunk driving, the prosecution must demonstrate that you were operating a vehicle with a BAC above the legal limit or that your driving abilities were impaired by the amount of alcohol and/or drugs in your system.
Your California DUI criminal defense lawyer has several defenses they can raise to challenge each of the legal elements.
What Are Some Defenses to an After-the-Fact DUI Charge a DUI Lawyer May Use?
Some of the potential DUI defenses your lawyer might use include:
- You were not driving the motor vehicle;
- The police lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion;
- Inaccuracy of field sobriety tests;
- Rising alcohol levels;
- Violations of Title 17 regulations for collecting, storing, and testing samples;
- Improperly conducted blood tests, breath tests, and urine tests;
- Violations of your Constitutional rights; or
- Medical reasons or environmental reasons for falsely high BAC levels.
There could be additional DUI defenses your attorney may use. Contact a DUI lawyer now for a free consultation.
What Are the Potential DUI Penalties for a DUI Conviction?
The potential punishments you could receive for a DUI conviction include:
- Jail or prison time;
- Fines and assessments;
- Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender;
- A strike on the Three Strikes Law;
- Installation of ignition interlock system (“IID”);
- DUI school;
- Restitution; or
- Revocation or suspension of your driver’s license.
There could be other punishments depending on the charges. Additionally, the punishments increase in severity based on your prior DUIs, criminal history, and aggravating factors. Again, this is why it is in your best interest to obtain legal advice from a skilled California DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you may be charged or arrested for a DUI. The steps you take now could improve your chances of beating DUI charges if you are arrested at a later date. Reach out to one of our experienced California DUI Attorneys today here.
Interested in this topic or want to learn more about DUIs in California? Check out our blog, which is updated regularly!