Understanding the DUI offense and processes is essential for all DUI arrestees. The DUI process is complicated and requires an in-depth understanding of the law to maneuver around. Since California takes this offense very seriously, committing the offense will not only cost you an aggressive legal battle but could also land you in jail or prison. The sentence could be long and the penalties hefty. Having the necessary information on DUI offenses will help you choose the right legal representation and ensure that your rights are not violated. We at Orange County DUI Defense Attorney Law Firm have a competent team of lawyers who specialize in DUI defense. We have represented many DUI defendants out of Orange County, and we handle all cases professionally and expertly.
Overview Of DUI Law
DUI refers to Driving Under the influence. It relates to the offense of operating vehicles with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) level that is beyond the legal limit set by a state. In California, you face DUI charges when you operate a car with a BAC level that is higher than the one stated in the laws of the State, as further discussed in this article. BAC is the percentage of alcohol present in a driver’s blood while operating a vehicle.
The DUI offenses in California vary depending on the extent of damage caused and the period within which the offense happened. For a first time offender, the penalty will be different and less intense than that of someone who has committed another DUI offense. In addition, the penalty may be more intense if, during the time of arrest, there was a minor in the car. If your DUI offense is severe, you will need the representation of a good lawyer to get you off the hook.
Whether your DUI offense is a misdemeanor or a felony DUI, you need to have an expert DUI attorney to defend you. Your attorney should explain to you the expected consequences of the offense, what you should do, and how your charges can be defended.
Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is the percentage of alcohol that is present in the blood of a driver when operating a vehicle. BAC Limit is what police officers use to arrest and charge you of a DUI crime. You face DUI charges if your BAC limit is beyond the set legal limit during an arrest.
The accepted BAC limit for regular drivers in California is 0.08% while that of drivers who operate commercial vehicles is 0.04%. Additionally, the BAC limit for underage drivers', i.e., below twenty-one years of age is 0.01%. According to the California Law, Going beyond these set limits will not only lead to your arrest but may cost you hefty fines and penalties. Note that as an underage driver, you might still face standard DUI charges and violating zero-tolerance law if your BAC exceeds 0.08%.
Police officers determine BAC by administering breath tests to drivers. However, the tests will only identify the amount of alcohol present in the air when you breathe and not in your blood. This method could lead to errors, hence creating a loophole that our attorneys can use for defense. A blood test is most preferred as it gives the exact amount of alcohol in your blood. However, errors are also common with this test. The errors associated with a BAC test are:
The equipment administering the tests may be faulty or may have wrong calibrations
The officer may have attached the mouthpiece improperly
The time taken to record the test may have been wrong
The driver may have a medical condition, especially gastrointestinal diseases
The driver’s diet (high protein diets contribute to inaccurate results)
If you feel that your test may have given incorrect results, please let us know. Our attorneys will assess your case and come up with the best defense for the best possible outcome.
The DUI Process
The DUI process can be overwhelming for defendants. Most people do not know how to go about it and end up implicating themselves. Our attorneys will help you navigate around the process by helping you understand what takes place in every stage and informing you of the implications of your offense. The DUI process comes in several different phases. They are:
This phase involves an investigation to determine whether you have committed a DUI offense. The investigation may result from the police officer pulling you over for traffic reasons and realizing that you are intoxicated. When the officer notices that you are drunk, he/she will initiate a field sobriety test. The test results, coupled with the officer’s statement, will then result in the arrest.
An officer may report to an accident scene and request you to take a sobriety test if you exhibit signs of intoxication. It is essential to note that intoxication does not always result from taking alcohol. It may be due to the intake of any other drug, whether medical or not. Taking any drug that impairs your judgment or causes physical instability could result in a DUI charge.
After arrest, the arresting officer will take you to custody or hospital to undertake a BAC test. A Blood Alcohol Concentration test is usually a blood or breath test and has two significant differences. While a blood test is more accurate than a breath test, the results take longer to process compared to a breath test. If your BAC limit is above 0.08 %, you may face additional driving with an excessive blood alcohol concentration offense on top of your DUI charge. Declining to take the BAC test may aggravate your case, costing you more substantial fines or penalties, especially if you are an underage driver or you are on probation.
The officer also examines the circumstances surrounding your case to determine whether to release you. Typically, most officers will hold you in custody for a few hours or overnight if the offense happened in the evening. During this time, the legal system will issue you with a temporary driving license to allow you to operate your car. The license will serve for thirty days to give you enough time to apply for a DMV hearing to enable you to get your license back. The officer will then forward your report to the prosecution team that will decide whether to charge you with a DUI or not.
This is the most overwhelming part of the DUI process. During this phase, the state will give you the choice of representing yourself or hiring a private DUI defense attorney. Additionally, a public defender may be assigned by the state to persons who cannot afford a private attorney. However, those who will have public defenders assigned to them may have a weak defense and may end up losing the case. This is because public defenders are not well informed on DUI and have limited time and resources to invest in lawsuits. Law professionals recommend that you hire a competent DUI Attorney because representing yourself may be overwhelming and may leave you with a weak defense. The attorney should devote their time and effort to ensure that clients get the best representation possible.
This DUI phase specifically deals with reinstating of the driver’s license and attending of DMV hearings. A DMV hearing grants you the opportunity to appeal against the suspension of your driver's license. Once the Police Department forwards your temporary or suspended driving license to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the DMV will conduct a hearing to assess the case and decide whether you will get your license back. The DMV conducts the hearing either in person or over the phone depending on the complexity of your case. For complex cases, the hearing is in person while for minor cases, the trial is over the phone.
You have a right to hire an attorney to represent you at your DMV hearing. Although the outcome of the hearing has no impact on your court trial, winning it could have a significant influence on the court. If you lose the DMV hearing, your driver’s license will be suspended for the period set by the DMV. It is therefore essential to have a competent defense representing you. Our experienced lawyers will help you restore your license and have the prosecution lessen the charges on you during the court trial.
Commencement of the Court Process
The fifth stage of the DUI process is the commencement of the court process. This stage comes immediately after the DMV hearing. The case will begin with a court order summoning you to court. Depending on the defense your attorneys present in court, or the evidence that the system has against you, you will be acquitted of the charges or a charge will be issued to you. In case your charges are dropped, your case will remain in the legal system until your probation period is over. However, if you face charges, then you and your attorney will proceed to court for trial.
The process of arraignment gives you the chance to plead guilty of the crime or to deny all crimes charged against you. The prosecution team may offer you a plea bargain to help you avoid the lengthy court processes. A bargain is a fair offer that the prosecution is willing to give you if you plead guilty of the crime. However, the prosecution teams will mostly present this plea in the pretrial phase.
Your attorney will assess the evidence presented against you and the circumstances surrounding your case to help you decide whether you should take the offer. DUI defense attorneys will take their time assessing your situation to ensure they give you the best professional advice where the bargain is concerned.
If you choose to plead guilty, your case will end, but you will have to satisfy the probation terms the court will give you.
This is where your attorney chooses the defense that will best suit your case. The phase involves finding a loophole in the prosecution and using it to your advantage. The outcome of this case lies in the ability of your attorney to present a good defense. Private lawyers possess the skills and experience to come up with DUI defenses, therefore, increasing your chances of getting a good outcome.
In this stage, your attorney takes time to cross-examine all aspects of your case. The attorney presents your case to the judge and prosecution in the best way possible to convince them to drop the charges. This stage is also known as the pretrial stage. The court uses a Pre-Trial to decide on an issue related to the case before it gets to the court. In the pretrial motion, your attorney can request that the court disregard evidence or that they investigate the officer who arrested you following unlawful arrest. This is where the actual plea bargain begins. A plea bargain is only between the prosecution and the defense team; the administrative team is not involved.
Most DUI cases do not reach this stage. This stage is the actual trial of the DUI offense and has to have the jury present. In this stage, the prosecution and defense present their argument to the jury to help the panel come up with a verdict. The verdict given depends on the argument presented. Having a competent attorney at this stage is very crucial. Our Orange County DUI Lawyers will help you navigate around this stage. Their defense will assure you of a good verdict regardless of the circumstances surrounding your charge. For you to face DUI conviction, the prosecution has to convince all the twelve jurors that you are guilty. With the representation of our competent attorneys, this may not be possible. Their legal defense may persuade the jury that you are innocent of the DUI charge.
Sentencing and Punishment
The tenth phase of the DUI process is the last one. You will only get to this stage if the jury finds you guilty of the DUI charge. Here, the judge will hand you the sentence that deems fit for your case. Your sentence is determined by the circumstances surrounding your charge and your criminal history, where applicable. The typical penalties for DUI offenses are:
Paying of fines
Suspension of driving license
Compulsory probation periods
The Penalties for DUI vary depending on the circumstances surrounding your case and the severity of the charge. You should hire a team of lawyers with the experience needed and the skills necessary to ensure that your sentence is light. While most DUI arrestees prefer a well-established law firm, some of these big law firms may subcontract your case to another attorney. Thus, we advise you to contact and hire a law firm that is ready to put in all their efforts in your defense.
Common DUI Defenses
A good DUI defense will get you out of any legal situation regardless of its magnitude. Attorneys are solely responsible for their clients and should work towards granting their clients the outcomes they desire. When you visit a law firm, the attorneys will listen to your case and assess whether the case has a loophole that can be used for defense. Winning a case involves hiring a competent team of lawyers who know their way around the DUI charge and can come up with a good defense. The commonly known DUI defenses are:
The arrest was not valid
The sobriety tests did not indicate intoxication
The evidence may have been manipulated or contaminated
There was no legitimate reason for the arresting officer to request the driver to pull over
The driver had a medical condition that may trigger a false positive on the tests
The police officer may have failed to read you your Miranda rights.
The DUI checkpoint might have been unlawful
With a Defense similar to the above defenses, you might get a good outcome from the trials.
California takes DUI offenses very seriously. This is because a DUI charge not only puts the life of the driver in danger but those of other motorists as well. The penalties for DUI will depend on the factors surrounding your case. Since each DUI case is unique, the penalties may vary for every offender.
Most DUI charges fall under misdemeanors. The first, second, and third offenses fall under this category, and the penalties are not too heavy. However, as the offense progresses, so do the penalties. For a felony DUI or a DUI causing injuries or death, the penalty will be more substantial than that of a misdemeanor.
First Offense Penalties
The penalties for a first-time offender include:
Payment of fines of Up to 1000 dollars
Driver’s license suspension for a maximum of ten months and a minimum of four months
Maximum jail sentence of six months in a county jail
Probation of between three to five years (this is usually an alternative to the jail sentence).
Second Offense Penalties
The penalties for this offense include but are not limited to:
Driving license suspension for up to two years
A jail sentence of up to one year in a county jail
Compulsory attendance of a DUI program for about eighteen months
Payment of fines for up to 1000 dollars
Mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device
Third Offense Penalties
When facing this type of charge, you will need the representation of a competent lawyer. California takes this third DUI offense more seriously, as it is believed to be an indication of a drinking problem. Although the third offense is usually a misdemeanor, the penalties are more substantial than those of the first and second and almost similar to the Felony DUI penalties. The penalties include:
A minimum jail sentence of 120 days one year in a county jail
Driver’s license suspension for up to three years
Mandatory attendance of a thirty months DUI program
Mandatory installation of an IID in your car for two years
A minimum fine of 390 dollars and a maximum of 1000 dollars
Felony DUI Penalties
This is the most complicated offense of all DUI charges. It comes as a result of being charged with a DUI offense for the fourth time in less than ten years following your previous charge. In addition, felony DUI may come in if an accident occurs during your intoxication and causes injuries, death, or damages. Felony DUIs are categorized into two; DUI with injury and DUI resulting in death. The penalties for these two charges are different. When charged with a DUI with death, you may either face conviction of manslaughter or second-degree murder.
The penalties for Felony DUI include:
A sentence of between six years and life imprisonment depending on your charge
A fine of up to 5000 dollars or more if there is a restitution fee
Suspension of driver’s license for five years for DUI with injury and permanent termination of your license for DUI with death
Registration as a traffic offender for three years for DUI with injury
Whether you are facing felony or misdemeanor DUI charges, these potential penalties should not discourage you from seeking legal representation. An attorney understands the DUI process and possible loopholes that can be used to establish a strong defense strategy. Also, ensure you contact your DUI defense attorney as soon as possible and avoid giving out statements or talking to investigators about the case. Some of these statements can be incriminating, thereby jeopardizing the case by making the prosecution’s evidence stronger.
Find DUI Attorney Near Me
A DUI charge is usually confusing to most people because the court process is long and overwhelming. We at the Orange County DUI Defense Attorney Law Firm have handled many complex DUI cases and know our way around DUI laws. We guarantee you that hiring us will get you the best legal representation. If you require a competent DUI Attorney out of Orange County, call us at 714-740-7866 to book an appointment.