California has stiff DUI laws that seek to discourage drunk driving. If you are arrested for driving with a BAC higher than the legal limit, then you face potential penalties such as jail time, fines, and driver’s license suspension. These penalties can affect your life significantly. For example, the DUI conviction will appear on your criminal record and could negatively affect your employment opportunities. A commercial DUI can also lead to the loss of your source of income. Whenever you are arrested for a DUI, the San Diego DUI Attorney is ready to defend you. We have worked with people facing DUI charges in helping them fight the DUI charges, recover their driving privileges, and get alternative sentencing. Please get in touch with a local Boulder Oaks DUI attorney for legal help. 

DUI Overview

Driving in California is regulated by various laws that seek to improve the safety of roads. One such law is the DUI law that prohibits drunk driving. California makes it illegal to drive with a BAC level of .08% or higher. The limit is even lower for commercial drivers and underage drivers whose limit should not exceed .04% and .01% respectively. Driving with a BAC level higher than the legal limit is drunk driving. The law assumes that at such alcohol levels, you cannot make a sound judgment or exercise the caution a reasonable and sober person would under similar circumstances.

Whenever you are arrested for a DUI, the DMV and the court will look at your DUI criminal history when determining the penalties. The look-back period for a DUI is ten years. The more DUI offenses you commit within ten years, the higher, the stiffer the penalties become.

We recommend appointing a designated driver whenever you plan to drink and will be driving to get to your destination. However, most people will consume a small amount of alcohol without thinking about the consequences.

DUI Process

A DUI arrest typically begins with a traffic stop either at a designated DUI checkpoint or when an officer notices that you are committing or are about to commit a traffic violation. This is often called a probable cause for a traffic stop.

Once you stop, the officer will determine whether there is probable cause to investigate a DUI. If there exists probable cause, he or she may conduct breath tests and field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are designed to evaluate the ability of the driver to follow instructions as well as their coordination and stability.

If you fail the sobriety tests, and your BAC level is at or above the legal limit, the officer will arrest you. He or she will also read your Miranda rights. At the station, the officer continues the DUI investigation by requesting you to submit a chemical test. After a DUI arrest, refusing a chemical test is an offense that could result in jail time and license suspension.

The most common chemical test for DUI is a blood test. A sample of the blood will be set aside and preserved in pursuant to Title 17 regulations for the defense to use. The other sample is tested under the same regulations and the results presented to the prosecution. The arresting officer will also create a report that narrates the events and circumstances of your investigation and arrest.

The prosecution will decide on whether to press charges depending on the chemical test results and the circumstances of the offense. If the prosecution chooses to press charges, you will be arraigned where you will take a plea. Some of the activities that will happen during the arraignment include:

  • The judge will read the formal charges against you
  • The court informs you of your constitutional rights
  • You will enter a plea to the charges
  • The bail hearing

Normally an arraignment happens within 48 hours of the arrest (except on weekends). During the arraignment, you have some rights, which include:

  • Representation by an attorney
  • The right to avoid self-incrimination
  • The right to a speedy trial
  • Right to a jury trial
  • Right to bring and cross-examine witnesses

After taking a plea, the prosecution could offer you a deal. Your lawyer may also request a deferred entry of judgment, which allows you to participate in a diversion program. Once you complete the program successfully, the court will dismiss your charges.

The judge will also determine, modify, or reinstate your bail during the arraignment. A bail hearing conducted during the arraignment is less formal than a bail hearing, set specifically for discussing your eligibility for bail, modification or release on “own cognizance.”

The court will determine the bail amount depending on:

  • The nature of the offense
  • Your criminal history
  • The links you have with the community
  • The danger you pose to the community
  • Your ability to pay the bail
  • The California bail schedule

The court will also set the court dates. As part of the DUI process, your Boulder Oaks DUI attorney will request an administrative hearing with the DMV to protect your license from suspension. Your lawyer might attend the hearing on your behalf to present the evidence and fight the suspension.

If you could not afford a private lawyer, make sure to ask your public defender whether he or she will request the hearing. Failure to request a hearing within ten days of the arrest results in the suspension of your license after thirty days.

The pretrial process is usually the longest and could stretch on for months. During this stage, the prosecution and defense gather and present their evidence. Both sides identify and collect information from witnesses during the evidence-gathering process. The prosecution and the defense then meet several times to present evidence.

Your attorney can request a motion to suppress evidence, which was unlawfully obtained. The prosecution will either reaffirm the strength of its case or agree to a plea bargain where the case is weak. Most DUI cases are resolved at the pretrial phase through reductions of charges, lenient sentencing or dismissal of the charges.

If the defense and prosecution do not reach a settlement, then the case proceeds to trial. A jury trial begins with the selection of the jury. The prosecution and defense will then present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and make the closing statements.

During the trial, your lawyer can use several defenses, including:

  • Unlawful stop or DUI checkpoint
  • Inaccurate field sobriety tests
  • Inaccurate PAS and chemical test results
  • Rising blood alcohol
  • You were merely driving badly
  • Violation of your Miranda rights
  • Mouth alcohol
  • The officer did not allow a 15-minute observation period before administering the test

The jury then reviews the evidence and the circumstances of the offense to make the verdict. The prosecution has to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to be convicted. However, if the jury could not agree on a verdict (hung jury), the prosecution could file a motion to retry the case. 0

Your lawyer will fight this motion so that the court dismisses the case. If you are found guilty, you will be sentenced to jail, prison, or get probation for the offense. You might choose to keep your lawyer on a retainer to help you with DUI-related post-conviction matters such as obtaining an SR-22, proving that you are adhering to probation conditions and expungement or sealing of your records. 

Reduction of DUI Charges and Sentencing

Reducing a DUI charge to a lesser offense means reduced sentencing and lesser fines. In some cases, you might avoid jail time or probation. DUI defense attorneys understand the importance of plea bargains and challenging the prosecution’s case to identify loopholes and to negotiate a better deal for the defendant.

A plea bargain allows the defendant to negotiate for reduced charges on the condition that he or she pleads guilty to driving under the influence. A plea bargain could involve a lesser charge such as ‘dry reckless.' A plea bargain allows defendants to avoid the uncertainties of a trial and get more lenient sentencing.

The top reasons why prosecutors agree to reduce DUI charges include:

  • The DUI checkpoint or stop was unlawful or illegal
  • The prosecution cannot prove that you were driving
  • Improper administration of the chemical test
  • Insufficient evidence

Some of the charge reductions applicable for a California DUI include:

1.      Wet Reckless

Most DUI charges are reduced to wet reckless charges. The charge still shows up on your criminal record and is a priorable DUI offense. However, it comes with several advantages, such as reduced jail time (or none) and lower fines. In addition, your license may not be suspended for the conviction.

2.       Dry Reckless

Dry reckless sentence conviction differs from a wet reckless one in that the court does not make a record of alcohol or drugs. The offense does not count as a priorable DUI offense in California and does not affect your auto insurance as much as a DUI conviction does. Dry reckless is convicted as a misdemeanor.

3.      Exhibition of Speed

When developing a defense strategy, the Boulder Oaks DUI Attorney examines the evidence the prosecution has against you to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the particular case. If the prosecution has a weak case, your lawyer can negotiate for the lesser charge of speed exhibition.

Exhibition of speed is a misdemeanor with potential consequences, including a jail term, fines, and probation. However, the stigma associated with the offense is less than that of a DUI conviction. In addition, the penalties are lower compared to those of a DUI conviction.

4.      Drunk in Public

Your lawyer will negotiate for this sentence reduction where there are doubts about your driving while drunk. If the arresting officer cannot prove that you were driving, then the offense is reduced to the less serious and non-driving related offense of being drunk in public.

5.      Drinking Alcohol in a Vehicle

The prosecution might agree to reduce the charges to drinking alcohol in a vehicle (an infraction) when the prosecution’s case is weak of the BAC level is at or just above the legal limit. A conviction for drinking alcohol in a vehicle includes a small fine. The offense does not affect your driving record.

6.      Traffic Infraction

Charge reduction to a traffic infraction happens when the prosecution realizes that there were too many violations of standard title 17 procedures, and the prosecution cannot validate the result.

DUI Consequences

A DUI conviction comes with several consequences, such as jail time, license suspension, and fines. In addition, the conviction sticks on your record for at least ten years. The jail time and fines depend on the offense and the circumstances of the crime. You might get DUI probation instead of imprisonment. Except for these criminal consequences, a DUI continues to affect other areas of your life as flows:

  • Professional Consequences: a DUI arrest or conviction can affect your image among co-workers. It can lead to the loss of your job, particularly if it is against the employer’s policy. If you are a commercial driver and are convicted of two DUI offenses within ten years, then you lose your license forever. This means that you also lose your job and any chance of becoming a commercial driver again.
  • Employment: employers are likely to avoid hiring an applicant with a DUI on their record even when the job does not involve driving. When the job involves driving, the DUI virtually eliminates you for consideration.
  • Auto insurance: insurance companies are wary of drivers who have a DUI conviction or arrest on their record. Drunk driving increases the risk that you will be involved in an accident, and the insurance company might have to pay the damages. An insurance company may, therefore, refuse to offer you auto insurance, cancel your existing plan, or increase your insurance premium rates. Usually, insurance companies double or triple the insurance rates for high-risk drivers for several years. You also miss discounts and offer from the provider.
  • Renting or leasing: landlords conduct background checks before they allow you to rent or lease their property. If you have a DUI on your record, some landlords may deny you admission into their properties.
  • Suspension of your driver’s license: the DMV suspends your license after an arrest while the court orders the suspension of your license after a conviction for a DUI. Suspension of your license can affect your ability to meet some of your responsibilities and make commuting difficult and costly.
  • Travel: a DUI could affect your ability to travel to some countries abroad. Some countries have strict screening procedures that might exclude people with a DUI on their record from entering such countries. Before you leave for a country, you have to consult with your Boulder Oaks DUI Attorney to check whether the destination country can allow you to visit.

Some of these consequences can be avoided with the help of a DUI attorney. The attorney helps by preparing a strong defense during the trial, representing you during the DMV hearing and post-conviction services. Some of the post-conviction services that dull the effect of a DUI include license reinstatement and expungement of DUI records.

DUI Probation

DUI probation is alternative sentencing to jail time. Whether you are convicted for a misdemeanor or a felony, you might qualify for formal or informal probation. DUI probation lasts between three years and five years.

You get DUI probation in exchange for adhering to some court-determined conditions. These conditions include:

  • A fine of between $390 and $1000
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for between six months to four years. You can either request a restricted license or install an IID in your car to continue driving.
  • Attending a court-approved DUI school for twelve hours to thirty months
  • You should adhere to the law and not commit additional crimes while on probation
  • Submit a DUI breath or blood test if you are arrested for a DUI
  • You should not drive with a measurable amount of alcohol

In addition to DUI probation, the court may impose additional sentencing alternatives such as:

  • Community service
  • House arrest with a SCRAM device
  • Cal-Trans roadside work
  • Pay victim restitution to victims of the drunk driving offense
  • Attend alcohol education classes such as Alcoholic Anonymous

The court expects that you will adhere to all the terms of the probation. You will need to provide proof that you are complying with these conditions by presenting a proof of enrollment to a DUI class, payment of fines and victim restitution, proof of completion, and making post-conviction court appearances. Violating the probation terms will result in the court issuing a bench warrant against you.

Find a Boulder Oaks DUI Attorney Near Me

You should never fight DUI charges alone. The DUI laws of California, potential defenses, and common shortcomings of prosecutions' cases might be difficult for a layperson to understand. However, with a Boulder Oaks DUI attorney, you are assured of informed advice, representation, and defense strategy development. The attorneys understand the DUI laws as well as the real situation in DUI criminal proceedings. With such expertise, you stand better chances of getting a favorable outcome than when you are representing yourself. Contact the San Diego DUI Attorney today at 619-535-7150 to talk to one of our attorneys in Boulder Oaks.