DUI is an offense that can negatively affect several aspects of your life. California laws are strict on drunk driving crimes in an attempt to curb their occurrence and make all road users safe. Nevertheless, DUI arrests still occur, and even though it is strictly punished, DUI is one of the most common offenses committed in Buena. If you are arrested for drunk driving, you should at least know what process you will undergo towards your exoneration or conviction. Also, you should understand what is required of you and your rights as well, so that you are not wrongly convicted.

Most importantly if you are facing DUI charges, you need the help of an attorney to help you fight the charges. At the San Diego DUI Attorney law firm, we serve any client that needs help with any DUI-related case. With a strong defense from our attorneys, your charges may be reduced or dropped. In this article, we walk you through the various processes you undergo when arrested, cases we handle, and how we may help beat the charges against you.

What Is DUI in California?

Driving under the influence or while intoxicated is operating a vehicle after the consumption of any alcoholic drink or drugs (VC 23152a). It is also when a driver operates a vehicle when his/her BAC is .08% or more (VC 23152b). These two definitions apply to drivers that are over 21 years and non-commercial.  For an under 21 driver, he/she can be charged with DUI if their BAC is as low as .01%, while for commercial drivers, they will be charged with DUI if their BAC is .04% or higher.

drunk driving penalties vary based on the facts surrounding your case and previous DUI convictions. The more drunk driving convictions there are on your criminal history, the severe the punishment. 

The Arrest

Many of the DUI arrests in California happen at a checkpoint or when you are pulled over by a traffic police officer for violating traffic laws. Once stopped, the officer will ask you to take several field sobriety tests. You will also blow two times into a Breathalyzer. If you are sober, the officer will let you go. However, if the results indicate that you are under the influence, the officer will arrest you and take you to jail, police station, or hospital. Here, he/she will want you again to do a breath, urine, or blood test. These tests are a requirement by law. Refusing to take them could lead to harsher DUI penalties as well as a one-year mandatory driver’s license suspension.

If your case is a misdemeanor, you will be released within a short time after booking. However,  if it is a DUI causing an accident or felony DUI, you may need to secure bail to secure your release. Upon release, the officer should give you two documents; a temporary license (pink in color) and a citation to present yourself in court. The officer usually confiscates your driver’s license and mails it to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, note that if you are from another state, then get arrested for DUI in California, the police cannot confiscate your license.

The law has made it possible for a DUI arrestee to apply for an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) restricted license immediately. An IID refers to a Breathalyzer which prevents a vehicle from starting upon detection of alcohol. With a restricted license, a DUI defendant can continue driving with no restrictions provided an IID is installed in his/her car. How long you will be allowed to use an IID restricted license is based on your DUI history.

The DMV Administrative Process

Any DUI arrestee in Buena has a right to a DMV hearing.  You have to contact the DMV within the first ten days of arrest and request a hearing. If you don’t, you lose that right, and your driver’s license gets automatically suspended after thirty days.  Hiring a Buena DUI Attorney can be advantageous to you since he/she will handle the DMV process for you. For instance, he/she could demand the hearing on your behalf and schedule it further out so that you can prepare adequately. Also, he/she may influence what hearing officer will be assigned to your case.

Typically, your lawyer conducts the DMV hearing for you. You might or might not be required to be present at the hearing. The primary objective of your attorney is to persuade the hearing officer not to revoke or suspend your license. However, he/she may also utilize the DMV administrative hearing as a chance to collect proof that could be useful in criminal court proceedings.

After the DMV administrative hearing, the hearing officer reviews proof from both sides and issues his/her findings in writing. The findings are usually mailed out within thirty days. In case the findings favor you, your license will not be suspended. Although being convicted in a criminal court may trigger a distinct suspension.  Moreover, if the findings were against you, license suspension takes effect a few days after receiving the notice.

Note that DMV administrative hearings only happen in DUI of alcohol cases. If you get arrested for DUI of drugs, no DMV administrative hearing will take place. However, if you are convicted of either DUI of alcohol or DUID in a criminal court, the conviction will lead to a driver’s license suspension.

Criminal Court Proceedings

Mostly, arrestees whose BAC is more than 0.08% are prosecuted under two DUI laws; VC 23152a and 23152b. The aim of every driver should be to avoid being convicted of any of these crimes.

Most likely, your Buena DUI Attorney can appear for all the court proceedings on your behalf except if there is a hearing where you must testify. Most DUI-related cases involve many court dates, which are spread out over several months. Within this period, your attorney will be gathering proof, running motions, and negotiating with the prosecutor and judges seeking a reduction of charges or case dismissal.

If an agreement is reached that involves you pleading guilty to DUI or a lesser charge, your case can end in two different ways. One way is that you may appear in court to plead before the judge in person. Or, in most cases, your attorney can ask you to sign notarized documents outside court. These documents are known as a Thal waiver. Then, he/she can present the documents in court and affect the plea for you. 

If no agreement is reached, your case will proceed to trial. Often, judges and prosecuting attorneys offer better deals when a case reaches the trial point. This is because there might be several cases awaiting trials than there are courtrooms to accommodate them. Additionally, mistakes in the prosecution’s proof become more evident when the case is scrutinized further.

Every conviction of DUI involves license suspension. However, you can continue operating your vehicle without restrictions. This is if you agree to install an IID in your vehicle.  

Cases We Handle

Different charges of DUI you can face and for which we can help you fight include:

First offense DUI

A first offense DUI is a misdemeanor charge to a person who gets caught drunk driving for the first time. Provided you don’t have any past convictions of DUI or wet reckless on your criminal history; you are a first time offender. First-time DUI offenders are not punished too harshly. Their punishment includes six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, license suspension for six months, probation, and a three months DUI school program. Additionally, the DMV may suspend their license for four months.

Subsequent offenses

Usually, the punishment for first-time offenders is imposed as a warning to them not to repeat the offense. If an offender is caught drunk driving again for the second, third, or fourth time within ten years of the first offense, he/she is charged with subsequent DUI offenses. These offenses include second, third, and fourth/felony DUI offenses, respectively.

DUI is a priorable offense. This means its punishment increases with the number of subsequent offenses you have been charged with. As a result, a second DUI offense has harsher penalties than a first offense, while a fourth DUI offense is punished more harshly than the previous offenses.

A second DUI offense carries a one-year jail term and a fine of not more than $1,000. On the other hand, the third and fourth offenses will attract more jail/prison time and fines. Additional penalties for subsequent offenses include DUI School programs, probation, and license suspension. For a third DUI that is a felony and a fourth DUI offense, you will be mandated to register with the DMV as a Habitual Traffic Offender.

Aggravated DUI

An aggravated DUI is a DUI offense that is surrounded by one or more factors that could lead to sentence enhancement.  These factors are known as aggravating factors. They include:

  • DUI hit & run
  • DUI with a minor under 14 years
  • DUI causing an accident
  • DUI while on probation
  • DUI over the speed limit/reckless driving
  • DUI on a suspended/revoked driver’s license
  • Refusing to take chemical tests
  • Driving with a BAC of 0.20%

If you get arrested and have any of these factors in your case, talk to your Buena DUI Attorney as soon as possible. He/she may be able to build a strong defense that may strike the aggravating factor off your case so that you can face lenient penalties.

Non-immigrant visa DUI

VC 23152a DUI, otherwise known as simple DUI, may not have severe consequences to non-immigrant visa holders in Buena. However, subsequent offenses may have severe consequences which include inadmissibility and deportation. This is especially so when certain aggravating factors are present in your case. Aggravating factors that could trigger deportation and inadmissibility include:

  • DUI on a suspended/revoked license
  • DUI of drugs
  • Multiple DUI convictions
  • DUI with a minor passenger (under 14 years)

Under the United State’s immigration law, you may be denied entry into the country if you commit a drug crime. You may also be denied entry if you commit multiple offenses (DUI included) whose total sentences add up to five years or more. Additionally, you could be deported if you commit an aggravated felony whose sentence is more than a year in state prison.

Apart from immigration consequences, you may also face criminal court penalties like license suspension. Your Buena DUI attorney may help you challenge a non-immigrant visa DUI charge. In turn, this will help to avoid the immigration consequences it comes with.

Watson/DUI murder

You would be prosecuted for Watson/DUI murder if your drunk driving act led to the death of another person. Watson's murder is prosecuted under second-degree murder. However, for you to face a DUI murder charge, the following should be true:

  • You should have at least one past DUI conviction on your record
  • You should have attended a court-approved DUI School program
  • A Watson admonition was read to you in line with the past offenses

Watson murder can also be prosecuted under Penal Code 191.5, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. DUI murder carries a fine of not more than $10,000, a strike on your criminal history as per Three Strikes law, and fifteen years to life imprisonment.

Underage DUI

It is against the law for a person who is under 21 years of age to drive while intoxicated. For this offense, you can be prosecuted under two laws. That is:

  • Zero tolerance law under VC 23136
  • Under 21 DUI with 0.05%-.07% BAC under VC 23140

Also, under 21 drunk driving offenders can be charged under VC 23152 and any other DUI law depending on the facts of your case. Penalties include a one-year license suspension.

Blood Split Motions in DUI Cases

In California, the law allows drivers who submit to blood tests to obtain a portion of the blood sample to do independent testing. For you to achieve this, your attorney has to file a blood split motion.

A blood split refers to splitting into two, the DUI blood samples you provide. One portion of the sample is used by the officers to determine your BAC. The second sample is kept in case you want to have your blood retested independently. 

Note that this applies only if you choose or the arresting officer requires you to do a blood test. In most cases of DUI of alcohol, drivers are given an option to either do a breath or blood test. Unlike samples of blood, breath samples can’t be saved. Perhaps this is the main advantage of choosing to do blood tests over breath tests after DUI arrests.

A blood split motion can help you fight a drunk driving charge by casting doubt on how accurate the chemical test results were. It is presumed that the results of the chemical tests administered by an officer are accurate. Thus the burden of proving that these results may be false lies on your Buena DUI Attorney and the defense team.

The simplest way to prove this is by performing independent chemical tests and drawing independent results that show you had a less amount of drugs/alcohol in your system. This is true especially when your BAC is more than the stipulated legal limit, but it can apply in any drunk driving case.

For instance, VC 23152b punishes individuals that drive while their BAC is more than 0.08%. Therefore, an independent test that indicates a BAC that is lower than that can establish reasonable doubt.

Other DUI laws for which blood split motions can be useful include:

  • Underage DUI law as per VC 23140 (BAC of 0.05% or more)
  • Commercial DUI under VC 23152d (BAC of 0.04% or more)
  • DUI by taxi, ride-sharing, or limo drivers under VC 23152e (BAC of 0.04%)

Also, blood tests play a significant role when a DUI case you are charged with is not dependent on a drug or alcohol legal limit. Charges like these include:

  • DUI under VC 23152a
  • DUI of drugs under VC 23152f
  • DUI of a combination of drugs and alcohol under VC 23152g

For the above charges, the prosecuting attorney doesn’t need to show that your BAC was at a certain level for you to be convicted. He/she only has to show that at the time of driving, you were impaired by drugs, alcohol, or both. In a DUID case, there’s no section of the law that quotes a drug amount a driver should use to be considered impaired. 

On the other hand, the legal limit in DUI of alcohol does not necessarily mean a limit at which any driver would be so drunk to operate a vehicle. It simply means the limit at which a prosecutor no longer needs to show a driver’s impairment.

Thus, this means chemical test results are not conclusive when your BAC doesn’t exceed the legal limit. However, when the prosecution presents borderline test results together with other proof, it may be adequate to persuade a jury that you were intoxicated. Therefore, it would still be useful to challenge the initial BAC test results.

Also, note that you can file urine split motion in case you submitted to a urine test instead of a blood test.

Consult a Buena DUI Attorney Near Me

Any drunk driving charge comes with severe punishment, even for a first offense. Thus, you have to hire an experienced attorney who may help you avoid these consequences.   Additionally, any process you have to undergo after an arrest requires you to have an experienced attorney by your side. Luckily, if you are in Buena, you have attorneys from San Diego DUI Attorney law firm within your reach. Contact us at 619-535-7150 for a free consultation with our attorneys. We will also assign you an attorney to represent you depending on the facts of your case.