The state of California has some of the most stringent DUI laws in the United States. Being convicted of a DUI may lead to court fines, a jail term, or prison sentence. You may also be subjected to additional punitive measures like suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, court-mandated DUI school attendance, and many others. We advise you to contact a Warner Springs DUI attorney at the San Diego DUI Attorney as soon as you’re arrested and investigated for driving under the influence.
Understanding Vehicle Code Section 23152
Many people wrongly assume that driving under the influence is one crime and that one is only liable to facing one charge. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A person arrested for a DUI will face two charges under section 23152 (a) and (b).
Contrary to what many drivers believe, drinking and driving charges can be proffered against you even if you have a BAC of less than 0.08%. However, before you are convicted, the prosecutor should have proof that: one, you were driving a car, and that, two, you had consumed alcohol, to whatever degree, when driving this vehicle. To prove that you were intoxicated, the prosecutor will provide evidence that your driving was reckless by referring to such actions as causing an accident, swerving and driving too fast.
For these charges to stick, the prosecutor has to prove that one, you were driving a vehicle, and two, you had a BAC of 0.08% when you drove it. Blood tests and breath tests are used to confirm the level of alcohol in your system. The findings of these tests are then used in court to provide evidence. Most BAC tests will occur half an hour or more after you’ve been stopped.
This implies that you can be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted of a DUI offense even if your blood alcohol count is less than 0.08%.
DUI Investigations and Arrests
Before you’re prosecuted for drunk driving, due investigations have to be conducted. These investigations begin in either of the following ways:
A police officer is called to a hit-and-run accident scene, in which you are involved
A police officer pulls you over after you’ve violated traffic rules, for example, by exceeding the speed limit
A police officer notices defects in your automobile, such as faulty headlights, and asks you to pull over
Regardless of the situation, this officer will be inclined to subject you to field sobriety tests after noticing the smell of liquor on your breath or displaying signs of intoxication. This is because an officer cannot arrest you for a DUI based on these suspicions without confirming them. The sobriety field test or Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test, the police officer, will give initial confirmation that you are indeed driving under the influence. The officer will then arrest you under 23152(a).
After you’ve been arrested, the police officer will then have to subject you to a chemical test (typically a blood test) to confirm the exact amount of alcohol in your blood. These tests are incredibly crucial in the DUI investigation process and are usually conducted in a hospital or police custody.
Blood analysis may take a while longer than your breath tests since your blood samples have to be sent out to a lab. At this time, you’ve already been arrested under VEH 23152(a) driving under the influence. However, whether or not you get any additional charges will depend on the following outcomes:
a. The results of your blood tests show that your BAC is 0.08% or higher. In this case, you will be additionally charged under VEH 23152(b) driving a vehicle with a 0.08% BAC or higher.
b. If additional blood and urine tests are conducted, you are liable to be charged with driving under the influence of drugs under VEH 23152(e).
c. If you decline, you may be charged with refusing to take a chemical test.
After you’ve been booked, the police officer may release you immediately or hold you in custody for a few more hours. You may need to make a signed, written citation ascertaining that you will be in court for your DUI proceedings.
On his part, the arresting officer will write a report for review by the prosecuting agency. This agency will either decline to charge you or will take up the charges for DUI in court. At this point, hiring a Warner Springs DUI attorney may be a good idea. This is because there are several aspects of these proceedings that you may not understand.
For example, there are circumstances in which you can decline to take a chemical test, and there are others which doing so is a criminal offense in itself. There may also be a few policing errors your attorney can call out and use in your defense, especially if the arrest procedures were inappropriate.
Why You Should Hire a DUI Attorney
DUI cases are rather rampant in the country, and, consequently, so are DUI attorneys. If you can’t afford to hire a private DUI attorney, the court may assign you a public defender. In the state of California, you have the option to defend yourself in criminal proceedings. If this is your first trip down the rodeo, you may be torn between choices, wondering which is most suitable. Each decision has its consequences.
First, it may not be ideal to go it alone. DUI laws are complex, and you may have a tough time understanding them and navigating the court process. Unless you are an attorney yourself, it would be a bad idea to forego defense. And, often, even experienced attorneys hire other specialized lawyers to represent them in court.
Public defenders may be an ideal option since they have a thorough understanding of the criminal justice system. Having worked in law for a while, they have established a reputation for themselves in criminal matters, and this makes them well-suited to represent you. However, there still may be some limitations. For example, public defenders don’t have enough time and resources to dedicate all their effort to your case. This may lead to them missing out on monumental information that could help your case. Besides, the court will assign an attorney to you at random, and you may find it difficult to trust them with your case.
Hiring a Warner Springs DUI attorney is the most desirable option. Even though this decision will cost you more money than the first two alternatives, it’s the surest way of ensuring you aren’t convicted with DUI charges, which come with quite hefty challenges. An experienced DUI attorney may help negotiate for lesser penalties or reduced charges.
DUI Court and DMV DUI Proceedings
The arresting officer will notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that your driver’s license will be suspended for thirty days after your arrest. Before this happens, this officer will give you a temporary driver’s license.
It's worth noting that the DMV operates independently of the court’s findings. This implies that whether or not you’ve been found guilty, the DMV may still sign off on the suspension or revocation of your license. You ought to request a hearing for your case less than ten days after the time of your arrest. Failure to do so will prompt the DMV to suspend your license before thirty days elapse.
DMV proceedings aren’t as complicated as DUI proceedings and don’t involve as many players. For example, you may opt to have your attorney represent you in your absence unless you’re physically required to attend.
Like many other states, California punishes DUI offenders depending on how severe the crime is. The state, therefore, has basic laws to regulate simpler DUI offenses as well as advanced laws for aggravated cases.
Basic DUI Laws You Should Know
Typically, the amount of alcohol in your blood will determine the severity of your DUI offense. Regular drivers have a BAC limit of 0.08%, while commercial drivers and underage drivers have a BAC limit of 0.04% and 0.01%, respectively. This dictates the three primary DUI laws - regular DUI, underage DUI, and commercial DUI laws.
Underage drivers are those who are younger than 21 years old, while commercial drivers drive vehicles such as trucks and for-hire cars. Regular drivers, on the other hand, are people driving non-commercial cars, such as personal sedans.
Generally, DUI punishments are much more strict for commercial drivers than regular drivers. This is because you may end up losing your commercial driver’s license, and this may affect your employment.
DUI as a Priorable Offense
‘Priorable’ offenses are those whose subsequent punishments depend on a previous similar offense. For example, punitive measures for a DUI will depend on the prior DUI offenses within ten years and will be more severe. In drunk driving cases, ten years is considered as the lookback period. This refers to the period in which these offenses remain on your driver’s record, and is essential in identifying repeat offenders.
Your first three DUI charges within ten years of each other are considered misdemeanors. (Unless there are aggravating circumstances in play.) The fourth offense is typically considered a felony unless the prosecutor sees it fit to bring a different charge.
If you’re a first time DUI offender, here are some of the punishments that may be meted out against you:
A jail sentence of up to six months
Court fines ranging from USD 390-1,000
Three to five years of informal probation
You may be required to attend a court-mandated alcohol or drug education program, or both, for as long as three to nine months
The DMV may also restrict or suspend your driver’s license. Your license will be converted to a restricted one if it’s not reinstated. A notable alternative may be to install an Ignition Interlock Device in your car. This way, you’ll be able to continue driving to school and work.
For a 2nd DUI offense, you may face any of the following punitive measures:
A jail sentence running from 96 hours to one year
Fines from USD 390 to 1,000
A three year minimum of summary probation
You may have to go to a court-mandated DUI school for 18 to 30 months
For a second offense, you must install an IID for a year, or else the DMV will issue a two-year suspension of your license. If, within one year, your license isn’t reinstated, it will also be converted to a restricted license.
If you’re found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol for the third time within ten years, you will face these punishments:
A minimum jail term of 120 days and a one-year maximum
Informal probation for a maximum of five years
390 to 1,000 dollars worth of court fines
You may be required to attend drug/alcohol school for two years and six months
The DMV would require you to install an IID for two years, failure to which the department will suspend your license for three years. After eighteen months, your suspended license will be converted to a restricted one.
Remember, for a third time DUI offense, the Department of Motor Vehicles will be inclined to name you a repeat traffic offender.
Advanced DUI Laws for Aggravating Circumstances
DUIs are usually considered misdemeanors. However, a prosecutor may level the charges as wobbler offenses and felonies. Wobbler offenses are those that can be punished as either felonies or misdemeanors. This only happens when there are circumstances that can enhance the punishment for your crime. Such circumstances include:
A 4th DUI offense within ten years.
DUI with a minor in your vehicle. Under such circumstances, you may also face charges for child endangerment. In such cases, hiring a Warner Springs DUI attorney may help you have your charges reduced or face more lenient punishment.
Causing an injury while driving under the influence.
A DUI hit-and-run.
A BAC of (or about) 0.15%.
A DUI involving a driver that is a minor caught driving with a BAC of more than 0.01%.
Under these circumstances, the punishment you receive depends on your criminal history and the specifics of your arrest. Your case may be leveled as a misdemeanor, (that is, for a DUI with injury). This makes you liable to a fine of USD 390 to 5,000, paid damages to the victim, a jail term of five days to a year, and attending court-mandated drug/alcohol school for three to thirty months. The DMV may also suspend your license for a year, but this can be avoided by installing an IID.
If your DUI case is filed as a felony, you may face any, or all, of the following measures:
A jail term of 16 months, two years, or three years at a state prison
You will be named a Habitual Traffic Offender by the DMV
The Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your license for a four-year maximum. However, your driving privileges will be restored if you install an IID for one year
Assessment fees and court fines, ranging from 390 dollars to 1,000 dollars
It’s worth mentioning that DUIs that involve death may lead to a life-in-prison sentence being proffered.
Hiring a non-specialized attorney or going it alone may not be a good idea since there are several alternative sentencing plans in California that you may miss. This is why you ought to hire a Warner Springs DUI attorney.
Some of the more common alternatives to a prison sentence are:
a) A sentence in a private jail or city jail
b) Electronic monitoring or house arrest
c) Community service
d) Participating in roadside work
Probation is also quite common in sentencing DUI offenders. However, if you fall under probation, there is a strict set of probation conditions you must adhere to. Some of these are:
You should only drive when you have no alcohol content in your blood
You must pay restitution to the injured parties
You must submit to a chemical DUI test whenever you’re asked to do so
Attend Alcoholics Anonymous(AA) meetings
Participate in the Mothers Against Drunk Driving program
It’s important to follow these conditions since violating them may make you liable to criminal charges. The court may also be inclined to reinstate your original jail sentence, increase your probation time, and have you pay additional fees and fines.
Hire a DUI Attorney Near Me
Hiring a Warner Springs DUI attorney that understands the complexity of DUI law is very significant to the outcome of your DUI case. A qualified DUI attorney will help you navigate the court process and the DMV proceedings. They may even help you get an alternative sentence.
If you wish to hire an attorney who understands the local DUI processes and the State’s DUI laws, get in touch with the San Diego DUI Attorney at 619-535-7150 today.