The following are commonly asked questions by those arrested for DUI and Drunk Drivng in California. However, each case is unique in its facts and circumstances and you will have your own individual concerns. Please contact us now at (877)WEDODUI to discuss them with us to your satisfaction.
Q. Will I need to attend court?
A. If you are charged with a misdemeanor D.U.I., we can make most court appearances for you. It is our intention to protect your legal rightsand we will advise you when or if it is in your interest to attend court with us.
Q. What is an ignition interlock device and when is it required?
A. The ignition interlock device is an instrument which, when installed in an automobile, requires the driver to blow into the device before the engine will start. The device detects the presence of alcohol on the driver's breath and will disable the vehicle's engine in that event. The device is expensive and must be calibrated regularly. The Court can order the device be installed in any vehicle owned or operated by the defendant, for up to three years. It will be considered a possible condition of probation whenever a defendant has a prior conviction, or where a first offender's breath or blood alcohol reading is over .20 percent.
In addition, in circumstances where the licensee has been suspended for two or more years by the DMV for a second or subsequent offense, the DMV may require proof of installation of the device before granting a restricted license after a year of the suspension has elapsed.
Q. What is an arraignment?
A. The arraignment is your first court appearance at which the Court will require you to enter either a "guilty" or "not guilty" plea. Depending on the circumstances of your case, we will normally attend the arraignment for you, obtain a copy of the arrest report, enter a "not guilty" plea, and continue your case for a pre-trial conference with the prosecutor and/or judge.
Q. Will I have to do an alcohol education program?
A. Upon conviction of a DUI or "Wet Reckless," the Court will require, as a condition of probation, that the defendant complete an alcohol education program. For a first offense, the length of the program is usually three months, involving weekly meetings of two to three hours in length. However, a six or nine month program may be required if the breath or blood alcohol reading is high (over .15% blood-alcohol). For a second or subsequent offense, the length of the program is normally 18 months, but may be 30 months in duration. There is a limited, 12 hour program for a conviction of "wet reckless."
The programs are privately run, but licensed by the state. The cost of the "wet reckless" program is approximately $220.00. The DUI programs vary from approximately $450.00 for a three month program to approximately $1400.00 for an 18 month program.
In addition, if a licensee is suspended by the DMV for four months for a first time DUI arrest, the DMV will require enrollment in a three month program (or a six month program if the blood or breath alcohol content is over .20%) before granting a restricted license.
Q. What is a "D.U.I."?
D.U.I. stands for "driving under the influence," and typically involves two criminal charges. These are:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (section 23152(a), California Vehicle Code).
- Driving with a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more (section 23152(b), California Vehicle Code).
Q. Should I take my case to jury trial?
A. We will explore all available issues and defenses and advise you at each stage of the proceedings. You will be given full advice on the benefits of jury trial, depending on the particular circumstances of your case. We meticulously prepare every case as if it were going to trial, and are ready to try your case should you choose to do so. Additionally, this level of preparation promotes the possibility of dismissal or reduction of charges or other settlement, before trial.
Q. What is my "B.A. C."?
A. This is your Blood Alcohol Concentration as measured by a blood, breath or urine test.
Q. What is a P.A. S. test?
A. A Preliminary Alcohol Screening (P.A. S.) test involves the use of a small hand-held device that indicates the presence of alcohol in your breath. If you blew into a P.A. S. machine before your arrest, its reading may be an important issue in your case. If necessary, we will challenge the relevance and admissibility of the P.A. S. test reading.
Q. What does it cost to hire an attorney for a DUI?
A. Fees vary depending on the law firm or attorney, the facts and seriousness of the case and whether the case is settled or tried. However, for a first offense without aggravating factors, fees will generally range from as little as $1000.00 (typically charged by an attorney with limited experience and no expertise in drunk driving defense), to over $3,500.00 (for an attorney with extensive experience and a practice devoted exclusively to the defense of Driving Under the Influence cases). However, as practitioners dedicated to the art and science of DUI defense, we urge you to consider that it is the quality, not the cost, of your legal representation that should be of your greatest concern when retaining an attorney. Remember, the decision you make today in choosing Counsel will affect your rights, driving privileges and life-style for years to come, in that a Court conviction and DMV suspension due to Drunk Driving will remain on your Court and DMV records for the next seven years.
If you've just been arrested for Drunk Driving, the most important decision you make is the selection of your Attorney!
Q. What is "discovery"?
A. Discovery is the process by which we obtain all relevant documents, evidence and witness details from the prosecution that may assist in your defense.
Q. What is a DMV "APS Hearing"?
A. In addition to court proceedings, a drunk driving arrest triggers a Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) administrative action to suspend your privilege to drive. The Administrative Per Se Hearing (APS) is your opportunity to challenge the DMV's attempt to restrict or suspend your license. It is essential you contact us within ten (10) days of your arrest to enable us to obtain a hearing for you with the DMV. We will advise you of the issues to be addressed at the hearing and will use our best efforts there to protect your privilege to drive. We may be able to present your case solely upon the written documentation in your case, but occasionally it may be necessary for witnesses to testify, including yourself, the arresting officer and our blood alcohol expert.
Q. What is a "blood split"?
A. This is the process by which we obtain a portion of your blood sample to enable us to independently re-analyze the accuracy of your blood test results, and to measure the level of chemical preservative in the sample.
Q. Could I go to jail?
A. Although jail is always a possible penalty for D.U.I. in California, avoiding custody is our priority in every case. In some cases, particularly if you have prior convictions, a residential or outpatient treatment program may be an effective alternative to jail-time. Gold and Witham are experienced in working with such programs to present rehabilitative treatment recommendations to the court.
Q. Can I drive while awaiting my DMV hearing?
A. We may be able to obtain a "stay" (postponement) of any driver's license suspension pending the result of the DMV hearing. However, you must contact us within ten (10) days of your arrest to enable us to petition the DMV for your stay.
Q. What is a restricted license?
A. You may be entitled to a restricted license, which will enable you to drive to, from and during work, and to and from your home and alcohol program. We will assist you in applying for the restricted license, if it is available to you.
Q. What are the usual Court penalties for a DUI?
A. The penalties imposed by the court for a DUI conviction vary considerably depending on the facts of the case, the defendant's individual circumstances, and whether there are any prior convictions for DUI. Factors that increase penalties and result in county jail time include prior convictions, a traffic accident, excessive speed combined with reckless driving, a high blood or breath alcohol content, refusal to submit to a chemical test or the presence of young children in the vehicle. In addition, penalties can vary from county to county and from court to court. Courts in some counties routinely impose jail time even on a first- time DUI with none of the referenced aggravating factors.
The following is a summary of the minimum and maximum penalties for DUI depending on the presence of any prior convictions for DUI, or "Wet Reckless," within seven years of any new offense. The following penalties assume that the Court grants "probation." Probation is a period of Court supervision during which time you must not commit any new violation of law and must comply with all Court-ordered terms and conditions. Probation may be "formal" or "informal." Formal probation requires active supervision by a Probation Officer. If probation is denied, lengthy jail time should be expected.
Minimum penalties include three years of informal probation, a fine of $390.00 plus penalty assessments (additional, punitive court assessments) and mandatory fees (totaling approximately $1500.00), a three month alcohol education program and a 90 day license restriction.
Maximum penalties include five years of informal probation, a fine of $1000.00 plus penalty assessments and mandatory fees (totaling approximately $3000.00), a six or nine month alcohol education program, a six month license suspension and six months county jail.
Minimum penalties include probation as above, a fine as above, an 18 month alcohol education program, 96 hours of county jail and a license restriction for 18 months.
Maximum penalties include probation as above, a fine as above, a 30 month alcohol education program, a two year license suspension and one year in county jail.
In addition to the probation, fines and alcohol programs that may be imposed for a second offense, a third offense conviction mandates minimum county jail time of 120 days up to one year in custody. There will also be a three year license revocation.
A fourth offense may be filed as a misdemeanor, but is more typically filed as a felony. The penalties for a felony DUI include probation, fines and alcohol programs as above, but will include a four year license revocation and 180 days county jail, or up to three years state prison.
It should be noted that the Court can always impose additional penalties, including the following: forfeiture or impoundment of a vehicle used in the commission of the offense; a requirement that any vehicle owned or operated by the defendant be installed with an ignition interlock device for up to three years; Caltrans or Community service; attendance at the county morgue or hospital (Hospital and Morgue, aka HAM program) or attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings or meetings of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
If a defendant is involved in an accident involving personal injury, or if a defendant has been convicted of a felony DUI within ten years of the present offense, the case may be filed as a felony, with the possibility of state prison being imposed.
Q. Do I need an attorney?
A. Failure to retain an experienced attorney essentially guarantees a court conviction and a license suspension. The prosecutor is not your attorney and has no obligation to counsel nor be fair with you. Defending yourself in the criminal justice system is a very stressful experience in a potentially hostile environment and may lead to severe penalties. Obviously, we cannot guarantee a result or outcome in your case, but we will fully investigate and prepare your case for your best possible defense, and we know best how to minimize or avoid court penalties and protect your driving privileges.
Q. What is a "Wet Reckless"?
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor. It carries penalties of informal probation, a fine and the possibility of up to 90 days county jail. Depending on the facts, this offense can be negotiated as an alternative to a DUI conviction in the settlement process. A conviction for "wet reckless" and dismissal of DUI charges can be a hard-fought victory, depending on the circumstances, but the following should be understood:
There is an important difference between a "dry" and a "wet" reckless. The term "wet" or "dry" denotes whether alcohol was involved in the commission of the offense. A conviction for a "wet reckless" will typically require the completion of a 12 to 32 hour alcohol education program, depending on the circumstances. More importantly, a "wet reckless" is still considered a "prior conviction" for DUI charging purposes, so that if a person is convicted of another DUI in the next seven years, the penalties will be increased as if the defendant has had a prior conviction for DUI, itself.
Q. Will my insurance company cancel my auto insurance or substantially increase my premiums if I am convicted of a DUI?
A. According to the Automobile Club of Southern California, a driver convicted of a first time DUI can expect an increase in insurance premiums of up to $6600 dollars over three years. However, policies and rates vary, and it is possible that an insurance company may choose to cancel insurance coverage, depending on individual circumstances.
Q. What "penalties" can the DMV impose?
A. The DMV has power to revoke, suspend or restrict a licensee's (driver's) privilege to operate a motor vehicle in California because of an arrest for DUI. This procedure is separate from the court proceedings in the case, and any "penalty" imposed is in addition to any court penalties.
If a licensee has no prior convictions for DUI and no prior suspensions for a DUI arrest, the period of suspension will usually be four months. However, it is possible to petition the DMV for a restricted license, enabling a licensee to drive to and from work, during the scope of work, and to and from the alcohol program. An attorney properly experienced in DMV procedures will advise you how best to secure just such a restricted license.
If the licensee has one or more prior convictions for DUI, or "Wet Reckless," within seven years of the present offense, the DMV will suspend driving privileges for at least one year.
If a licensee is under the age of 21, or has refused to submit to a chemical test, there is a mandatory period of suspension for at least one year.
If you have been arrested for Drunk Driving, you have questions. Jeffrey Lewis Gold and Nigel Witham are experienced attorneys, trained in the unique law and strategy of Drunk Driving Defense. Gold and Witham have answers.
If you would like these questions answered regarding your case, contact us.