Being arrested or charged with a driving under the influence (DUI) offense is a serious matter. Even if you are a motorist with no record of impaired driving, the punishment you can face upon conviction could be life-altering. Aside from the thousands of dollars in court-ordered fines and jail time, a conviction for a DUI offense can negatively impact your driving privileges.
A criminal record for a DUI conviction can also follow you for several years, affecting your ability to secure reliable employment and reasonable car insurance rates. Therefore, challenging the alleged DUI offense is in your best interest.
If you are under investigation or already charged with DUI, your best bet or chance at avoiding a conviction could come from retaining the services of an attorney. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your unique case, a seasoned DUI attorney could help you secure a favorable plea bargain or a dismissal of the alleged charge.
At Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we have experienced attorneys who can help you if you are under investigation, arrested, or detained for an alleged DUI offense in Los Angeles. Our attorneys will do their best once you contact us to help you minimize or even avoid the possible consequences of a DUI conviction.
Legal Definition of DUI Offense
A DUI offense is chargeable when the police arrest you for allegedly driving while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. Being under the influence means you do not have the mental and physical ability to drive or operate a vehicle cautiously like a sober driver would under the same circumstances.
Generally speaking, there are two DUI laws for adult motorists or drivers, namely:
- Vehicle Code (VC) 23152(a) — This is the law that prohibits impaired driving, regardless of your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level. That means even if your BAC was below the legal threshold of 0.08%, the prosecutor could file an impaired driving charge against you.
- Vehicle Code (VC) 23152(b) — This law makes it unlawful to drive or operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or above even though you are sober and can drive safely.
Other DUI laws that could apply to your case include the following:
- Zero tolerance law under VC 23136 — Also known as under 21 DUI law, this statute makes it unlawful for any underage driver (a person under 21 years) to drive with any measurable or detectable alcohol in his/her system. A 0.01% or above BAC could attract DUI charges under this law.
- Commercial vehicle DUI law under VC 23152(d) — This law makes it illegal for commercial drivers to drive with a BAC of 0.04% or above.
- DUID law under VC 23152(f) — This law makes it a crime to drive under the influence of a drug, regardless of whether it is a prescription, illegal or over-the-counter drug.
Obtaining a Release From Jail After Arrest For an Alleged DUI Offense
Generally speaking, most DUI arrests occur when the police ask you to pull over at a DUI checkpoint or when an accident occurs. Once the police officer arrests you for impaired driving, the officer will take you into custody for booking, which is a crucial administrative procedure where he/she will:
- Check your criminal record.
- Take mugshots.
- Take your fingerprints.
- Record your name, including aliases and the alleged charge.
- Confiscate your personal belongings or items, including watches and clothing.
Most arrestees in custody for an alleged DUI or impaired driving offense will obtain their freedom immediately after undergoing the above administrative procedure. In most cases, if you are a first-time offender and did not cause an accident or injuries, the arresting officers will let you go home without bail.
However, if you have a criminal record and your DUI case is severe, the officers will hold you in custody, awaiting the court's decision on your bail request at the arraignment or bail hearing. Whether the court will accept your bail request or application will depend on the following factors:
- Your criminal background.
- The severity of your DUI charge.
- Whether you have a history of skipping bail.
- Whether you are a flight risk.
- Your behavior in court.
- Your attorney's mitigating arguments.
With an aggressive DUI attorney, you could also qualify for an own recognizance (0.R.) release during the bail hearing, allowing you to secure your freedom without bail. Unlike a release from jail on bail, if you qualify for an O.R. release, the court will require you to sign a written agreement promising you will make all your future court appearances.
How to Stop the DMV Automatic Suspension of Your Driver's License Upon an Arrest for an Alleged DUI Offense
Whether you are arrested after an accident or after a pullover at a DUI checkpoint, the police will confiscate your driver's license (DL) and hand you a temporary pink DL. Unless you take immediate action after receiving this temporary DL, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will suspend your DL after thirty (30) days.
To stop the DMV's automatic suspension of your DL, you should request an administrative hearing with them within ten days after your DUI arrest. The DMV administrative hearing is independent of the criminal court proceeding for the alleged DUI offense. At this hearing, the agency will listen to the evidence of the alleged DUI offense and decide whether to suspend your DL.
Like in a criminal proceeding, you have a right to an attorney at the DMV hearing for the best possible outcome. During this hearing, which can take place over the phone or at the DMV's local office, the arresting officer will present his/her evidence of guilt. In most cases, the arresting officer will file his/her report as evidence, carrying the following crucial information:
- The reason the officers selected your vehicle to pull over for a quick DUI investigation.
- Your performance results on the field sobriety tests (FSTs) administered before your arrest.
- The objective signs of intoxication that were visible from your appearance.
- Whether you refused to blow a breathalyzer or chemical test after your arrest.
Your attorney will listen keenly to the arresting officer's testimony and cross-examine him/her before presenting your side of the story. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the following defenses could work in your favor to stop the automatic suspension of your DL by the DMV as the alleged DUI charge continues through various stages of the legal justice system:
- You were not driving a car.
- The arresting officer did not inform you of the consequences of failing or refusing to blow a breathalyzer.
- There was no probable cause for your arrest.
If the above defense works to your advantage, the DMV will not suspend your DL, and your attorney can apply the same defenses to challenge the alleged DUI offense at trial.
Court Hearings to Expect After the Arraignment for the Alleged DUI Offense
Whether you obtain your freedom on bail or without bail, you must be ready to adhere to all the conditions of your release from jail, including attending your scheduled court appearances. To that end, here are the court procedures to expect after your bail or arraignment hearing:
The Pretrial Hearing
If the alleged DUI charge qualifies to stand trial, the judge will schedule a pretrial hearing or conference sometime before your trial date. During the pretrial phase of the legal justice system, the prosecutor presiding over your charge will disclose his/her evidence in front of a judge, showing the evidence he/she has against you.
You and your attorney will also be present during this hearing to access and examine weak points in the prosecutor's DUI case against you. The alleged DUI charge can be resolved during this hearing, depending on your case's facts. If it is impossible, your attorney can use this chance to make several pretrial motions that could weaken the prosecutor's case against you for the best possible outcome.
Common legal pretrial motions your attorney could file during this hearing to help you obtain a favorable outcome include the following:
Motion to Suppress
If the arresting officer(s) obtained any evidence against you through illegal means, that particular evidence could be inadmissible at your trial, meaning it will not apply against you. A motion to suppress illegal evidence requests that the court or judge review that specific evidence to determine if the prosecutor can use it against you at trial.
If the judge finds that the evidence is illegal or unjustly prejudicial, he/she will throw out that evidence from the alleged DUI charge. In other words, the court will not consider this evidence when making a judgment for the alleged DUI charge.
Motion to Dismiss
Your defense attorney can also file a motion to dismiss the alleged DUI charge, which could end your legal battle. The court could agree to dismiss or close the alleged DUI charge if the prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence against you.
Another common pretrial motion that could work in your favor for a favorable outcome on the alleged charge is the Pitchess motion. Your attorney could file a Pitchess motion if he/she believes the arresting officer violated your legal rights. A Pitchess motion allows your defense attorney to request or learn more about the history of the arresting officer(s).
If the arresting officer(s) have a history of police misconduct, for example, illegal searches or racial profiling, the court could dismiss or reduce the alleged DUI charge.
Probable Cause Hearing
According to the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, probable cause is a requirement for any arrest. Probable cause is generally the reasonable basis for believing that a person has committed a crime or he/she in the process of committing a crime.
If your attorney can prove that the arresting officer(s) did not have probable cause to initiate your DUI stop or arrest you for an alleged DUI offense, the court could dismiss the alleged charge.
Once all the pretrial hearings are over, the prosecutor could offer you a plea deal or bargain offer. However, you must agree to enter a guilty plea to the alleged DUI charges. In exchange, the prosecutor will reduce the charge to a less serious offense, such as:
- Dry reckless.
- Wet reckless.
Although the above plea offers could seem more favorable than a conviction for a DUI charge, you should consider several factors before accepting any of them, including:
- Your chances of winning the alleged DUI charge.
- The legal penalties you will face upon conviction for either of them.
- The impact of any of the above charges conviction on your driving privileges.
Your defense attorney will help you weigh your options and decide whether to accept the available plea offer. If the prosecutor's DUI case against you is weak, your attorney could decide to challenge it at trial for the best possible outcome.
The Trial Hearing
If the judge does drop or dismiss the alleged DUI charge at the pretrial hearing and you do not accept a plea deal, your case will proceed to the trial phase. At this phase of the criminal justice system, you should be ready with proper evidence and defense because the outcome or judgment you will receive is final.
Depending on your interests, you can choose to have a judge or jurors make a judgment on the alleged DUI charge. If your attorney is familiar with the local judges and their past rulings on related DUI offenses, he/she could opt for a trial by a judge for the best possible outcome on the alleged charge.
Conversely, for a jury trial, you should expect 12 members of the community to be ready to hear the available evidence and decide whether or not you are guilty of the alleged DUI charge. Whether your defense attorney chooses a trial by a judge or jurors, it is impossible to predict the outcome of this court proceeding.
The hearings begin with the prosecutor making his/her opening statements to let the judge or jury know what case he/she has against you. Then, your defense attorney will make his/her opening statements in the case. After the opening statements, both sides will present their available evidence on the alleged DUI charge, including:
- Eyewitnesses testimonies.
- Camera video footage and pictures.
- Objects and documents.
For a conviction for the alleged DUI charge, the prosecutor will bear the burden to prove the following elements to the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You were driving.
- You were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when driving.
During this phase of the legal justice system, your defense attorney's job is to convince the court that there is reasonable doubt in the prosecutor's case against you for the best possible outcome.
If you are guilty of the alleged DUI charge, the court could sentence you immediately or within five days after your conviction. That is true if your DUI conviction is a misdemeanor. However, for a felony DUI conviction, your sentencing hearing could occur within twenty days after the court's verdict.
Defenses Available for the Alleged DUI Charge
Although every DUI case is unique, an experienced defense attorney will know the evidence and defenses that will work best on the alleged charge for the best possible outcome. Potential defenses your attorney will apply to challenge the alleged DUI charge include:
Improper Police Procedures
At the DUI checkpoint, the police must follow proper procedures for stopping vehicles, administering FSTs and breathalyzer tests, and observing any driver suspected of impaired driving. The court could have a reason to drop or reduce the alleged DUI charge if the arresting officers did not follow proper legal procedures at the DUI checkpoint or before your arrest.
Rising Blood Alcohol
Once alcohol enters your body, it will be absorbed into the bloodstream. As the alcohol is absorbed, your BAC level will rise, meaning if you blow into a breathalyzer before you reach the peak absorption rate, there is a high chance it will indicate a high or false BAC level. Also, the rate of alcohol absorption into your bloodstream could vary depending on the following factors:
- How quickly you drunk the alcohol.
- Whether your stomach was empty before drinking the alcohol.
- The type of alcohol you consumed.
Due to the above factors, your BAC level could rise as you take the breathalyzer or chemical test after an arrest. Hence, it is reasonable to argue that you had "rising blood alcohol" when taking breathalyzer tests for the best possible outcome on the alleged DUI charge.
Improper Taking, Handling, and Storage of Your Breath and Blood Samples
According to Title 17 of the Code of Regulations, the police must observe you keenly for not less than fifteen (15) minutes before administering a breathalyzer test to ensure you do not smoke, eat or drink anything that could taint the device's results.
Similarly, the equipment the arresting officer will use to take and store your breath and blood samples should be well-sterilized and free from mechanical issues.
A skilled attorney will investigate your case keenly to determine whether there was any violation of Title 17 by the arresting officers. If so, he/she will raise this defense at trial for the best possible outcome on the alleged charge.
Other defenses that could work in your favor on the alleged DUI charge for the best possible outcome include the following:
- The DUI checkpoint did not comply with proper laws or regulations for setting sobriety checkpoints.
- You had medical problems or physical impairment that caused you to appear impaired, for example, allergies, epilepsy, diabetes, or fatigue.
- Environmental conditions, improper lighting, or the shoes you had caused you to perform poorly on FSTs.
Penalties for a First-Time DUI Conviction
If you are a first-time offender, the prosecutor will file your charge as a first-time DUI, which carries the following potential penalties upon conviction:
- Three to five years of summary or informal probation.
- Up six months of jail time.
- Fines and penalties assessments amounting to up to $2,000.
- Install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car for up to six months.
- Attend DUI school for a period ranging between three to nine months.
- A six-month driver's license suspension.
If you are a repeat offender within ten years of your last offense or conviction, your penalties for the current DUI conviction will increase with each subsequent DUI you have on your record. For instance, a fourth-time DUI is a felony that can attract an imprisonment term of up to three years.
Similarly, if you caused an accident or had a child under 14 in your car at the time of the arrest, a DUI conviction will attract harsher penalties.
How to Obtain a DUI Conviction Expungement
If you are guilty of a DUI charge, you will have a permanent criminal record that will appear on your background checks unless you obtain an expungement. An expungement is a process that petitions the court to review your conviction and allow you to withdraw a guilty plea or a verdict of "guilty" to a "not guilty."
If you are eligible for a DUI conviction expungement, the court will dismiss your case and set aside your conviction, meaning it will not appear in background checks by the public. After an expungement, you can legally say you do not have a conviction when a potential employer inquires about your criminal background, increasing your chances of securing reliable employment.
Unfortunately, not every person qualifies for an expungement after a DUI conviction. Generally, you could be eligible to expunge your misdemeanor or felony DUI conviction as long as:
- You completed your probation successfully, meaning you did adhere to the required court-ordered conditions.
- You did not serve a sentence in the state prison, or if you did, it was before the implementation of the realignment program under Proposition (Prop) 47.
Although most DUI convictions will meet the above requirement, you should speak with an attorney for legal guidance on the expungement process under Penal Code 1203.4.
Find a Dependable DUI Attorney Near Me
Even if you are a first-time offender, a DUI conviction can attract severe penalties, especially if your case has aggravating factors. The best way to protect your best interests and increase your odds of securing the best possible outcome on the alleged DUI charge is to have a skilled attorney handle your case.
Our attorneys at Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer will help you negotiate a favorable plea deal or challenge the alleged DUI charge at trial for the best possible outcome. We invite you to call us at 424-600-7164 if you are under investigation or have a pending DUI charge in Los Angeles to schedule a cost-free consultation with our attorneys today.