Driving under the influence is one of the most common crimes in the state of California. The Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm specializes in drunk driving cases. Our law firm has a team of attorneys who have the expertise to help you fight your DUI charges. It mainly serves clients who have been charged in Orange County, and our team will come up with an excellent defense strategy on your behalf, and help you either be acquitted or have your charges reduced.
What is DUI?
In California, the crime of DUI is classified as a misdemeanor. According to Californian law, you will be charged with the offense of DUI if a law enforcement officer notices you driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These drugs can be prescribed medicines by your doctor, or narcotics such as cocaine and marijuana.
When you drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may cause an accident. This accident may endanger lives and even destroy both public and private property. This is the reason why drunk driving is considered a crime by the Californian authorities.
In California, alcohol is one of the most common beverages. In fact, at least two in every three adults who live in California consume at least 250ml of an alcoholic drink each day. Due to this high rate of alcoholic consumption, many people are usually arrested for drunk driving.
Under the legal system of the United States, there are many laws that prohibit driving under the influence. For instance, each state has a maximum blood alcohol level limit, which you should not exceed if you intend to drive. This limit may range from 0.02% to 0.08%.
In California, you will be charged with driving under the influence if your BAC level is above 0.08%. DUI is typically referred to as a ‘high-risk' crime, since persons who commit it may cause affliction and pain to the entire society.
How Can I Be Arrested for Driving Under the Influence?
A law enforcement officer on duty will suspect you to be under the influence of alcohol if you drive carelessly. This officer will flag you down and ask you a few questions. He will also observe you for around 15 minutes to gauge whether you are sober and if you understand your situation. Based on his observations, he may put you under arrest for drunk driving.
There are quite several sobriety checkpoints in California. If you come across these checkpoints while driving, you should pull over. If you fail to stop driving at these checkpoints, you will be immediately arrested for infringing California's traffic laws.
When you pull over, the police officer on duty will evaluate you by making you take a BAC test. For example, you may be asked to blow your breath on a particular device. If you are an adult and your alcohol level limit is above 0.08%, you will be arrested for driving under the influence.
What Should I Do When I am Arrested for Driving Under the Influence?
Knowledge is better than ignorance – and you should be aware of the first steps that you should take in case you are put under arrest for drunk driving. This way, you won't make your situation worse.
When you are put under arrest, the police officer should read to you your Miranda rights. He should tell you that you have a right to remain silent and to have legal representation. Request him to give you a chance to contact an attorney.
Immediately after you've been arrested, you will be taken into custody. Next, you will be presented to the court within 24 hours. Then, your charge will be read to you, and you will be asked to take a plea.
Make sure you get in touch with a DUI attorney before you are arraigned in court. Immediately you retain one, he will start gathering evidence and summoning witnesses who will help strengthen your case. He will advise you on the court procedures and will be by your side each step of the way in your drunk driving case.
California DUI Laws
As asserted earlier, the maximum blood-alcohol level limit which an adult may have while driving is 0.08%. The prescribed BAC limit for teenagers and past DUI convicts who are under probation is 0.01%.
If you are on probation for drunk driving and an officer finds you have a BAC limit which exceeds 0.01%, you won’t be arrested. However, you will have to face some administrative penalties. For example, your driving license may be put under suspension for up to one year. According to VC 23140, if you are a driver of a commercial vehicle; your BAC level limit should not exceed 0.04%.
What are the Penalties for Driving Under the Influence in California?
There are no fixed penalties for drunk driving in California. These penalties frequently vary per two major factors; if you've ever been convicted of DUI before or if there are any aggravating factors in your situation.
Sometimes, misdemeanor DUI can be upgraded to a felony. For instance, if you caused an accident while drunk driving, which resulted in the loss of life; you may be charged with felony DUI instead of misdemeanor DUI. This means that you will face more grievous penalties if you are held to be guilty by the court.
Driving under the influence is a priorable offense in California. You will be punished more severely if you get convicted of DUI more than once within a ten-year timeframe. Most Californian attorneys typically categorize drunk driving charges to be either first, second, or third time DUI. Each of these categories has different penalties. The potential penalties for misdemeanor DUI in California include;
- Informal probation
- A jail term
- Mandatory attendance of a DUI school or alcoholic control and regulation program
- Installation of an IID device in your vehicle
If you caused an injury to another person while drunk driving, you may be charged with either felony DUI or misdemeanor DUI. Of course, you will face more severe consequences if you are convicted of felony DUI.
If you are put under probation, you will have to abide by certain conditions that may be imposed by the court. If you break any of them, your driving license may be suspended for one year. Some of these conditions are;
- You should not drive if you have any alcoholic content within your bloodstream
- In case you are put under arrest for a subsequent drunk driving offense, you lose the right to refuse to take a BAC test
- You should not be involved in the commission of any crime within California
- You should regularly attend a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meeting
- You should offer monetary compensation to anyone who had an injury or lost some property due to the accident you caused because of drunk driving
Aggravating Factors That May Make Your DUI Sentence More Severe
There are certain factors which can make the court to sentence you with enhanced penalties. This will be regardless of whether you have been convicted of first, second, or third time DUI. The court will consider these factors, together with your criminal history and the circumstances leading to your arrest before sentencing you. Some examples of these aggravating factors include;
- Your BAC level was above 0.15%
- You had refused to take a blood-alcoholic level chemical test
- You caused an accident while drunk driving
- You were speeding because you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- You had a child who was below 14 years inside your vehicle while driving under the influence. In such a case, you may also be charged with the offense of child endangerment
- You were under 21 years at the time when you committed the drunk driving offense
Alternative DUI Sentencing Options in California
You may be wondering whether there are any alternative DUI sentencing options in California. The good news is that they do exist. For instance, you may be ordered to do some roadside work or community service. Or rather, you may be placed under house arrest, or you may be incarcerated in a private jail.
If you hire an attorney who has not specialized in California DUI, he may fail to know that these alternative sentencing options exist. Even if they know, they lack the technical know-how to convince the judge and the prosecutor to give you an alternative option instead of the more severe DUI penalties.
This is why you must hire an experienced California DUI attorney. You never know – you may be found guilty. If you have a competent attorney by your side, he may help you minimize the penalties that you will face.
Why Should I Hire a DUI Attorney?
You should retain an attorney to avoid facing the grievous penalties of being a drunk driving convict. Here is how your attorney can assist you;
Your attorney will gather useful evidence which will strengthen your case and help convince the court that you are innocent. For instance, he can summon witnesses who will speak out in your favor. Or rather, your lawyer can come across some information which will be crucial in helping you get acquitted.
Your lawyer will legally interpret all the evidence gathered in your favor and that of the prosecution. Through legal analysis, he will establish whether this evidence holds water and if it can be easily rebutted. Your attorney will use this evidence to come up with strong points of law that can support your case. These points will be put down in writing in the form of drafted motions which will be presented in court.
Negotiation, Bargaining, and Defense
A competent DUI defense attorney has good bargaining and negotiation skills. For instance, he or she can enter into a plea bargaining agreement with the prosecution to reduce your charges. Your lawyer may also defend you with skill and vigor and convince everyone in the courtroom that you are innocent.
Note that besides the court hearing of the DUI case, there are other hurdles that you must overcome if you are arrested for driving under the influence. You will need an attorney to convince the judge to set you free on bail terms. Also, you will require the help of a lawyer in your DMV hearing so that you can get back your driving license.
Common Defenses to Driving Under the Influence
The most common defenses to driving under the influence can be classified into three different groups;
- Those that show that you were not intoxicated
- Those that show that your driving was not impaired because you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Those that show that the law enforcement officer who put you under arrest didn’t follow the proper legal procedures
Don’t get worried if you are arrested for drunk driving – an arrest for DUI doesn’t necessarily lead to a conviction. If you and your attorney can come up with an excellent strategy, you will be able to avoid the life-altering DUI punishments altogether. Some of the top defenses to drunk driving include;
You Were Driving Recklessly, But Not Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
You can argue that you were merely indulging in reckless driving, but not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As illustrated earlier, a law enforcement officer will flag you down if he notices that you are driving carelessly, or if you violate some traffic laws. For instance, you may be speeding, or you may be operating in the wrong lane.
In many DUI cases, law enforcement officers testify that they could know that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs by merely studying how you were driving. They assert that your driving pattern was similar to that of a drunk person.
Experienced DUI lawyers can easily rebut this evidence. You can prove before the court that you were driving safely and properly. Your attorney can illustrate that it is mostly sober people who commit major traffic violations. He can also demonstrate that your driving pattern should not be used to prove that drugs or alcohol had influenced you.
Exhibiting the Physical Symptoms of Drunkenness Do Not Imply That You Were Intoxicated
During the DUI court hearing, the prosecution will adduce evidence to show that you were intoxicated since you exhibited some outward symptoms of drunkenness. Your outward appearance has a massive impact on a typical California DUI criminal investigation. A law enforcement officer will arrest you for driving under the influence if you show such physical symptoms. Some of them include watery eyes, unsteady gait, slurred speech, or an alcoholic odor.
All of these symptoms are listed on Form 5.2.5, California’s pre-printed drunk driving arrest form. A police officer will utilize this form to check if you display any of these signs.
If you hire a skilled lawyer, he can come up with reasonable or logical explanations as to why you manifested these symptoms. For instance, your attorney can say that you had red eyes since you have an allergy or you didn’t have sufficient sleep. Likewise, he can assert that the odor in your mouth didn’t come from an alcoholic beverage; maybe you are following the ketogenic diet.
The BAC Testing Kit was Faulty
Your attorney can challenge the results of the blood-alcoholic level testing. The main point of fact which the prosecution normally relies on upon in most DUI cases is that your BAC level exceeded the limit, which is prescribed by the Vehicle Code of California.
Research has proved that 91% of BAC kits do not always produce the correct results. Furthermore, these kits must be serviced and maintained regularly. If your attorney finds out that the local authorities did not frequently maintain these kits, the prosecution’s case will not hold water. Sometimes, you may be administered this test by an officer who didn’t have the proper experience and training. Such an officer may mess up – and make you get inaccurate results.
Rising Blood Alcohol
This is also one of the most effective DUI defenses in California. You don’t break the law if you drink before driving. You will be on the wrong side of the law if you drive while being impaired because of drinking excessive alcohol.
Immediately you drink, your blood alcohol will start rising steadily and rapidly, till it reaches its peak level. At this time, your BAC can be described to be ‘on the rise.' Typically, it takes around 50 minutes for your BAC to reach its maximum level. This process can extend for up to three hours.
Sometimes, you may be flagged down by the police while your BAC level is on the rise. By the time you are taking the BAC test, your blood alcohol may have risen to its highest level; and it may exceed the legal limit. This will make you be arrested for drunk driving. For example, Shila went for a night out with her friends. She takes two cups of wine and leaves immediately. While driving to her way back home, she is flagged down by a law enforcement officer. The officer smells her alcoholic breath and takes her in for drunk driving. When she reaches the police station, she submits to a BAC test which reads 0.09%. Her lawyer can argue that her BAC level was on the rise by the time she took the BAC test, and she wasn't under the influence of alcohol when she was driving.
You Were Mentally Alert
Often, the prosecution will testify before the court that you displayed some signs of physical impairment. But they usually can't prove that you were not mentally alert.
Most DUI toxicologists assert that it is not possible for one to be physically impaired because of drinking alcohol and mentally alert at the same time. In that same line, you can't be under the influence of alcohol or drugs if you are mentally alert. Your attorney can assert this fact in your defense by proving that you were not impaired mentally at the time of the arrest. For example, he can tell the court that you were polite, and you followed all the officer's instructions. Clearly, this is something which people who are not sober can’t do.
The Law Enforcement Officer Didn’t Observe the Proper Legal Procedures
This is one of the most powerful defenses to drunk driving in California. As per the California laws, you should be protected from police misconduct at all times.
The police officer should observe Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations. He should gesture you to pull over when he has a reasonable cause, and he should read to you your Miranda rights before interrogating you.
If the law enforcement officer didn't observe the proper legal procedures, your attorney would request on your behalf a suppression hearing. The primary purpose of this hearing is to poke holes in the prosecutor's case so that he can be persuaded to either drop or reduce your charges. The suppression hearing will also aim to exclude any proof or evidence which was obtained illegally.
Will I Lose My Driving License?
Yes, you may lose your driving license for a specific period if you are convicted of drunk driving. This period may vary between three months to one year.
You should request a DMV hearing within ten days after you've been arrested for DUI to prevent a suspension on your driving license. You will plead your case at the DMV authorities, and they may decide to give you back your license. If you hire the right attorney, getting back your driving license will be a breeze.
Find an Orange County DUI Attorney Near Me
The most significant action that you should take after you’ve been arrested for drunk driving is to reach out to an attorney who is specialized in California DUIs. Our law firm can handle all the aspects of your DUI case in Orange County. Call us today at 714-740-7848, and we will be happy to help you.