You’ve been pulled over and arrested for DUI in California – or maybe you drove through a sobriety checkpoint. You’ve spent the night in jail. Now you have more questions than answers.
A charge of driving under the influence is far more than a traffic ticket. This is a misdemeanor criminal charge. If you are convicted, you will have a criminal record. You can be sent to the county jail for up to six months for a first offense, a year for a second (or later offense). If you caused a traffic accident and someone was injured, a DUI can be charged as a felony.
In order to avoid a six month jail sentence on a first offense, you will have to endure three years on informal probation. You will have to take alcohol education classes. You will face a restriction or possible suspension of your driver’s license. And you will have to pay some very substantial fines – nearly two thousand dollars. A conviction may even affect your job. This is a serious matter, and you need expert advice from someone who will take your case seriously.
If you have been arrested for DUI, the officer who arrested you probably took and kept your driver’s license, and gave you a flimsy piece of paper entitled “Temporary Driver’s License.” This paper also contains a lot of fine print about a DMV hearing. It is very important that you contact the DMV and request a hearing as soon as possible – or retain an experienced attorney who can do it for you. If the DMV suspends your license, and you are caught driving while your license is suspended, you will face an additional misdemeanor charge, some very substantial fines (more than $1,000.00 in Los Angeles County as of this writing) and if your license is suspended from a DUI charge, mandatory jail time.
When you were pulled over, the officer may have asked you to blow into a small portable device about the size of a flashlight. This is called the Preliminary Alcohol Screening device, or PAS. The results from this device may be admissible in court, depending on a technically complex rule of evidence. This is why it is important for you to retain an experienced trial attorney in order to handle your case properly.
You were most likely required to perform a series of physical tests. While these are called Field Sobriety Tests, they are really designed to determine your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Only an experienced attorney can determine for you whether these tests were performed properly, and what they should mean in court.
You were probably asked to give a sample of blood or breath. There is no “right” choice as to which to give. However, there is a wrong choice – to refuse to give any sample. This brings into play an additional criminal penalty – not a charge in itself, but a sentencing enhancement on the DUI charge. This enhancement can mean additional jail time, and additional driver’s license consequences with the DMV.
If you gave breath, then you were required to blow into a breathalyzer at the police station. Typically you were required to blow twice. Only an experienced attorney can determine for you if the test was performed properly, and can obtain information about whether the machine was working properly.
If you gave blood, then the blood is sent to a lab, where it is tested in a machine called a headspace gas chromatograph. If you take the case to trial, the prosecution will have a lab expert at the trial. You need an experienced attorney who can properly cross examine the prosecution expert.
You will also need your own lab expert to analyze the results independently and testify in your behalf at trial. An experienced attorney can recommend the best experts for you to use at trial.
Photo by Highway Patrol Images/used under creative commons attribution license.