DUI Cases at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Courthouse

The Metropolitan Courthouse.often referred to as "Metro".is where the majority of Los Angeles misdemeanor driving under the influencecases are prosecuted.  Absent unusual circumstances, felony DUI
cases
are not prosecuted in this Court.

The Metropolitan Courthouse is located  downtown at

1945 South Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007

Parking lots are available on the south side of the Courthouse for $7.00 per day.  Metered parking is also available on surrounding streets.

If you've been arrested for drunk  driving…and your case has been assigned to this Court…our experienced DUI  defense attorneys are here to help. We  routinely appear at this “DUI court” and…as a result…have the insider knowledge  that enables us to secure the most favorable results for our clients.

In this article, our California DUI defense attorneys address the following:

1.  What to Expect At Your Metro DUI
Arraignment

1.1 In custody defendants

1.2 Out of custody defendants

1.3 Arraignment offers at the Metropolitan  Courthouse

2. The DUI Pretrial Process at the Metropolitan Courthouse

2.1. Penal Code 1538.5 PC Motion to Suppress  Evidence

2.2 Pitchess Motion

3. Arraignment offers at the Metropolitan  Courthouse

If, after reading this article, you would like more  information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1.  What to Expect At Your Metro DUI Arraignment

The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office prosecutes all the misdemeanor DUI cases at the Metropolitan Courthouse. The office essentially “staffs” each  courtroom with one or more Deputy City Attorneys who routinely appear in each  division. These prosecutors make their  “offers” to the defense based on facts that are present within each case.

The Metropolitan Court runs two arraignment courtrooms.  Division 66 is for defendants who are “in custody”…which means that they  remained in jail following their arrest.  Division 60 is for defendants who either posted bail or were released on their  own recognizance or “O.R.”.

Once you are in an arraignment  courtroom, the courtroom staff will play a recording that details your  Constitutional rights. Two of the most  important rights as they pertain to your arraignment include

  1. your right to an attorney (which  includes the right to have a public defender appointed to you if you cannot  afford a private attorney), and
  2. the right to a speedy trial.

1.1 In custody defendants

Defendants who appear in custody are  primarily those whose DUI arrests involved alleged aggravating factors such as

These defendants personally appear in  Division 66. If they have previously  hired a private attorney, the attorney will also appear. If they have not, they will be given the  options of speaking with a public defender or representing themselves.

1.2 Out of custody defendants

Most people who are arrested for driving  under the influence where there are no aggravating factors will be released  from jail “O.R.” once they sober up. If  this type of defendant hires a private attorney prior to his/her arraignment,  the attorney can attend the arraignment on the client's behalf.

However, if the defendant did not hire a  lawyer, he/she must personally appear.  At that point, he/she will also be given the options of speaking with a  public defender or representing him/herself.

1.3 Arraignment offers at the Metropolitan  Courthouse

Regardless of whether a defendant is in  or out of custody, the arraignment presents the defendant with his/her first opportunity to plead guilty, not  guilty, or nolo contendere  “no contest” to his/her DUI charge(s).

Arraignment offers at Metropolitan  Courthouse are allegedly the “lowest” DUI plea bargain deals that the City Attorney's Office will offer. Depending on the case, this may be the  minimum DUI  penalty imposed by law or…if the case has significant flaws…it may  even be to a lesser charge. The  philosophy behind a low arraignment offer is that defendants should be rewarded  for accepting early responsibility for their wrongdoing.

However, there are many problems with  this line of reasoning because

  1. not all defendants are guilty,
  2. even those who are guilty are  nevertheless entitled to present a defense, and
  3. this is oftentimes the first  opportunity for the defense attorney to receive the police report and  additional “discovery”…that is, all evidence that pertains to the case…which  means that he/she hasn't had a proper chance to evaluate the case to know  whether pleading his/her client to the charge is in the client's best interest.

And the fact is that once a skilled DUI  defense lawyer begins his/her investigation, he/she will likely discover legal defenses and  flaws that will help fight  the DUI and lead to a better plea bargain down the road.

Typical Metro courthouse DUI arraignment  offers are as follows:

A “standard first”…that is, a  first-time DUI with no aggravating factors…consists of

  • 36 months of  informal DUI probation,
  • a $390 fine  (*fines end up being about three times the stated amount due to penalties and  assessments),
  • completion of a  three-month California  DUI school,
  • a six-month  driver's license suspension (which you may be able to convert to a license restriction),  and
  • installation of  an ignition interlock device “IID”.

A “standard second” consists of

  • 48 months of  informal probation,
  • at least 96  hours in a county jail,
  • a $450 fine,
  • completion of an  18-month DUI school,
  • a two-year  license suspension (which you may be able to convert to a restricted license  after one-year), and
  • installation of  an IID.

A “standard third” consists of

  • 60 months of  informal probation,
  • at least 120  days in a county jail,
  • a $510 fine,
  • completion of a  30-month DUI school
  • a three-year  license suspension,
  • designation as  a habitual traffic offender (“HTO”), and
  • installation of  an IID.

Aggravating factors increase these DUI  penalties, typically in increments of

  • 48 hours of jail (for a first offense),
  • 10 days on a second offense, and
  • 30 days for second or subsequent DUI  arrest.

In addition, Alcoholics  Anonymous “AA” meetings are also routinely imposed along with DUI  school. And the court may order participation  in a County Hospital and Morgue Program or attendance at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact  Program.

Of course, these DUI offers at the  Metropolitan courthouse will vary, depending on a defendant's criminal history  and the specific facts of each case.

When the offer seems like it may be a  good one, your DUI defense attorney may ask to “continue” the arraignment to a  future date. The prosecutor will “hold open” the initial offer to the next  arraignment date (which may be up to a month later). During this time, the  attorney will investigate the case and review the offer with the client.

At the next arraignment date, either the  case will settle or the defense will enter a “not guilty” plea and set the  matter for pretrial.

2.  The DUI Pretrial Process at the Metropolitan Courthouse

Once a case has moved out of the  arraignment court, it advances into the pretrial process in Division 63 which is known as the master calendar  court. At this point, your Los Angeles Metro  court DUI defense attorney will have had an opportunity to review the case to  evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.

Your lawyer will continue to engage in  plea bargain negotiations with the prosecutor, typically hoping to get the City  Attorney to agree to a reduced DUI
charge and sentence...or  possibly a dismissal If he/she can't  secure the type of deal that he/she is seeking, your lawyer may ask the court  to grant further continuances to allow more workup of the case. Continuances are usually good for the  defense. As time goes on, memories fade,  officers go on vacation or get transferred and evidence becomes less clear.

If the case doesn't resolve during the  pretrial process, the judge will send the case to a trial court. This is where pretrial motions will be heard,  more plea bargain negotiations will take place and…if the case proceeds to  trial…the trial will likely take place.

Two of the most common DUI pretrial  motions that are filed at the Metropolitan Courthouse are the Penal Code 1538.5  Motion to Suppress Evidence and the Pitchess Motion.

2.1. Penal Code 1538.5 PC Motion to Suppress  Evidence

When a DUI defense attorney files a 1538.5 Motion to  Suppress Evidence, he/she does so to

  1. challenge the validity of the  traffic stop, by asking “did the officer have probable cause to stop you in the  first place?”, and
  2. take an opportunity to question the  arresting officer so that he/she can obtain statements that he/she can then use  to impeach (that is, discredit the  testimony of) the officer during the trial in the event the case gets  that far. This is also a great “sneak  peek” to hear the evidence that the prosecution intends to present during a  trial.

2.2. Pitchess Motion

When a Metro DUI defense lawyer files a Pitchess Motion, it is to find out if other people in the past have made  complaints of police  misconduct against the arresting officer. If so, and these people can  be located as witnesses, it can seriously undermine the prosecution's case…and  may persuade them to reduce or dismiss the DUI charge altogether.

3. “Metro” Trials and Sentencing

DUI jury trials at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Courthouse typically take  between three and five days. Many times  a trial may only run in the morning or afternoon to accommodate the court's  other matters. The prosecution will  typically present the arresting officer and a member of the L.A.P.D.'s  Scientific Investigation Division (“SID”) as their witnesses.

Because Metro handles so many DUI cases,  the prosecutors, officers and representatives from SID are used to them…and  often just coast on “autopilot” when testifying and presenting evidence,  failing to distinguish between defendants or arrests.

A defense attorney who regularly defends  cases at Metro knows this and…as a result…can prepare anticipatory defenses,  since they essentially know what to expect.  A local attorney is familiar with these officers and forensic analysts  and knows how to question these witnesses in a manner that is helpful to  his/her client.

As L.A. Metro  Court DUI defense attorney John Murray2 explains, “Because I specialize in defending DUI cases…particularly at the  Metro Courthouse…I know the prosecutors, judges, jury pool and witnesses.

I know what  questions are likely to discredit these officers and analysts…I understand  downtown jurors and what arguments are most likely to persuade them to acquit  my clients…I know how to negotiate with these prosecutors and judges…

This knowledge  allows me to provide unsurpassed service to my Metro DUI clients.”

If the jury is hung…which means that it  could not reach a unanimous verdict…the judge will probably only “reset” the  case for a new trial if there were an overwhelming number of jurors who  believed you were guilty. Otherwise  he/she will likely dismiss your case.

If you are convicted…and there were no  aggravating facts that came to light during the trial…the judge will probably  sentence you to similar terms and conditions as those offered at the  arraignment and/or during the pretrial process.  However, if

  • you decided to testify…and the judge  believes that you committed perjury by being dishonest, or
  • damaging facts were introduced during  trial that were previously not divulged,

the judge has the discretion to impose  an even harsher sentence than you were originally offered by the prosecutor.

The good news is that Metropolitan DUI judges  will oftentimes allow convicted defendants to participate in alternative  sentencing. Options include

This is just another reason why having an  attorney who has experience handling DUI cases at the Metropolitan Courthouse  is so critical. Only this type of lawyer  knows which judges will allow these types of alternative sentences and what  arguments to present to convince them that alternative sentencing will better  serve the interests of justice.

Call us for help…

If you or loved one is charged with a DUI and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Legal Resources…

1Our California DUI defense  attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly  Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona,  Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state  in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San  Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2Metropolitan Courthouse DUI  defense attorney John Murray defends against criminal  and DUI charges throughout Los Angeles and San Bernardino County. He has handled more than 1000 DUI cases,  getting many of them dismissed or reduced to reckless driving or traffic  infractions.

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