California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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DUI cases are rarely hopeless. Police officers bungle roadside investigations. Breathalyzers and blood testing are prone to error. Medical conditions render falsely high BAC readings.
Good DUI defense lawyers capitalize on these issues to win cases.
Most people arrested for a DUI charge assume the evidence against them is insurmountable.
Most of them are wrong.
Fighting a DUI case almost always makes more sense than simply pleading guilty. For example, did you know that:
Our team of California DUI attorneys consists of former drunk driving prosecutors, former DUI enforcement officers, and former police toxicologists. We defend clients throughout the state, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, San Diego and Orange Counties.
We handle cases ranging from simple misdemeanor DUI to:
Regardless of the type of case, we visit the location, study the arresting officers’ training and background, and reanalyze blood samples. We also examine the breathalyzers’ maintenance history, subpoena and cross-examine officers at live DMV hearings, and deconstruct the case to find the problems and issues leading to a successful DUI defense.
If you got arrested for DUI, we invite you to join us for a case analysis with a misdemeanor DUI attorney. We want to start by hearing from you everything that happened leading up to, during and after the arrest. We’ll give you our candid opinion as to the likelihood of prevailing in court and at the DMV.
For the rest of this page, we will discuss California DUIs from arrest through court.
Most California DUI arrests begin with a traffic stop or a checkpoint. The officer asks you to perform a series of field sobriety tests and to blow twice into a handheld breathalyzer.
After the arrest, the cop usually will ask you to take a blood or breath test at the police station, jail or hospital. Refusing the chemical test may result in tougher California DUI penalties and a one-year driver’s license suspension.
For most misdemeanor DUI arrests, the police will release you within a few hours of arrest and booking (but for a felony DUI or accident case, you may have to post bail). Upon release, you should be given two documents:
The cops will usually take your California driver’s license and mail it to the DMV. If you are from out of state and get a California DUI, the police here cannot take your physical license.
Starting in 2019, you can immediately apply for an IID-restricted license after a DUI arrest. IID is short for an ignition interlock device, which is a breathalyzer that keeps vehicles from starting if it detects alcohol.
An IID-restricted license permits you to continue driving without limitations as long as you keep an IID in your cars. The length of time an IID-restricted license lasts depends on your DUI history. (California Senate Bill 1046 (2018)).
You typically do not lose your license immediately after a DUI. Instead, you get a temporary license that will give way to a suspended license unless you ultimately win your DMV hearing.
You must contact the DMV within 10 days of your arrest to request a DMV hearing. Otherwise, you forfeit your right to a hearing, and your license automatically goes into suspension after 30 days. If you hire a California DUI lawyer, they can request a hearing for you.
It is usually better that way, because your lawyer can often schedule the hearing further out (thus getting more time to prepare) and they can sometimes influence what DMV hearing officer gets assigned to the case.
Generally, your California DUI attorney conducts the hearing on your behalf. You may or may not be asked to attend. Your lawyer’s primary objective is to convince the DMV not to suspend your driver’s license. Though your lawyer may also use the DMV hearing as an opportunity to gather evidence that may prove useful in court.
For example, we can subpoena the breathalyzer’s maintenance and calibration logs, often revealing a history of malfunctions and inaccurate readings. We can also subpoena the arresting officer to testify at the DMV hearing and elicit testimony about poor DUI training and mistakes in the investigation.
The DMV’s hearing officer’s decision usually gets mailed out in one to 30 days. If the DMV finds in your favor, no license suspension is imposed (though a DUI conviction in court could trigger a separate suspension). If the DMV finds against you, your license goes into suspension within a few days of receiving notice.
If you got arrested for a California DUI of drugs / DUID charge — including DUI of marijuana, DUI of Vicodin or DUI of Ambien — there is no DMV hearing. DMV hearings only occur for DUI of alcohol arrests to determine if you drove with a .08 or higher BAC, or any positive BAC level in the case of an underage DUI.
Though if you get convicted of any of these charges in court, the court conviction will trigger a driver’s license suspension.
If you do sustain a driver’s license suspension, you can usually get a restricted license within 30 days. This allows you to drive to and from work-related activities and any court or DMV-imposed alcohol program. Sometimes we can make arrangements to get you a restricted license right away.
Though you must heed the suspension while it is in effect. Driving with a suspended license in California is a crime and can lead to jail time, a probation violation and a longer license suspension.
Most people whose BAC exceeds .08 face charges for two misdemeanor crimes:
Your objective is to avoid a conviction for either of these offenses.
Your misdemeanor DUI attorney most likely can attend all the DUI court proceedings on your behalf unless there is a hearing where you have to testify, or the case goes to trial. Most DUI cases may involve several court dates, and can span over several months. During this time, your DUI attorney
If a settlement is reached involving you pleading to a DUI or a lesser charge, this can be completed in one of two ways. You may come to court and plead in person before the judge. Or in many cases, your California DUI lawyer can have you sign notarized documents (called a Thal waiver) outside of court. Your attorney can then bring the documents to the court and execute the plea on your behalf.
If no settlement occurs, the DUI case ultimately will go to a jury trial. Prosecutors and judges often give better deals after the court schedules a case for trial since there may be more trials on the docket than courtrooms available to accommodate them. Also, problems in the state’s evidence become more apparent when a trial D.A. finally takes a hard look at the case.
The sentence for driving under the influence in California increases with each successive conviction:
|First DUI|| |
|Second DUI|| |
|Third DUI|| |
Probably the worst impact of a DUI conviction is the long-term consequences:
A top-notch DUI defense attorney gives you your best chance of avoiding both. We invite you to meet with us and explore options for fighting the DUI case.
To learn about Nevada DUI laws, go to our information page on Nevada DUI Laws.
¿Habla español? Visite nuestro sitio Web en español sobre nuestros abogados de la defensa California DUI.