The Metropolitan Courthouse -- often referred to as "Metro" -- is where the majority of Los Angeles misdemeanor driving under the influence cases 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:
If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
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
- 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
- the right to a speedy trial.
Defendants who appear in custody are primarily those whose DUI arrests involved alleged aggravating factors such as
- a particularly high blood alcohol concentration “BAC”,
- a refusal to submit to a chemical blood or breath test,
- an accident,
- having a child under 14 as a passenger in the car,
- driving at excessive speeds,
- driving on a suspended driver's license or driving without a driver's license,
- prior DUI convictions, or
- those with probation, parole or immigration holds.
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.
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.
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
- not all defendants are guilty,
- even those who are guilty are nevertheless entitled to present a defense, and
- 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.
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.
When a DUI defense attorney files a 1538.5 Motion to Suppress Evidence, he/she does so to
- challenge the validity of the traffic stop, by asking “did the officer have probable cause to stop you in the first place?”, and
- 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.
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.
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
- serving time in a private city jail (such as the Pasadena City Jail or the Beverly Hills Jail rather than with the general population at a county jail like the Twin Towers),
- electronic monitoring,
- house arrest, or
- performing community labor like CALTRANS roadside work or community service.
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 a 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.
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.