Former Police & Prosecutors who now help citizens fight their Ventura County DUI Cases
Our Ventura County DUI lawyers defend clients against misdemeanor DUI, California felony DUI, DUI with injury, and vehicular manslaughter cases throughout the County. We also represent clients at DMV hearings to contest driver's license suspensions.
Ventura County criminal defense attorney John Murray was born and raised here, and he knows how the system works. DUI lawyer Murray has secured "not guilty" verdicts, dismissals, and charge reductions in even the most difficult cases. And he has helped countless clients save their driver's licenses and thus their livelihoods.
The DUI process in Ventura differs from many other counties. To help you make sense of it, below we will explain step-by-step the following:
Most Ventura County DUI arrests are conducted by the CHP, Sheriffs Department, Ventura Police, Oxnard Police, Simi Valley Police, or other local law enforcement agencies.
After the traffic stop, the officers will generally ask you to perform roadside field sobriety tests and to blow twice into a handheld breathalyzer called a PAS (Preliminary Alcohol Screening) device. If the officers believe you are under the influence, they will arrest you for DUI. Sometimes they will ask you to submit to an additional blood or breath test after the arrest.
Most suspects get taken to a local police station or to the Ventura County Jail Pre-Trial Detention Facility. For a felony drunk driving, DUI with injury, or other more serious case, the suspect will be detained and brought to court within two business days unless Ventura County bail is posted. Otherwise, most DUI suspects get released automatically within 24 hours of arrest (without having to post Ventura County bail).
Following a Ventura County DUI arrest, the police will give you two papers: A citation to appear in court at a future date, and a pink temporary license that expires in 30 days. You or your Ventura County criminal defense attorney must contact the DMV within 10 days of the arrest to request a hearing. If not, you will lose your driving privileges at the end of the 30 days.
People cited into court for a Ventura County DUI charge will go for arraignment (the first court date) in Department 10 of the Hall of Justice or Department S1 of the East County Courthouse in Simi Valley. If you hire a Ventura County DUI lawyer, he/she can usually go to court on your behalf (meaning you do not have to appear).
The judge in Courtroom 10 will ask you or your attorney to enter a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty" to the drunk driving charge. The Ventura Court stopped setting DUI cases for "pre-trials" as of July 1, 2009. If the plea is "not guilty," the DUI case will be set for a jury trial. You may keep the case in the arraignment court by continuing the arraignment, but you must eventually enter a guilty or not guilty plea.
The District Attorney changed its positions on sentencing effective July 1, 2009. The sentence gets more severe depending on your blood alcohol level. The higher the level, the more jail time or work release. And, if you do not accept the D.A.'s offer in the arraignment court, the penalty will increase after you set the case for trial.
If you decide to take your case to trial, you will be assigned a particular courtroom once you announce you are ready for trial and they have a courtroom available. Each defendant has a "speedy trial right," meaning the trial must begin by a certain date. If the D.A. is not ready to proceed by that date, or no courtroom is available to accommodate the case, it may get dismissed altogether before a trial even starts.
If you or your lawyer contacts the DMV within ten days of the DUI arrest to request a hearing, one will be set at the Oxnard Driver Safety Office. The hearing may get set months away. If you also request a "stay of suspension," no driver's license suspension will be imposed until the outcome of the hearing is determined.
If you hire a Ventura County DUI defense attorney, he/she can represent you at the DMV hearing as well. You may or may not be asked to attend. Your attorney can use the hearing to subpoena and obtain valuable evidence in the case, and can even call the arresting officer as a witness and question the police officer about mistakes and problems in the case.
Thus we can use the DMV hearing not only as a chance to save your driver's license. We can also use the hearing to collect and generate valuable evidence that increases our chances of beating the DUI case in court.
After the Ventura County DMV hearing takes place, the hearing officer will take the matter under advisement and later issue a written determination. This can take from one to 30 days. If the hearing officer finds in your favor, no driver's license suspension takes place (though a separate suspension may take effect if you get convicted of a Ventura DUI in criminal court). If the hearing officer finds against you, your license goes into suspension several days after you receive written notice.
Unlike other California prosecuting agencies, the Ventura County District Attorney does not "plea bargain" DUI cases down to wet reckless, dry reckless, or other lesser offenses. From a defendant's point of view, this policy can be seen as good and bad.
The lack of Ventura County plea bargaining is bad insofar as you do not get the opportunity to have the DUI charges reduced to something with lesser ramifications. But the policy is good in that Ventura prosecutors are sometimes willing to dismiss a DUI case altogether -- if they can be convinced that deficiencies in the evidence make it unlikely that a jury trial will result in a conviction.
A good Ventura County DUI defense attorney will therefore scrutinize every aspect of the case. Invariably we find problems in the evidence and DUI defenses that we can take advantage of in negotiating with the prosecutor. If negotiations fail, we can draw on this preparation and take the case to jury trial. If the jury returns a "not guilty" verdict, the case is dismissed.
Ventura County is known for being particularly harsh when it comes to DUI sentencing. Even for a first time DUI, defendants receive jail time (or work release) and unusually steep fines. Specifically, punishment for a first offense Ventura DUI includes:
- A minimum 48 hours in Ventura County Jail1 or Five days of Work Release2
- A Three-month Ventura County DUI School
- Three Years of Probation3
- Fines & Penalties of Approximately $3,000
- A Six-Month Driver's License Suspension
On a second-time Ventura DUI, the court imposes sentencing of five years probation, 30 days of Ventura County Jail or work furlough4, and an 18-month DUI school. On a third offense, the jail sentence is a minimum 120 days.
Ventura County operates its own DUI schools with locations in Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, and Simi Valley. A person convicted of DUI in the County must contact the Alcohol Coordinator at (805) 981-9210 within five days of sentencing to enroll. Depending on the number of prior DUI convictions, BAC level, and other facts, Ventura County DUI school can last from three months to 18 months and can cost from $780 to nearly $2500.
If you reside in another county or state, it usually is possible to attend another California DUI alcohol school or a comparable out-of-state program. These arrangements must be made with the Ventura Alcohol Coordinator and with the court in the case of a DUI program outside California.
1If there is a Ventura County Jail sentence, the person generally must surrender within a month of the DUI sentencing date. If the person lives outside of Ventura County, it can often be arranged for him/her to serve the jail time at another local custody facility.
2Work release may be denied if the person's BAC comes back 0.15% or greater, or the person causes an accident in which someone is injured. If work release is granted, the person must go to Room 205 of the Ventura Hall of Justice and enroll within five days of the DUI sentencing. The County will charge a $148 enrollment fee and a daily administrative fee of $36.
3The Ventura County Probation Department is located in Room A of the Hall of Justice. You must enroll within five days of DUI sentencing. Even in misdemeanor DUI cases, the probation is considered "formal probation." However, most of the reporting is done through written forms as opposed to live meetings with a probation officer.
4Under the work furlough program, you spend your nights in the Ventura County Jail and are released during the day to attend work. The program allows inmates to keep their jobs while serving out their jail sentences.