Facing a DUI charge is a stressful endeavor, and it can have serious, unforeseen consequences. License suspension, charges on your permanent record, and jail time are all possible outcomes for a DUI charge, and finding the right legal team that can help you avoid these penalties is crucial for avoiding any serious infractions on your record. Finding a legal team to support you throughout the process, especially when facing a harsher DUI sentence, is crucial for helping you reach the best outcome for your case. In the Ontario area, no other law firm compares to the expertise of the Law Office of Daniel P. Flores.
A DUI, which stands for driving under the influence, is the act of operating any vehicle while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. California Vehicle Code Sections 23152(b) and 23152(c) prohibit the operation of any motor vehicle while under the influence of any alcohol or drug, whether that be drunk driving or driving while high.
Whether or not you feel actively intoxicated, either because of your tolerance or mental state, the determining factor for a DUI rests in your blood alcohol content (BAC). For adults over the age of 21, a BAC of .08% or higher is considered intoxicated, and if tested, this can be used as proof of a DUI. For minors and those under the age of 21, a BAC of .05% or higher is needed to indicate intoxication, and this reading is typically referred to as an “underaged DUI.”
DUI charges range in severity.However, the base of the charge is always operating a vehicle under the influence. For drug and alcohol charges, chemical testing, alongside visual indicators like ignoring traffic laws or driving erratically, can be used as probable cause for a DUI conviction. For example, if you begin veering off towards one side of the road, this can be an indicator of intoxication. This is not always the case, though, and other factors could be the root cause of your driving.
Although erratic driving can be a tell-tale sign of someone driving under the influence, other factors, such as sleep deprivation, medical problems, and even avoiding obstacles on the road, can contribute to that behavior as well. You should never plead guilty to driving under the influence, regardless of the evidence presented.
In some cases, a DUI charge can come from the presumption of being under the influence, called a per se DUI. These cases rely on chemical testing to determine whether the driver was under the influence at the time of the arrest. Because of the fragility of the evidence needed for these cases, the phrasing of being “under the influence” brings these cases under heavy speculation because of how hard they are to prove without chemical testing like a breathalyzer test. That being said, any DUI-related conviction should be given the same legal attention, helping you find a legal team able to prepare the best defense for your case.
In many instances where a police officer will pull you over for a suspected DUI, they might try and coerce you into taking a breathalyzer test by threatening legal action. In California, there is no law barring you from refusing a sobriety test in the field, meaning that you are within your right to refuse these initial tests if suspected of a DUI.
Once you refuse these tests, you are required to take a blood, urine, or breathalyzer test after your arrest. California’s implied consent laws surrounding your driver’s license require chemical testing after your arrest, not before. This means up until the point of your actual arrest, you are legally entitled to refuse any chemical testing.
After getting arrested for a DUI, you will have your license suspended for 30 days and be issued a temporary license for the time being. Depending on whether you post bail for your arrest, you may have to spend time in jail until your bail is officially posted. Afterward, you will be given a court date for your prosecution. For those looking to avoid a license suspension, you must file for a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days of your arrest. This is the best time for you to contact a defense attorney to help with your case.
During this time, the DMV will hold an administrative per se hearing to determine the suspension of your license. As mentioned previously, securing legal representation for these hearings can help allow you to combat a license suspension, but pleading for a hearing must take place within ten days of your arrest before your license is formally suspended. The outcome of your DMV hearing is separate from the legal proceedings of your case, and it can only be used to determine the administrative side of your case, not the legal repercussions.
After your DMV hearing, you are brought before a judge for an arraignment, where you have your case presented before the court to determine the case’s outcome. For some, these cases can end in a plea deal, but for others, they may be argued in front of a jury. Regardless of the evidence brought forward by the prosecution, using this hearing to outline the holes in their reasoning is essential to formulating a strong case. For example, if you can prove that you were coerced into taking a field sobriety test by an officer after they convinced you it was illegal to refuse these tests, this misuse of power can be used to benefit your case. It proves an obvious breach of your right to refuse testing before an arrest.
In California, within tendays of your license suspension, you are allowed to petition the DMV to request a postponement of your license suspension. Although you must take this action within ten days of your arrest, your hearing will most likely be scheduled farther out, and the required suspension of your license will not begin until after your hearing. For example, if your request for a hearing is granted, but your hearing date is set to six weeks after you are granted your request, you will maintain ownership of your license for the time being.
Similarly, if you are not granted the ability to have a hearing, or you fail to request a hearing within ten days of your arrest, your legally mandated 30-day suspension will start. Finding legal representation to navigate this process is essential for formulating a strong case that can be presented at this hearing, helping you avoid an unnecessary suspension.
In most cases, DUI convictions are treated as misdemeanors and come with a specific set of suspensions, fines, jail time, and probation that follows. Depending on prior convictions, as well as outlying factors that surround your conviction, the level of escalation and penalty can vary. Here is a full breakdown of misdemeanor DUI convictions and subsequent penalties.
A first-time misdemeanor DUI conviction includes:
A second-time misdemeanor DUI conviction includes:
A third-time misdemeanor DUI conviction includes:
In some situations, a DUI conviction can be considered a felony based on external factors relating to the initial conviction. For example, if you were convicted of a DUI and your driving caused another accident or the death of another person, you may have your charges escalated to the felony level. These charges are usually contingent on the harm caused to others, so a first-time DUI charge involving injuries to another party will hold less weight than those resulting in vehicular manslaughter. Compounding DUI convictions can also lead to a felony, and for those facing a fourth DUI charge, this will automatically lead to a felony.
Compounding DUI charges can also change the level that they are persecuted, leading to harsher penalties for subsequent convictions. Outside factors are still considered when determining the level of escalation for your case. Therefore, a second-time DUI conviction that includes a vehicular manslaughter charge can, and most likely will, receive a harsher sentence than a third-time per se DUI conviction. That being said, the right legal team can be a huge benefit for these convictions, helping you potentially reduce the charges and receive a lighter sentence.
California’s Three Strikes sentencing law, enacted in 1994, was put into place to make those who have been convicted of multiple felonies susceptible to more jail time if convicted of three felony charges. These charges are reserved for “violent crimes,” which are legally pursued and charged as felonies. If you were to be charged with armed robbery three times in a row, this third conviction, regardless of evidence, would be considered your third strike, and you would have to serve 25 years to life in prison with no parole.
In the case of a DUI conviction, the number of previous convictions, as well as the rest of your criminal record, can make your conviction be considered a third strike. Felony DUI convictions that contain a violent crime, such as vehicular manslaughter, can count toward California’s three strikes law. Depending on your past convictions, it could require jail time. Securing a defense attorney for these charges, especially if you are facing a third strike, is the best plan of action for helping you avoid mandatory jail time.
Depending on the level of escalation for your initial charge, as well as your prior convictions, a DUI has the possibility of going on your permanent criminal record. For common misdemeanor DUIs, a previous DUI conviction only stays on your driving record for ten years, meaning that if you received a DUI conviction over ten years ago, your next conviction would count as your first. If your DUI convictions are within ten years of each other, they will count as first, second, or third offenses depending on your prior convictions and the timeframe in between them.
For felony DUI charges, these convictions are also listed on your driving record for ten years.However, depending on the outlying circumstances surrounding your case, they can be listed on your permanent criminal record. For example, if you are convicted of a felony DUI charge, including vehicular manslaughter, this charge will end up on your permanent record forever and can be used for any future sentencing surrounding California’s three strikes law. In terms of your criminal record, these charges will remain on your permanent record indefinitely. The only way to get rid of these charges is through expungement.
For any legal matter, having a competent legal team to help with your case is imperative to have your case handled smoothly. Between navigating the DMV hearing process to ensuring that your case is properly represented in court, a strong legal team is always beneficial for any legal proceeding. For DUI cases specifically, having a legal team able to help you navigate the circumstances surrounding a DUI and the aftermath of a possible conviction can be immensely helpful for understanding your next steps in the hearing process.
At the Law Office of Daniel P. Flores, our legal team is well-versed in California’s DUI laws and can help you work through your case. We can assemble the necessary information to help you avoid more negative case outcomes. For more information about our firm, as well as a complete list of our practice areas, visit our website and contact us today.
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