Driving under the influence (DUI) essentially means operating an automobile while intoxicated either by alcohol or other drugs. The Orange County DUI Attorney highlights the essential aspects of DUI that you need to know and how our attorneys can help you if you are facing DUI-related charges in Aliso Viejo, CA.  

The Background of DUI Cases in the Orange County Area

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) notes that DUI cases in Orange County usually go on the rise over the December holidays, which is unfortunate. At the close of 2017, officers apprehended 39 people on suspicion of drunk driving as compared to the previous year where 24 people were arrested. On a broader scale, CHP seized 790 California motorists on suspected DUI charge in 2017 alone, which was a significant increase from 535 the previous year.

In this article, we examine the various charges that can occur to DUI suspects in Orange County and how you can find an Aliso Viejo DUI attorney. Just like any other criminal offense, hiring an attorney can make all the difference between wallowing in jail and getting a lenient sentence.

  1. First DUI Offense

If you have been a law-abiding citizen up until this point, a DUI offense will not attract weighty penalties, especially where no fatalities are involved. Nevertheless, please note that Orange County and the rest of California take drunk driving very seriously. You can expect the following charges for your first DUI apprehension:

  • Suspension of driver's license

Culprits of drunk driving are not allowed back on the road soon after the fact. First-time offenders are denied the right to drive for up to 4 months during which they are expected to have someone drive them around – like their spouse – or opt for ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft. If you have never driven home drunk before, the situation must be scary about getting back behind the wheel, still many rely on their vehicle on a daily basis.

If you make a living by driving – such as delivering packages or being a chauffeur – suspension of your driver's license will impact your earning capability.

  • Probation

The second form of punishment for drunk driving is serving probation of 3 to 5 years. Essentially, probation means being released from jail custody back to the community while being supervised by a probation officer. Accord this court-ordered decision and its accompanying conditions the weight it deserves.

For example, the court may demand attending counseling, paying restitution in case of damages, community service (like collecting garbage on the freeway), and such. Reporting to a probation officer on a regular basis is mandatory and failure to do so can lead to a jail sentence. You want to avoid this route as it paints a bad picture to your employer and may hurt future employment opportunities.

  • Alcohol classes (in person)

Whether or not you are battling an alcohol disorder, you will be required to attend alcohol classes in person. You cannot do this online or by proxy; you must sign in on the attendance sheet as proof of attendance. If you have trouble finding these classes in your locale, your probation officer will point you in the right direction. Don't be alarmed; such meetings uphold secrecy by every member. You may be asked to attend AA classes for 3, 6, or 9 months consecutively depending on case technicalities.

  • Base fines

A first-time offender may still be asked to pay fines that range from $390 to $1000 to the Orange County court system. Such penalties cover expenses accrued by the criminal justice system while processing your case. More importantly, they are meant to deter offenders from repeating these crimes. As well, the court will conduct extra penalty assessments to determine if you should pay more. Regardless of your financial situation, a veteran Aliso Viejo DUI attorney should refute prohibitive amounts, so you are not bulldozed by the system to pay more.

  • Time in a county jail

Some cases of drunk driving are so severe that a jail sentence is imminent. Nobody is immune to this penalty including high-profile OC residents and celebrities. Just as Robert Downey Jr. who went in and out of prison from 1996 to 2001 before finally cleaning up his act and becoming a well-paid movie star. In his heydays of criminal activity, this high-pedigree actor was infamously apprehended for missing a routine drug-testing. This example depicts just how serious the criminal justice system is even to the high and mighty let alone regular folks who contravene the law.

Under normal circumstances, the court gives prison sentences of 0 to 6 months, but the duration of the sentence may extend in extreme criminal acts. Early this month, a man was slapped with a four-year prison sentence after he caused a fatal crash on the Riverside (91) Freeway in Orange County. The court records showed the defendant was charged with ‘inattention' and driving above the speed limit thus causing gross vehicular manslaughter.

  • Other IID requirements

Sometimes, the court can mandate the defendant to wear an ignition interlock device (IID) around the ankle for about 12 months. In other cases, a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (IID) is attached to the defendant's car near the driver's seat. It is strategically interlocked with the vehicles ignition system. The driver blows into the mouthpiece of this device before turning the ignition – each time! Should the breath-alcohol concentration register higher than the programmed limit, BAIID prevents the engine from starting.

What's more, upon passing the initial breathalyzer test, IID asks for another test or a rolling retest. This is a secondary measure put in place just in case someone else – other than the actual driver – provided the initial sample. There is no gaming the system here! If you don't give a second sample or the alcohol content is higher than required, the IID warns you correspondingly then launches an alarm, as per California regulations, until you turn off the ignition.

IID are ingenious methods of keeping first-time DUI offenders out of more legal entanglements – your lawyer can only do so much, after all. Expert DUI attorneys in Orange County will inform you just as much.

  1. Second DUI (Within Ten Years)

Having seen the unforgiving nature of DUI charges, it is imperative that offenders learn their lesson and never go down this road – literally – again. Nonetheless, seasoned DUI lawyers have encountered their fair share of repeat offenders who regrettably find themselves in this legal predicament a second time. When this happens, the repeat offender is not handled softly, and they will need great Aliso Viejo DUI attorney to help them through this tumultuous round. A second DUI charge will attract much stiffer penalties as stipulated by the state’s criminal justice system. Here is the breakdown of what you can expect:

  • Driver's license suspension up to 2 years

Remember that inconveniencing license suspension? Well, this time you could be denied the right to drive for up to 24 months. Whether your job description entails driving or you merely drive to work, drop your kids to and from school, etc., this penalty is bothersome. You may have to result to carpools with neighbors, or find other modes of transportation.

  • 3 to 5 years of probation

With a second DUI charge, the court-ordered probationary period jumps from the bare minimum of 3 years to 5. Spending half a decade reporting to the courts is nobody's cup of tea, and it can significantly hamper various aspects of your life. For instance, I don't imagine that your bosses will be too pleased knowing that you are on probation. What if your probation officer shows up at work? What if they demand a mandatory drug and alcohol test at inopportune moments? No matter how obedient you are, five years of probation is a big secret to hide: there may be slip ups. By hiring an attorney who is adept at DUI charges, you bolster your chances of getting little to no probation sentence. 

  • 18 months of mandatory alcohol classes

At this point, attending alcohol classes is non-negotiable. How else can you convince a judge that you don't harbor an alcohol or drug problem? While you may not be addicted to these chemical substances, you are required to attend these classes to combat whatever nagging issue there is. After a second DUI charge, your lawyer will strongly advise you not to fight this. Obedience and humility, they say, will go a long way in fending off harsher penalties down the line.

  • AA meetings

If alcohol dependency is diagnosed, attending AA is invariable as the court will determine it's the best route to getting you on the mend. Not to belabor the point but these meetings are anonymous (and hence the term Alcohol Anonymous). In the end, dealing with a psychological issue that has been developing with or without your detection is vital. Remember, this penalty is about safeguarding your physical and mental wellbeing so embrace the opportunity. Your attorney will help you navigate the intricacies of speaking to employers, so you don't jeopardize your job as you take such measures of self-care. Any attempt to contradict this mandate could hurt your case severely, as your DUI attorney will explain to you in depth.

  • Base fines of $390 - $1,000 plus a host of penalty assessments

The penalties go higher with a second DUI charge, and this time, you could be asked to pay a hefty fine of $1000. Your DUI attorney will fight to reduce this fine to the bare minimum to keep you from sinking into unnecessary debt. What's more, they can challenge a plethora of other penalties that could hurt your finances significantly.

  • Four days to 1 year in county jail

Second-time DUI offenders are more than likely to spend time in an OC County jail for about eight days. Incarceration for this long inadvertently keeps you from employment opportunities or in the very least means taking a leave of absence from work. Whichever the scenario, spending time in jail will hurt your earning capabilities and possibly put a target on your back – you could be fired over this! In other cases, landlords will catch wind of your stint in jail and take the opportunity to evict you. You certainly cannot afford such a double-tragedy as the dominos may keep falling. Enlist the services of a reputable DUI attorney in the OC area to safeguard your job and accompanying interests.

  • IID requirements

As explained above in great detail, DUI charges usually come with IID requirements. Imagine having to test your alcohol level content each time you set to go pick up the kids, run errands, go to work, or even rush to the emergency room? Saying IID tools are a nuisance is definitely correct. If you are in this tight spot, you are better off finding the best Aliso Viejo DUI attorney to represent your best interests. Competent representation can save you from dealing with this nagging IID device so you can turn the ignition and drive without having to blow into a machine every time you start your car.​​

  1. Third DUI (Within 10 Years)

The third strike is not a laughing matter – not that the first two were – and you need experienced legal counsel to navigate this one. Don't entrust your fate to a lawyer with a lukewarm track record; you definitely need an aggressive attorney for this charge. If your life's choices have led you down this unwarranted path of DUIs for the third time in a decade, the penalties you will be facing are on another level.  Here is the breakdown of what you will be up against in court:

  • License suspension for up to 3 years

Please note, at this juncture, only the shrewdest Aliso Viejo DUI attorney can possibly rescue you from this charge.

  • Up to 5 years of probation

Breaking the law for the third consecutive time within ten years – for the same charge – is as grim as it gets. During previous offenses, the most extended probation duration was around three years, but this time, you could be in for five years. This sentence means half a decade of dealing with probation officers walking up to your door, calling you as they please, and sometimes showing up at work. It can become very cumbersome to manage. While doing away with this charge is an uphill battle, bolster your chances of reducing it by hiring the best legal counsel money can buy.

  • 120 days to 1 year in jail

Jail time is a real possibility after a third DUI charge only this time you could be incarcerated for four months to one year. Any prison sentence – however small – comes with baggage that never goes away; family and friends look at you sideways; employers get alarmed; landlords flee from you; and so much more negativity. A great lawyer will argue your case the best way they know how and keep this sentence to the bare minimum.

Other charges that come with a third DUI charge within ten years are as follows:

  • 18 months of alcohol classes
  • AA meetings
  • IID installed on the defendant's vehicle and other requirements
  1. Fourth DUI (Within Ten Years)

Any lawyer worth their salt will candidly tell you that being apprehended for drunk driving for the fourth time inside a decade spells real trouble. Some lawyers won't even touch these cases as they deem them as sure losses. On the upside, you can find an Aliso Viejo DUI attorney who is not opposed to such scenarios, and they are willing to put their reputation on the line for you. Should you find yourself in this unfortunate juncture, here are the charges you may face:

  • Felony charges

Most DUI charges in the OC are quintessentially categorized as misdemeanors, but a fourth strike is elevated to a felony DUI. These are much more complex, and the accompanying charges are severe going as far as incarceration in county jail or worse off, state prison.

Other plausible charges for a fourth DUI include:

  • Driver's license suspension for up to 48 months
  • Mandatory alcohol classes of 1.5 years
  • Court-ordered AA meetings

In sum, the OC has a long-running DUI problem that seems to get worse year on year which is becoming a concern for authorities. People who are battling alcohol and drug dependencies need to seek professional assistance sooner than later. Such traffic-related offenses are not taken lightly by the criminal justice system, and a defendant's high-profile nature (or lack thereof) doesn't count. Whether this is your first, the second, third, or the fourth DUI, do not gamble with your freedom and subsequently your earning potential. Speak to a DUI attorney soon after the fact.

Get a DUI Attorney Near Me

Despite having different cases of DUI, Aliso Viejo residents can access proper DUI case evaluation and representation from the Orange County DUI Attorney. If you want to solve your case with the professionalism and expertise it deserves, you can call us at 949-377-2280 to begin your DUI defense process.