California defines driving under the influence as operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or when the driver has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. California's ‘per se’ DUI law prohibits minors from operating a vehicle with a BAC level of 0.01% or higher. Commercial license holders drivers can be charged when their BAC levels are 0.04% or higher. As stated in California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b), it is illegal for individuals on probation to operate a vehicle with a BAC level of 0.01% or higher. DUI arrests-conviction ratio statistics for Orange County is quite high, as approximately out of the 13,000 arrests made 90% of the cases are convicted. That is why Orange County DUI Attorney offers the best legal representation so that you can avoid potentially devastating consequences.

What Happens During a DUI Arrest

Every DUI arrest happens differently, but some features are still common. The police usually pull motorists over, due to signs of impairment such as swerving, erratic driving or speeding or a traffic violation. If the police have a reasonable cause, they can legally pull you over. Reasonable cause, also known as probable cause, means that there is a fair amount of suspicion that you have violated the law. The police can stop your car at a checkpoint even without evidence of wrongdoing. If you are a resident of Cowan Heights City, you might be arrested by the Orange County Sheriff.

The officer might begin by asking for your valid license and registration. He or she will most likely note down any signs of impairment like you having problems finding your documents or the odor of drugs or alcohol. The observations noted down will be recorded on the police report and used as evidence during your trial.

During the stop, the police will question you to determine if there are any signs of impairment. In most cases, the police might ask if you had anything to drink. If you agree with the officer but state that you had just a few glasses, the officer will most likely ask you to blow on the breathalyzer.

When the police have probable cause to suspect there is incriminating evidence in your vehicle, the officer has a right to search your car without a warrant. If the officer sees or smells drugs in your car, that gives them a reason to believe there are drugs present in your vehicle. In this case, the police can search the trunk of your car or any closed containers found in your vehicle. The police can also search your vehicle with your consent.

Taking Roadside Tests

The police can seek confirmation of your suspicion on drunk driving by using two roadside tests. The roadside tests include Field Sobriety Test FSTs and a Preliminary Alcohol Screening test, commonly known as a breathalyzer. The tests are voluntary, and they can only perform the analysis with your permission.

Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are several mental exercises and physical procedures that assist the police in determining if they should arrest you on suspicion of DUI. It is not in your best interest to perform the test as you can not pass due to unrelated alcohol or drug reasons such as clothing, medical problems, age, weight, improper observation, or incorrect instructions. There are three common standardized FSTs:

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test involves following a pen or another object with your eyes while holding your head still. The officer will pay attention to the angle at which your pupil starts to show an unintended jerking of the eye.

The Walk and Turn test requires you to focus on both mental and physical exercises at the simultaneously. The officer will need you to abide by and remember instructions while executing either taking heel to toe steps forward and backward or pivoting around physical movements. The officer will observe whether you step off the line, balance,  take the incorrect amount of steps, or fail to turn correctly.

The third test is the One Leg Stand test, where the officer directs you to raise one leg six inches off the ground, hold still, count numbers, and look down at your feet. The officer will look for shaking signs, hops, or whether you put your feet down before the time countdown to determine your impairment level.

The National Highway Traffic Administration concludes that the three standardized FSTs are reliable to determine whether a driver has a blood alcohol concentration of .1% or more.

Although these three are the approved reliable indicators, there are other common non-standardized FSTs such as alphabet recitation, hand pat, number countdown, four-finger count, and vertical gaze nystagmus.

Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test

A PAS device, also known as a portable breath test machine is a hand-held device that the police use to assess a driver's breath alcohol concentration. The results may not be as accurate compared to the blood or breath tests conducted at the hospital or the police station. It is only used to estimate your blood alcohol concentration level but can not be used against you in a court of law. The officer will use the results to assess whether there is probable cause for a DUI arrest.

After performing the tests and the police determine there is probable cause for your arrest for drunk driving, you will be cuffed and taken to the police station or local jail.

The police will then have your vehicle towed to an impound lot. The officer will conduct an inventory search on your lawfully impounded vehicle. The inventory search is not done to look for incriminating evidence but protect your property and insure against claims of stolen, lost, or damaged property. The search is also done to guard officers against dangers imposed by the contents of your car.

What to Do After a DUI Arrest

After the arrest, the officer will take you into police custody so you can be booked and processed. During the booking, the police will:

  • Record your personal information, such as name, date of birth, and physical characteristics.
  • Note down information about your alleged crime.
  • Conduct a record search of your criminal background to determine any prior offenses.
  • Photograph, take your fingerprint and search you.
  • Confiscate any personal property found on you.
  • Place you in a local jail or police station holding cell.

The state of California has implied consent laws that require motorists lawfully arrested to submit to chemical testing. The breath or blood testing conducted is done to measure your blood alcohol concentration levels. Refusal to provide a chemical test will add refusal allegations to your charges, and you will carry additional penalties. The other penalties in California include mandatory two days of jail time and suspending your driver's license for one year.

You should then contact our local Cowan Heights DUI attorney to represent you in a court of law. It is challenging to decide the best law firm to handle your DUI case, especially if you are a recent resident of the Cowan Heights City. You should seek the services of a specialized DUI attorney who invests their time and resources to develop an extensive defensive plan.  Having a lawyer can also minimize the time you have to spend in court. A Cowan Heights DUI attorney will be present for all your regular court appearances, so you do not have to appear for all court dates personally.

You may get a written promise to appear in court on the day of the court case known as own recognizance, or you may be released on bail. The decision depends on your criminal history and the facts of your case. If you are not allowed to post the bond at the police station, the judge will decide on whether to allow release on bail at a separate hearing or at the arraignment. If the bail amount is not predetermined through a bail schedule, the judge may set the amount based on:

  • Your DUI and criminal history
  • The seriousness of your DUI offense by assessing the facts of the case, such as injury to others.
  • Your ties to your employment, community, and family.

If you can not afford bail, you can hire the services of a bail bond agent who will charge a fee for the posting of your bond.

The police officer will then take your California driver's license and issue you with a document known as Suspension/Revocation Order and Temporary driver license. You should make a formal request for a DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest to determine whether you are allowed to keep your driver's license.

For arrests made in Cowan Heights City, the police reports about your DUI case will be submitted to the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. The prosecutor will either decline to file charges against you or formally charge you with California Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC depending on the evidence.

California DMV Procedure for DUI Defendants

California law requires a DUI defendant to face two separate legal proceedings. You will be arraigned in California courts to withstand a criminal charge for DUI and also present yourself at a California Department of Motor Vehicles hearing to determine what will happen to your California driver's license.

You have ten days from the day of your arrest to request a Driver Safety Administrative hearing. Failure to do so will result in the suspension of license after 30 days. Our local Cowan Heights DUI attorney will contact the driver safety office nearest to the location of your arrest to schedule a DMV hearing. The DMV hearing is an administrative procedure that determines your driving privileges but can not jail or fine you.

A DMV officer will be presiding over the hearing, which can take place in an office or over the phone instead of a courtroom. You have the right to an attorney at the DMV hearing, but you will not be provided one in the event you are unable to afford one. A Cowan Heights DUI attorney from our firm can attend the DMV hearing on your behalf.  Although a DMV hearing is different from a DUI criminal charge, you are entitled to standard court procedures such as to subpoena a witness or cross-examine witnesses. You are also allowed to testify on your behalf and challenge the presented evidence.

The DMV hearing officer will consider the following issues to determine your driving privileges:

  • Did the arresting officer have probable cause to suspect you were driving under the influence?
  • If you were driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher.
  • If you allegedly refused to submit to a chemical blood or breath test.

After consideration of these issues, the DMV officer will either decide to suspend your license based on the allegation, which is known as sustaining the action or reverse the suspension. If your driver's license suspension is overturned, which is also referred to as setting aside the action, it is similar to a not guilty verdict.

Common Defenses in a DUI DMV Hearing

You can use the not driving defense if no evidence reasonably establishes you were driving. If the officer did not personally observe you driving or a witness is presented at hearing to testify seeing you driving, then the hearing officer should set aside your driver's license suspension.

If you were arrested at an illegal DUI sobriety checkpoint that does not conform to legal requirements indicated in the California DUI law, then the arrest was unlawful. Any evidence found on you will not be presented at the DMV hearing, and you should win the case.

If there was a lack of probable cause to detain you, then the DMV hearing officer will set aside your driver's license suspension. Your defense lawyer can argue that you obeyed all traffic laws, and therefore the officer did not have a reasonable amount of suspicion to pull you over.

The DMV hearing officer will set aside your driver’s license suspension if there are psychological explanations for your false high BAC level. In case your BAC level was greater than 0.08% but was because of unrelated alcohol consumption reasons, your lawyer should present the evidence, and you can win the case. The false reading may be caused by medications, food substances, or residual mouth alcohol.

If the breath testing instrument did not undergo an accuracy check after every ten days or 150 blows, then the reading presented may be inaccurate. The DMV hearing officer should reverse your driver's license suspension.

What Happens in a DUI Criminal Court Case

Your arraignment will happen just a few days after your arrest as you have the right to a speedy arraignment. At your appearance, the judge will read the criminal charges against you, ask if you have an attorney or you need a court-appointed attorney. You will also have the opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to your California DUI charges. If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced, and your DUI case closed.

Even though most DUI cases do not reach the preliminary hearing stage, your lawsuit will most likely be resolved through a plea bargain between you and the prosecution. If you plead not guilty, a trial will be scheduled. At the pretrial hearing, you or your Cowan Heights DUI attorney can review and challenge the evidence by filing a motion to suppress the evidence. The evidence may include incriminating statements, police reports, or the results of the chemical testing instrument. After filing the motions, the court will then set a trial hearing and make final judgments.

The DUI trial begins with the selection of jurors to hear the case. Then the prosecutor and your attorney will both give opening statements. Each side will then present acceptable evidence that might include field sobriety tests, witness testimonies, photographs, BAC tests, and videos. After presenting the evidence, both sides will give closing arguments and wait for the jury's contemplation of guilt.

After you are convicted or you plead guilty, a judge will decide on the appropriate punishment during the sentencing phase of your criminal case. The judge may enhance or reduce a sentence based upon factors specific to your crime.

California DUI Penalties and Driver’s License Suspension

If you are convicted of DUI in California for the first time, you will receive a jail sentence of up to six months in county jail. You will also be required to pay fines of between $390 to $1000. Although the installation of an Ignition Interlock Devices is not mandatory for a first time offender, your license will be suspended for four months if you fail to install one for six months. You can drive to and from work for five months with a restricted license. Attendance of a three or nine-month court-approved education program is mandatory.

For a second offense DUI misdemeanor within a period of ten years, you will get probation of three to five years, a jail term of 96 hours to one year in county jail, and fines of between $390 to $1000. You must install the IID for one year, or your license will be suspended for two years. You can convert your suspended license to a restricted one after one year. You will also be required to attend an 18 month or 30 months DUI school approved by California court.

If you are convicted for the third time within ten years, you will face three to five years of probation, fines of between $390 and $1000, a jail term of 120 days to one year in county jail. You must complete 30 months of California DUI school. It compulsory to install an IID for two years, or your driver's license will be suspended for three years and can only be converted to a restricted one after 18 months.

If your DUI caused an accident that resulted in an injury of another person, your case will be classified as a wobbler. For a misdemeanor DUI injury, you will face three to five years of probation or a minimum of five days to a maximum of one year in county jail. You are required to pay fines of between $390 and $1000, sign up for three, 18, or 30 months DUI school, and install an IID for six months, or your license will be suspended for one year.

If your case is charged as a felony DUI with injury, you will receive prison time of six months to ten years in California State Prison, fines between $1,015 and 5000, and attendance of 18 to 30 months DUI school. You will face an additional one to six years prison sentence based on the number of people injured and the extent of their injuries. You will get a habitual traffic offender status for three years and a strike on your record. Your license will be suspended if you fail to install an IID for two to three years.

How to Reinstate your Suspended Driver’s License

You are entitled to transform your license suspension into a restricted license after a specific period from the date you lose a DMV hearing. After serving your license suspension period, you can reinstate your license by fulfilling the following specifications:

  • Paying the $125 reinstatement fee,
  • Enrolling in a California DUI school preferably one close to Cowan Heights City, and
  • Once you submit an SR-22 insurance form.

Find a DUI Attorney Near Me

Driving under the influence is a severe charge in California as you put the lives of the community at risk. You need a competent attorney that has good relationships with the judges and the prosecutor, and skills to negotiate with the prosecution. If you are in Cowan Heights, contact the Orange County DUI Attorney at 949-377-2280 for experienced DUI case representation.