Due to the strict nature of California DUI laws, it is easy for one to be arrested on DUI allegations. Moreover, since DUI is treated as a serious offense, its conviction comes with severe penalties that no one would want to be subjected to. When you get arrested, however, it doesn’t mean that you are guilty and are going to jail right away. You still have a chance to defend yourself, and with the help of an experienced attorney, it may turn out that you are innocent.

Often, when people get arrested, they get confused and overwhelmed in that they end up pleading guilty to false charges. This happens because these people do not know what to expect or do after an arrest. The Orange County DUI Attorney will explain the basic DUI aspects you should know and how an attorney can help if you are charged with DUI in Laguna Woods, CA.

The arrest

Many of the California DUI-related arrests happen when a driver is pulled over by a traffic officer or when he/she is stopped at a DUI checkpoint for a routine inspection. The officer will ask you to blow two times into a Breathalyzer and do multiple field sobriety tests if they suspect you are driving under the influence.

If you fail the Breathalyzer and the field sobriety tests, you will be placed under arrest and taken to jail, police station, or hospital. Here, the arresting officer will want you to do a breath or blood test, otherwise known as chemical tests. The law requires you to take these tests, failure to which may subject you to tougher penalties, including a driver’s license suspension for one year.

For most minor arrests, the officer will set you free after a short time of the arrest and being booked. However, if you are arrested on serious allegations, you may need to post bail. Before being released, the officer will give you two documents; a temporary driver’s license (pink in color) and a citation to make court appearances. Usually, the arresting officer will confiscate your original California driver’s license and send it to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you are from another state and are arrested for DUI in California, the police cannot confiscate your physical license.

You can apply for an ignition interlock device (IID) restricted license immediately you are arrested. An IID is a device that prevents you from starting your vehicle if your BAC is above the legal limit. The restricted license enables you to continue operating your car without limitations provided an IID is installed. The period the restricted license will last depends on your DUI record.

The DMV Administrative Process

After your arrest, you have to get in touch with the DMV before ten days end to request a hearing to prevent license suspension. If you don’t do this within ten days, you will lose the right to a DMV hearing and cannot request it again. Your driver’s license then gets suspended automatically after thirty days.

We advise that you hire a Laguna Woods DUI Attorney since he/she could schedule the hearing on your behalf. It is better to involve an attorney because he/she can schedule the hearing in a way that you get adequate time to prepare. Additionally, the attorney may be able to influence which hearing officer is assigned to your case.

In most cases, your Laguna Woods DUI Attorney will conduct the hearing for you. You may skip the hearing, especially if you are not testifying. Your attorney’s main duty is to persuade the DMV not to suspend your license. However, he/she may also utilize the hearing and collect proof that he/she may use in your DUI court case.

After the hearing, the DMV hearing officer issues his/her findings of the case. It takes not more than thirty days for the findings to be issued. The notice of the findings is usually mailed to you. If the findings favor you, your license will not be suspended. Moreover, if they are against you, the license will be suspended shortly after receiving notice. Note that even in case the DMV doesn’t suspend your license, a court conviction can trigger a distinct suspension.

Also, it is worth noting that a DMV hearing will only be conducted if you were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. If you were arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, a DMV hearing wouldn’t occur.

Court Proceedings

If at the time of your arrest, your BAC exceeded .08%, you will most likely be charged with two offenses. That is, ordinary DUI under VC 23152a as well as DUI under VC 23152b, Driving with Excessive BAC.

Your attorney can, most likely, attend court proceedings on your behalf, except if there is a hearing where you should testify, or if your case proceeds to trial. Many drunk driving cases involve multiple court dates, which are spread out over several months. Within this period, your attorney gathers proof, negotiates for a charge reduction or dismissal with the prosecutor and judge, and runs motions.

If your attorney and the prosecutor reach a settlement that involves you pleading guilty to the offense or to a reduced charge, your case will end in either of these two ways. One way is that you may appear in court to plead guilty personally before the judge. The other way is, your attorney may have you sign notarized documents out of court and then bring them to court to effect the plea for you.

If the parties cannot settle on any deal, the case will proceed to a jury trial. When a case reaches this step, prosecuting attorneys and judges will often offer better deals since there might be many trials on the line than there are courtrooms to accommodate them. Additionally, mistakes in the prosecution’s proof become more evident when the case is investigated thoroughly.

All DUI convictions carry a license suspension penalty. However, by agreeing to install an IID in his/her car, it is possible for a defendant to continue operating his/her vehicle without any restrictions.

Cases Handled by Us

When you are arrested on DUI allegations, you may be charged differently based on the facts of your case. In many cases, the charges will be based on whether you have ever had a previous DUI conviction and if your DUI resulted in an injury. Many of these charges are misdemeanors. However, when you cause an injury or if it’s your fourth or subsequent DUI offense, it is always a felony charge. Common DUI charges you can face in Laguna Woods include:

  • First DUI offense.
  • Second DUI offense.
  • Third DUI offense.
  • Fourth DUI offense.
  • Aggravated DUI.
  • DUI causing Injury/great bodily injury.
  • Underage DUI.
  • DUI homicide/Watson murder.
  • Non-immigrant Visa DUI.
  • Military DUI.
  • DUI of drugs.

First DUI offense

A person is charged with First Offense DUI if he/she gets caught drunk driving for the first time. Provided your criminal record has no drunk driving conviction; your DUI act will be charged as a first offense. Usually, a first DUI offense is a misdemeanor. Its penalties include:

  • A maximum of six months county jail time.
  • A maximum of $1,000 in fines.
  • License suspension for up to six months (after serving one month, you may qualify for an IID restricted license).
  • Up to four months of DMV administrative license suspension ( the suspension may go up to a year if you refused to take a chemical test).
  • Up to five years of probation.
  • A three months DUI School program ( and up to nine months if your BAC was .02% or higher).

Since you are a first-time offender, the penalties are not as severe as they are for repeat offenders. However, depending on the factors surrounding the case, first-time offenders can also face harsher penalties, for instance, driving with a child passenger.

Second DUI offense

You face second offense DUI charges if you are caught drunk driving for the second time within ten years of the first conviction. The punishments for this are a bit harsher compared to a first offense. If convicted, you will be subjected to a fine of up to $1,000, which may increase to $4,000 when penalty assessments are added.

You will also face a maximum of a one-year county jail sentence and a one-year driver’s license suspension by the court.  The suspension could go up to two years if you refuse to submit to a chemical test. Additionally, you may face a one-year administrative license suspension by the DMV. After serving three months of your jail time, you may qualify for an IID restricted license.

To add to the above penalties, you may face up to five years of probation, and between eighteen to thirty months of DUI School program. Second offense penalties also include a mandatory IID installation in your car for a year. However, your Laguna Woods DUI Attorney can negotiate for lenient penalties, for example, house arrest rather than jail time.

Third DUI offense

You will be charged with a third DUI offense if you are caught drunk driving for the third time within ten years of the previous conviction. This is also a misdemeanor offense, but it carries more severe penalties than the first and second offenses. Its consequences include a maximum fine of $1,000, which plus assessment fee could increase to $18,000. You may also be jailed for one year and face a one -year license suspension. The suspension goes to up to three years if you refuse a chemical testing.  After serving your jail time for six months, you may be eligible for an IID restricted license.

Also, you may be subjected to a maximum of five years of summary probation and a thirty-month DUI School program. You will also have to install an IID in your car for two years and will have a habitual traffic offender title.

Fourth DUI offense

A fourth offense DUI is a felony. Its penalties include up to three years in State prison, formal probation, a maximum of $1,000 in fines, and a thirty-months DUI School Program. Additionally, your license will be suspended for a maximum of five years.

Aggravated DUI

When certain factors are present in your DUI case, they may impact negatively on your sentencing. These factors could give the impression that your crime was more severe than a regular DUI. Such factors are known as aggravating factors. The judge considers them during sentencing, and they are what lead to sentence enhancement. However, your Laguna DUI Attorney can fight for the removal of these factors from your case so you can face lenient penalties. Aggravating factors include:

  • DUI with a child passenger.
  • DUI causing accident.
  • DUI while on probation.
  • Refusal to submit to chemical tests.
  • DUI on an expired/suspended license.
  • DUI hit and run.
  • DUI above the speed limit/reckless driving.
  • DUI a BAC of .20% or more.

DUI causing Injury/great bodily injury

If during your DUI you inflicted an injury on another person, you will be charged with a DUI causing injury offense. The offense is prosecuted under VC 23153a&b, and it can be a felony or a misdemeanor based on your criminal record and the facts of your case.

Misdemeanor charges carry a maximum of five years of summary probation, a maximum of a one-year jail sentence, up to 5,000 in fines, a DUI School program for 30 months, a six-months compulsory IID installation, a one-year license suspension, restitution to the victim.

You would face felony charges if you caused great bodily injury. The consequences include a maximum of ten years of a state prison sentence, five years of probation, a maximum of $5,000 in fines, a DUI School program for months, a mandatory IID installation for a year, four years license suspension, a habitual traffic offender title for three years, three strikes on your criminal record, and restitution to the victim.

Based on how many victims you injured and the seriousness of the injuries and damages you caused, you may get a maximum consecutive sentence enhancement of six years in state prison. A Laguna Woods DUI Attorney can mitigate the felony penalties mentioned above to lenient ones. If he/she presents a solid defense, your charges could be lowered from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Underage DUI

Under 21 drivers who are caught drunk driving in Laguna Woods are charged with underage DUI offense. This crime can be charged under two laws; VC 2136 zero tolerance law and VC 23140, under 21 DUI with a BAC of between .05% and .07%. An under 21 DUI offender may also be prosecuted under VC 23152. Penalties for this offense include license suspension for a year.

DUI homicide/Watson murder

DUI homicide is also referred to as vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (PC 191.5). You would face these charges if your DUI led to the death of someone else. This is a felony offense prosecuted under second-degree murder. Its penalties include a maximum of ten years of a state prison sentence, a fine not more than $10,000, probation, three strikes on your record, and three years license suspension.  A past conviction record will subject you to a sentence enhancement of an additional fifteen to life imprisonment.

Non-immigrant Visa DUI

A non-immigrant visa DUI charge can be stressing because of the harsh penalties it carries. For one, it can negatively affect a person’s immigration status. Additionally, the offender risks being deported and also being inadmissible to the United States, particularly if your case has aggravating factors. Aggravating factors like DUI with a child passenger, DUI on a revoked license, and DUI causing injury would result in more severe penalties. To add on these consequences, an offender also faces criminal penalties like license suspension, fines, and jail time.

As per the United States’ immigration laws, a person risks being denied the country’s citizenship if they have been convicted of multiple DUI offenses and the sentences for these offenses add up to five or more years.

DUI of Drugs

DUI of drugs is charged under VC 23152f. This Vehicle Code defines a drug as a substance, other than alcohol, which is capable of distorting your mental and physical ability, and your nervous system. You may still be charged with DUID even if your impairment is a result of a legal prescription drug. DUID is penalized based on a person’s criminal history and circumstances under which the offense occurred. DUID can also be an aggravating factor in case you were operating a vehicle while intoxicated with both drugs and alcohol.

DUI for a member of the military

If you are a military member, the entire process from being charged with DUI to a conviction can be confusing since there are special laws that apply. Additionally, you will not only face criminal consequences but will also be punished by your command. Your command’s punishments are based on your rank and the branch in which you are a member. The penalties include:

  • Restricted base access.
  • Negative performance reports.
  • Alcohol/drug abuse treatment or evaluation.
  • Imprisonment.
  • Pension loss.
  • Financial penalties.
  • Reduced compensation or demotion.
  • Dishonorable discharge.
  • Stripping of security clearances.

Criminal punishments include at least five years of probation, fines, driver’s license suspension, incarceration, compulsory IID installation, and compulsory DUI School programs.

Find a Laguna Woods DUI Attorney Near Me

If you or your loved one is facing any DUI charges in Laguna Woods, CA, contact The Orange County DUI Attorney law firm as soon as possible to get an attorney to help you. Our attorneys will accord proper case assessment and representation to get you the best possible outcome. Reach out to our Orange County DUI Lawyer at 949-377-2280, so we can begin processing your case.