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10 Phases of a DUI Case

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The Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm can explain and help you through the complicated process of a DUI.

Being arrested for a DUI can be a stressful situation. Most people who are arrested for DUI, do not know what to expect, and will often have many questions about the process. Whether you, or anyone you know, has been arrested for DUI, informing yourself of the following 10 phases of a DUI arrest may provide some relief in regards to the DUI process.

1st Phase: DUI Investigation in CA

Usually, a DUI investigation may arise in 3 different ways:

  1. Your vehicle is pulled over by a police officer for a traffic violation,
  2. Your vehicle is pulled over because there is something physically wrong with it (e.g. taillight is not working, or your tags are out of date), or
  3. An officer is called and reports to the site of an accident you have been involved in.

An officer can then report that you showed obvious signs of intoxication and the officer had noticed the smell of alcohol emanating from your breath. Any of these reports by an officer may result in the initiating of field sobriety tests (FSTs) to be administered at the scene. The test results, along with what the officer reports, can result in a DUI arrest under the California Vehicle Code 23152a.

2nd Phase: DUI Arrest in CA

Following an arrest, you may then be taken to a jail, police station, or hospital to take either a blood or breath test to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The main difference between these two tests is that breadth test results are provided immediately and blood test results can take several days to be analyzed.

If your BAC level is over 0.08%, you are likely to be charged with driving with an excessive blood alcohol concentration (California Vehicle Code 23152b) in addition to your DUI charge.

You may exercise your right to decline to take the blood or urine tests, however, the consequences of declining to take these tests are usually serious. If you refuse to take these tests you will still be arrested for DUI and your case will also involve a “refusal” charge. The consequences of a “refusal” charge are a mandatory two-day jail sentence and a yearlong license suspension.

After your arrest, the police will look at the circumstances surrounding your arrest, and previous criminal history when deciding to either book or release you after receiving the results of your tests. Nevertheless, police officers typically hold an arrestee in jail for a few hours or they may choose to hold you overnight.

When you are arrested, the officers will tell you that a suspension of your license will be imposed in 30 days. Also, they will tell you that you will be given a pink document that will serve as your temporary license until your license suspension begins. Your California driver’s license will be confiscated and depending on your arrest, you may be released after you sign an agreement stating you will show up to court on a given date or on bail.

The arresting officer will then submit a DUI report to the prosecutor that will be in charge of prosecuting your case. Following the submission of the report, the prosecutor will then choose to charge you with a DUI or refrain from charging you with a DUI charge.

3rd Phase: Choosing to Hire your CA DUI Lawyer.

Most people find this part of the DUI process overwhelming. This is where the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm can help you. Here, at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm we will devote a significant amount of time talking to you about the specific circumstances surrounding your arrest, and building the best possible defense possible for you.

In this stage you will have the choice to represent yourself, agree to be represented by a public defender, or hire a private DUI defense attorney. It is strongly recommended that you do not represent yourself, absent prior experience as a CA DUI attorney. Attempting to represent yourself will leave you susceptible to being overwhelmed and confused by the complex legal intricacies of the DUI process, that may leave you with a weak defense.

If your financial situation entitles you to representation by a public defender (PD), it may still not be the best choice. Although most public defenders are well informed of the DUI process, they do not have much time to devote to your case, and often do not have the best resources to develop the best possible defense for you. Moreover, public defenders are assigned to you, depriving you of the option to choose an attorney that you feel you can trust or depend on.

If you choose to research private DUI attorneys, it may become apparent to you that not all attorneys’ posses equal skills and capabilities to handle the unique circumstances of your case and may render the time and money you spend on them worthless. Therefore, you must act carefully when choosing a private DUI attorney, choosing the wrong attorney may result in having you plead guilty or entering an unnecessary plea deal with the prosecution for their own financial benefit.

At the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm, we know that when you spend money expecting to get a better attorney, you should receive a superior attorney. Here, at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm, your private attorney will devote himself or herself to carefully researching you DUI case, negotiating and advocating for you, and producing the best defense plan imaginable.

Choosing to hire a private attorney with experience in the California DUI field, presents you with the best opportunity to minimize or avoid your DUI monetary penalties and time spent in jail.

4th Phase: Your DUI and the DMV of CA.

Your driver’s license will be sent to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) after it has been confiscated following your arrest. Additionally, it will be suspended following the expiration of your 30-day temporary license. The DMV will then conduct a hearing, either in person or on the phone. Requesting a hearing may result in the delay of your license suspension until after the hearing has been completed. Remember, even if you are successful at your DMV hearing, a different license suspension may be imposed following a conviction for DUI in a criminal court.

The DMV will most likely ask you three questions during the hearing in order to determine if they should delay your license suspension or suspend your license.

  1. Was your arrest a lawful one?
  2. Was your BAC level at or above 0.08%?
  3. Did the officer have probable cause to reasonably think you were driving while intoxicated?

You are entitled to your right to choose to be represented by a DUI attorney during your DMV hearing. Although the DMV hearing is irrelevant to your criminal case, having your DUI attorney in attendance can help you minimize the chances of your license being suspended.

If you choose to represent yourself during the criminal court case of your DUI, you do not have the option to be represented by a private DUI attorney at your DMV hearing. You will also not have the option to hire a private DUI attorney for your DMV hearing if you choose to be represented by a public defender and the public defender will not be able to represent you at your DMV hearing.

Losing your DMV hearing can result in your license being suspended from anywhere between 4 months to 3 years. The DMV will decide the length of suspension and will take into account if you have any previous DUIs, and if you chose to take or decline a blood test.

Hiring a private attorney can provide you with various benefits during your DMV hearing. A private attorney can help restore your ability to drive as quickly as possible. Your private attorney may also be able to reveal any transgressions made by law enforcement, and expose any holes in the prosecution’s case against you. Having a private attorney at your DMV hearing gives your attorney a chance to cross-examine and subpoena the arresting officer and it may give your attorney the opportunity to use the arresting officer’s testimony to help negotiate a lesser charge for you during the criminal court case.

5th Phase: DUI Court Process in CA.

After your DMV hearing, the criminal process of your DUI will begin. During your case, you, and your attorney (depending if you chose to hire one), the prosecuting attorney, the judge, and sometimes a jury, will be present.

Your case will start with an arraignment and it will either conclude with your acquittal or you being sentenced for the charges against you.

In the case that you are convicted of the charges brought against you, your case will remain in the California legal system until the length of your probation period has concluded and the requirements owed to the court are satisfied.

6th Phase: The DUI Arraignment Process

The arraignment process is your first chance to provide a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest to your DUI charges. The arraignment also gives the prosecution their first chance to provide a plea bargain offer. A plea bargain consists of specific parts encompassing a sentence that the prosecution is willing to give you if you agree to plead guilty. Most negotiations of this kind do not occur during the arraignment process. These types of offers are usually presented in the pre-trial phase (scroll down to Phase 8).

If a defendant or defense attorney in a DUI case decides to plead not guilty, it provides the DUI attorney the opportunity to carefully investigate and challenge the prosecution’s evidence against you. Your DUI attorney may demand any evidence used in your arrest, like the initial police report, or records documenting the maintenance of the breathalyzer or blood test instruments, be turned over to him or her.

Your case will be closed immediately if you choose to plea guilty, with the exception of any probation terms that you still need to perform.

7th Phase: The CA DUI Defenses Most Commonly Used

There are many California DUI defenses that are comprised of asserting the equipment used in the tests were not properly maintained (e.g. the equipment used for blood and breath tests), the calculations used to determine the charges against the defendant were inaccurate and not properly measured, and/ or unlawful methods were used by law enforcement to investigate the DUI. A private attorney is able to use the strategies mentioned above, plus many others throughout the pre-trial stage.

The amount of skill and experience that your private DUI attorney possesses, the higher the chances that he or she will be able to develop a better defense and advocate better for you.

8th Phase: The DUI Pre-Trial Motion and Plea Bargain Process

During this process, your private DUI attorney will use their abundance of experience of the legal system and devote significant time to investigate every aspect of your DUI case. The amount of time your attorney spends on this part of the case varies on a case-by-case basis. At the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm, our attorneys will devote a significant amount of time in order to provide you with the best possible defense.

Your Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm attorney will collect important evidence, and investigate the pertinent facts that will work to your case’s benefit. Your attorney will advocate on your behalf to the judge, and /or your prosecutor in the best possible way so that your charges have the best opportunity to be mitigated or dropped.

It is common for prosecutors to argue that the best offer they can give you has already been presented to you during the arraignment stage. However, an experienced and skilled attorney understands that this is not true and can negotiate with the prosecutor to get you a better offer.

A pre-trial motion is something that your defense attorney can request; it often is used to ask the court to decide on an issue before your case gets to trial. A pre-trial motion has the ability to affect all the aspects of a trial, including the evidence, defendants, testimony, and the atmosphere in the courtroom itself. Some pre-trial motions are:

  • “Motion to suppress” hearing: where an attorney requests that the court disregard any evidence that was collected unlawfully, and that the introduction of this kind of evidence will affect the defendant negatively.
  • “Pitchness” hearing: enables the private DUI attorney to investigate the arresting officer’s past, including previous complaint history against the officer that can help the private attorney cast doubt on the testimony of the officer.
  • “Probable Cause” hearing: where an attorney can challenge the lawfulness of the initial traffic stop made by the officer.

After your defense attorney has collected evidence, conversed with expert DUI defense witnesses, and asserted any available pre-trial motions, the plea bargaining stage can begin. A plea bargaining stage is comprised of both the prosecution and defense successfully agreeing on a specific issue without the court’s involvement.

9th Phase: DUIs and Jury Trials

Not many DUI cases in California reach this stage, but if you need to go to trial, you should expect the following:

  • Jury selection
  • Opening statements (made by both prosecution and defense)
  • The prosecution presents its case
  • The defense presents its case
  • Closing arguments (made by both prosecution and defense)
  • The jury comes to a verdict
  • Defendant is sentenced

Reminder: For a defendant to be convicted of a DUI in California the prosecutions has to convince all of 12 of the jurors that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

10th Phase: Sentencing and Punishment for a DUI in CA

If you plead guilty or a jury finds you guilty of DUI charges, the judge will then decide what your sentence will be. The sentence the judge hands down is determined by the circumstances of your specific DUI case and your criminal history (if applicable).

The most common penalties for a DUI in California are:

  • Monetary fines.
  • Your driver’s license being revoked or suspended.
  • Court mandated drug and/or alcohol programs.
  • Probationary period.
  • Incarceration in a county jail or California state prison.

Whether you, or someone you know, have been arrested for a DUI the attorneys at the Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm are here to help.

For a FREE DUI consultation, call our office today at 949-377-2280.

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