If you have been charged with DUI in Irvine, CA, it goes with saying that you need criminal defense representation from a lawyer who is experienced and not afraid to fight for your legal rights. With Orange County DUI Attorney on your defense team, you will not only have a voice defending you, but also expertise in all steps of the process will be explained to you. This is because we understand the importance of a lawyer and the client working together as a team and sharing insight into the case.
Understanding DUI in Irvine, California
California driving under the influence (DUI) laws make it illegal for motorists to drive while intoxicated or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more in their blood system. The blood alcohol concentration standards are all the more stringent when it comes to commercial drivers arrested for driving with a BAC higher than 0.04%. Additionally, California has zero tolerance laws that prohibit underage drivers (below 21 years of age) from driving with a BAC of 0.01%.
To get a better understanding of different DUI services we offer, it is essential to consult an Irvine DUI Attorney regarding how charges are proven in California.
Elements of a Driving Under the Influence Charge
In most states, a driver could be charged with a DUI for being in actual physical control of the vehicle while intoxicated. However, to convict you of DUI in California, the prosecutor should present evidence for the following elements of the crime:
- The defendant drove the vehicle, and
- The defendant was drunk when they drove the vehicle.
While these two elements may seem self-explanatory, they require further explanation. Below is an overview of key terms:
This could be a police officer seeing you driving the motor vehicle. However, this is not always the case. What happens when a vehicle runs but you have not moved the vehicle? Alternatively, you got involved in a road accident, and the police officer arrived at the accident scene later? The law holds that the car's movement is needed to establish this element. The law goes ahead to hold that the movement should be proved using circumstantial evidence.
Under the Influence
According to law, being under the influence means you're intoxicated, and your mental or physical capabilities are weakened to a level that you can't drive with caution. Also, it means that you are not displaying characteristics of a reasonable sober driver under similar circumstances.
The way you drive is not convincing of whether you're driving under the influence. It's only an aspect that the court puts into account when considering everything.
How the Prosecution Team Proves that You were Driving While Intoxicated
DUI is a subjective crime. That means the prosecutor, prosecutor's expert witness, and the arresting police officer will present evidence that you violated DUI laws by relying on the arresting officer's observations.
The case starts when the investigating police officer gives evidence about where you made a mistake in an attempt to prove you were physically and mentally impaired to operate the vehicle safely. The testimony revolves around the driving pattern, performance on FST (field sobriety tests), and your physical appearance.
In DUI cases, the arresting officer will at all times testify that you exhibited objective signs and symptoms of intoxication such as swerving or weaving, driving erratically, red watery eyes, unsteady gait, and slurred speech.
Various Types of DUI Services Handled by Our Experienced Lawyers
If charged with DUI in Irvine, the punishments you face depend on your case's facts, criminal history, and aggravating factors. A DUI charge counts a previous conviction for ten (10) years. That means a DUI offense that took place more than ten (10) years ago does not count when deciding whether the current DUI offense is a subsequent offense or not.
Punishments for a First-time DUI Conviction
A first time DUI is considered a misdemeanor. You could face:
- Fines that range between three hundred and ninety ($390) dollars and one thousand ($1,000) dollars, not forgetting penalty assessments that significantly increase the total amount you should pay.
- You also risk spending forty-eight (48) hours to six (6) months in jail. However, if the court orders probation, you will serve compulsory time.
- A driver's license suspension for six (6) months.
- First time DUI defendants are also punished by a three (3) to five (5) year summary probation. One of the informal probation conditions is attending a mandatory DUI school for three (3) months. Defendants with a BAC higher than 0.20% should attend a drug education program for nine (9) months.
Second-time DUI Conviction Penalties
A second time driving under the influence offense is considered a misdemeanor in California. It is punishable by:
- Fines that are between three hundred and ninety ($390) dollars and one thousand ($1,000) dollars plus penalty assessments,
- A jail term that ranges between ninety-six (96) hours to a year. Sometimes the jail time could be through jail-alternative work programs or house arrest.
- A driver's license suspension for two (2) years.
- A three (3) to five (5) year summary probation.
- You should also attend a DUI school for eighteen (18) to thirty (30) months.
Penalties for Third DUI Offense
A third-time DUI offense is a California misdemeanor. It carries penalties such as:
- A maximum fine of one thousand ($1000) dollars.
- A jail sentence of up to one (1) year,
- A 3-year suspension of your driver's license,
- You must complete a three (3) to five (5) year summary probation that comes with attending a DUI school for thirty (30) months.
What Penalties do DUI involving Injuries Carry?
If you hurt another person in a DUI accident, you are likely to face severe punishments than you would for a standard DUI offense. The offense in question is a wobbler and could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. If accused of a California felony, you could serve sixteen (16) months to four (4) years in prison. Additionally, depending on your criminal history, you could pay a fine of up to five thousand ($5,000) dollars.
DUI Causing Death
If you cause death, you will be prosecuted under California's murder laws and vehicular manslaughter. You could be charged with:
- Negligent vehicular manslaughter while drunk, which is punishable by one (1) year in jail and a one thousand ($1,000) dollar fine,
- Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or
- Second-degree murder which attracts fifteen (15) years to a life sentence in a California prison.
Under Vehicle Code 23136 VC, it is a civil offense for a person below twenty-one (21) years of age to drive a car with a BAC of 0.01% or higher. This zero-tolerance law applies to every beverage and medicine containing alcohol. Besides that, the law applies irrespective of whether the underage driver was impaired by alcohol or not. You violate this law by having any measurable alcohol content in your system.
Violating Vehicle Code 23136 VC attracts a compulsory suspension of underage driver's license for one year. The driver's license could also be revoked if you have a history of breaking DUI laws.
Aggravating Factors and How They Add to a Sentencing
Aggravating factors are circumstances or facts that increase the seriousness of an offense or an accused's liability and results in severe sentencing. Common aggravating factors in DUI cases include; high blood alcohol content, reckless driving, previous DUI convictions, excessive speeding, driving on a suspended license, having a minor in the car at the time of committing the crime, damaging property, and causing injuries.
Having a child below fourteen (14) years as a passenger in the car at the time of arrest could result in a compulsory additional forty-eight (48) hours in jail, ten (10) days, and thirty (30) days for a first-time offense, second-time DUI offense, and third offense respectively.
For felony DUI with injuries or fatalities to more than one (1) victim, there is a one-year enhancement for every victim.
Exceeding twenty (20) mph on a highway or street or 30 (thirty) mph on a freeway at the time of the offense results in an additional sixty (60) days to your jail term.
You could also pay a doubled fine for driving while intoxicated in maintenance zones, highway construction, and safety enhancement zones.
If your case is grievous and involves DUI-related death, you will be prosecuted with Watson murder instead of vehicular manslaughter while drunk. The prosecutor will charge you with Watson murder if the following elements are correct:
- You're a repeat DUI offender, and
- You have either attended the mandatory DUI school before or was issued with a Watson advisement when you committed the previous DUI offense.
Watson murder is prosecuted under California Penal Code section 187. It attracts fifteen (15) years to life imprisonment in a California prison, a fine of up to ten thousand ($10,000) dollars and a strike under the Three-Strike Law.
How Our Lawyers Can Help You Fight a DUI Charge
There are several defenses to DUI offenses that an Irvine DUI attorney can use to beat the charges brought against you. Common defenses include:
Alcohol is not the cause of reckless driving
In case your driving pattern is questionable, your attorney should be in a position to argue that even sober drivers are liable for many accidents and traffic violations. Besides, the lawyer could use an argument that is not related to alcohol, like being momentarily distracted.
The arresting police did not comply with the proper procedures
Your lawyer can also challenge the following aspect of investigation:
- Whether the arresting officer had the required probable cause to put you in custody,
- The techniques used to carry out the chemical test according to Title 17 of the Code of Regulation (Violation of Title 17 of the Code of Regulation can affect the results of a DUI case),
- Whether the police got involved in any police misconduct that could supersede any offense on your part.
Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) did not Measure Impairment
If your field sobriety tests performance is rated poor, your Irvine DUI attorney will ask the arresting police to give evidence about the tests that you performed well. The purpose of this request is to demonstrate to the court that the number of tests you performed well exceeds the number of tests you performed poorly.
Your DUI criminal defense lawyer will also question the legitimacy of tests administered like a finger to nose and one leg stand as well as the way the FSTs were administered.
Other Factors could cause objective Signs of Intoxication
If the police testify that you exhibited physical signs which are consistent with a person who has been drinking, your lawyer could elicit testimony that allergies, fatigue, sun, non-alcoholic beverages or diseases could lead to the physical signs of intoxication observed by the police.
However, if it is realized that you were drunk and any of the above reasons contributed to your impairment, those reasons can't be used as a defense to DUI.
What Other Services Do We Offer?
More often than not, DUI cases don't go to trial. This is because most cases are settled at plea bargaining negotiations. A plea bargain is a useful tool for both the prosecution team and the defendant. It allows the prosecution team to acquire a conviction at the same time give you a chance to plead guilty to reduced charges or lesser penalties. The most common reduced DUI charges include wet reckless, dry reckless, drinking alcohol in the vehicle, and excessive speed.
After you complete your DUI probation, your lawyer should help you file a petition for the court to expunge your conviction record. The judge will then will review the appeal and decide whether you qualify for an expungement.
If the judge grants the petition, then you either:
- Withdraw your guilty plea with the help of the lawyer and re-enter the not-guilty plea or
- If you were found guilty after the judge dismisses the verdict
One of the advantages of expunging a DUI conviction is an easier time finding a job. Once your DUI conviction has been expunged, no potential employer can use it against you. However, the expungement doesn't affect your responsibility to reveal the conviction when applying for teaching credentials or state licenses.
It is worth noting that expungement does not help you regain a suspended or revoked driver's license. However, in most instances, summary probation lasts longer than the mandatory license suspension period.
Representation at the DMV Hearing
If you have been arrested for DUI, you will face two different legal proceedings: A Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) hearing and a criminal DUI charge in court. Unlike a criminal DUI charge, a DMV hearing is an administrative procedure held at your local DMV office that handles a defendant's driving privileges.
Once arrested, the police officer will take away your driving license and issue you with a Notice of Suspension. The notice serves as a temporary license for thirty (30) days. It also notifies you that you have a right to request a DMV hearing to stop your license suspension. The request should be made within ten (10) days of your arrest.
If you fail to request the DMV hearing within the 10-day timeframe, you risk your license being suspended automatically after the thirty (30) days.
Additionally, you should contact a DMV driver safety branch office near you to schedule your hearing. Failure to call the office forfeits your entitlement to the hearing.
If you hire one of our lawyers to represent you in court, the lawyer will request as well as schedule the DMV hearing on your behalf as long as you retain their services within the ten-day timeframe. The DUI defense lawyer could also appear in court on your behalf provided you are not going to testify.
Besides that, your Irvine DUI attorney could use defenses such as:
- You weren't driving,
- You were arrested at an unlawful DUI checkpoint,
- The arresting police officer didn't have a probable cause to put you in custody,
- The arresting police officer didn't conduct a fifteen-minute observation period,
- The breath testing gadget was not functioning well,
- The arresting police officer didn't tell you the consequences of failing to submit a chemical test,
- You didn't refuse to submit a breath, urine, or blood test.
Obtaining an SR22
If your driver's license was suspended or revoked either as a result of; being convicted of DUI, losing a DMV hearing or failing to request a DMV hearing, acquiring an SR22 is essential to restore your driving privilege.
An SR22 is a form provided by your vehicle insurance provider. It certifies that you have met California's auto liability insurance requirements.
Our lawyers could help you understand what requirements you need to meet to acquire the SR22. We will also assist you in filing various SR22 forms such as Broad Coverage Policy Certificate, Operator's Policy Certificate, and Owner's Policy Certificate.
DUI Representation for Motorists in Irvine with Out-of-State Driver's Licenses
It is not uncommon for tourists with an out-of-state driver's license to be put in custody for DUI in California. Our Irvine DUI defense attorney will explain the process as well as stand by you in such a case.
You do not have to come to Irvine for your court hearing; a telephonic appearance is acceptable. If you select a telephonic appearance, our skilled lawyers will appear in court on your behalf, question any evidence supporting your DUI charges, engage in plea bargain negotiations with the prosecutor and ensure your rights are protected.
Finding an Irvine DUI Lawyer Near Me
If you are being investigated for DUI, it is very tempting to listen to what your loved ones have to say on what you should do. However, every case is unique, and your criminal record and freedom shouldn't be left to guesswork. Instead, the most effective defense is contacting a renowned and qualified law firm like the Orange County DUI Attorney. Whether your case has been charged as a misdemeanor or felony, our lawyers are ready to assist you. Call us straight away after your arrest at 949-377-2280. We will give details of what to expect in your case and what your options are. More importantly, we can assist you in understanding what to expect when you go back to your normal life.