Driving under the influence is a serious crime in California. It carries potential jail or prison sentence, court fines, suspension of your driver’s license, among others. Therefore, you have to go through both the court proceeding for your DUI case and the DMV hearing for your DMV DUI case. Coupled with the stress of undergoing a DUI arrest and investigations, these DUI stages are too much for you to handle alone, and you will need an attorney to help you navigate the process.
If you need a DUI attorney who understands the local DUI laws and processes, get in touch with us at the Orange County DUI Attorney. Our Ladera Ranch DUI attorney will evaluate your case and stand with you from the start to the end of your case.
DUI Definition According to California Law
According to California law, driving under the influence occurs when an individual operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drug influence. It is also when a driver has a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08% or even higher. And under California law, the consequences for driving under the influence vary depending on two major factors:
- Whether you have a prior record of DUI
- Whether property or anyone was injured as a result of you driving under the influence
How Do the Police Determine if You are Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or drugs?
Police officers use three methods to determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol. These methods are general observation, breathalyzers, and field sobriety tests.
Usually, an officer’s decision to investigate or conduct a DUI stop always starts with a simple observation indicating the driver is possibly impaired. A police officer might see a motorist driving or swerving unusually slow. Or while carrying out a traffic stop, an officer may note that the driver reeks of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes, or is acting strange. Once an officer takes note of signs that could indicate intoxication, they will have to investigate to ensure the driver isn’t a threat to him/herself and the people around them.
- Field Sobriety Tests
Once an officer observes signs of intoxication, the next step is the field sobriety tests. These are three group tests that help the police determine if you are impaired. The tests assess your coordination, balance, and your ability to divide your attention to more than one task while taking the field sobriety test. The three tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand test.
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
This is an involuntary jerking of your eyeball. When a person is high, the jerking of the eyes occurs at lesser angles and becomes more exaggerated. During this test, the officer will ask you to follow the movement of a particular object—like a flashlight or pen—slowly from one side to the other. The police officer then looks to determine:
- If your eye can’t follow the object smoothly
- If the jerking of your eyes is distinct when they get to maximum deviation
- If the jerking angle onset is within 45 degrees
If the above signs appear between your two eyes, you are likely to be intoxicated.
- The Walk-and-Turn Test
For this particular test, the officer asks you to take nine steps, along a straight-line, heel-to-toe, turn on one foot, and then return nine steps in a different direction. The seven indicators of impairment that police officers look for include:
- If you cannot keep your balance while listening to instructions
- If you stop while walking to regain your balance
- You don’t touch heel-to-toe
- Begins the test before the officer finishes giving the instructions
- The use of your arms to balance
- You lose balance while turning
- You take an incorrect number of steps
If you exhibit two or more of these indicators, there is a 65% likelihood that you are intoxicated.
- One-leg Stand Test
The last test is the one-leg stand test. Typically, the officer asks you to stand with one foot off the ground and count from 1,001 until the police officer tells you to put your foot down. In this test, the indicators the officer looks for include
- Swaying while trying to balance
- Using your arms to balance
- Putting your foot down
- Hoping to try and maintain balance
If you exhibit two or more of the indicators above, there is a 65% likelihood that you are intoxicated.
If a driver fails any of the field sobriety tests, the officer then asks the motorist to take a chemical test or breath test to confirm their blood alcohol concentration level.
- Chemical testing
After failing the above tests, the next step is confirming how intoxicated you are. At the roadside, a police officer might ask you to take a breathalyzer test, but you have the right to refuse, as it is optional. The breath test machines used in the field are used to conduct a preliminary test. This test gives the officer an idea of how high or low your blood alcohol level is. However, these machines are less accurate compared to evidential breath test devices police use after the driver has been arrested.
What Happens to First Time DUI Offenders?
A first-time DUI, according to California law, can have different consequences from jail time to misdemeanor probation. However, defendants can continue driving if the court grants them an "IID restricted license that keeps an IID "ignition interlock device" in their vehicle for four months. First-time defendants who don't get this device can end up having their driver's license suspended for 6-months unless:
- You are not convicted and,
- You request a DMV hearing and win
Other consequences of first-time DUI convictions in California include:
- DUI school that ranges from 3 to 9 months
- Informal probation of 3 to 5 years
- Penalty assessments and fines
- A suspension of your driver's license for six months
Second Offense DUI Penalties
While the minimum sentence in California for a second DUI offense is 96 hours, Orange County starts off with 40 to 75 days in jail for the second DUI offense. The amount of time you spend in jail can sometimes be increased depending on whether you have a prior DUI conviction. Or other aggravating factors before your arrest.
Third Offense DUI Penalties
For defendants with a third DUI offense, Orange County starts with a Jail time of 270 days. Just like a second DUI offense, an increase in jail time is a probability if the individual has a DUI probation. In such cases, defendants can get another 60 to 90 days included in their jail time.
Fourth Offense DUI Penalties
A fourth DUI offense is considered a felony in California, and it is punishable as such. Hence, it isn't uncommon for fourth offense DUI offenders to face imprisonment for sixteen months to two years. A fourth DUI offense charge is something you shouldn't handle alone as the stakes are too high to defend yourself.
What To Do After a DUI Arrest
Getting arrested for a DUI can be confusing and scary at the same time. And, sometimes these emotions can make us do things we can end up regretting the next day. So, what steps should you take when arrested for a DUI, especially if it's your first?
Step 1: Take the DUI Test After Arrest
Most states, including California, require you to take a chemical test after a DUI arrest. Refusing the test is punishable by law. The chemical test is designed to help display an assortment of information, especially your blood alcohol concentration level. Once the officer obtains your BAC level, they can sufficiently deduce your blood alcohol level at the time of your arrest.
Step 2: Contact a Ladera Ranch DUI Attorney
Never, ever hire a general attorney for a DUI court case. DUI laws require an in-depth understanding. While a general lawyer may represent you accordingly in court, a Ladera Ranch DUI attorney can help you acquire a favorable outcome from the DUI charges you are facing as they understand DUI laws.
Step 3: Find a Bail Bondsman
Posting bail is often a requirement after an arrest. While most defendants may end up being released without posting bail, some DUI cases require the assistance of a bondsman. A bail bondsman requires you to pay a fee upfront for them to post your bail. While it may be expensive, it is less costly compared to paying your bail directly to the court. Using this method also guarantees that you will be present at your hearings, as the bondsman will likely look for you if you fail to appear.
Step 4: Request for a DMV hearing
After your arrest, you have at least ten days, including holidays and weekends, to make an official request for a DMV hearing. A DMV hearing determines whether you get to keep your driver's license. But if you or your lawyer fail to request a DMV hearing, you will automatically have your license suspended.
In California, the DMV hearing officer asks three questions before deciding on the suspension of your license. These questions include:
- Did the arresting officer reasonably believe you were DUI?
- Were you arrested lawfully?
- Was your blood alcohol concentration level at 0.08% or above?
Although this hearing is independent of your DUI court case, you still need the help of a DUI lawyer. A DUI lawyer increased your odds of winning the hearing and saving your license.
Step 5: Prepare for Your Arraignment
Your arraignment is the part of the trial during which you enter your plea. It is also the first of DUI criminal court proceedings in California. Depending on your charges, the prosecution can also give you your first "offer." An offer is simply the sentence the prosecutor agrees and recommends if you plead guilty to the charge filed against you.
During the arraignment, you have the option to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to your DUI charges. If you plead guilty to the charges, you will be punished, and your case closed. If your plea is not guilty, your Ladera Ranch DUI attorney will be entitled to challenge and review all the evidence the prosecution has against you. This includes a police report copy and access to the chemical testing instrument(s) maintenance record.
Having a DUI attorney on your side can help you win the case or acquire a favorable outcome.
Does a DUI Arrest Have Other Implications?
Most people often don’t realize the implications of having a DUI conviction. It not only ruins your clean record, but it also has other ramifications that can linger for years. These ramifications are not only short term like a driver’s license suspension or fines; they are also long-term. Some of the long-term implications of a DUI offense are:
Driver’s License Revocation: A conviction of DUI charges can result in the revocation of your driver’s license for up to two years for first convictions. This can make it hard to get work, especially if you are a driver. It can also result in you losing your job. You also lose the freedom to drive your car, and this can be a stressful situation for anyone.
Without a driver’s license, running errands, visiting family, and participating in social activities become a challenge. You may also start arriving to work late, become less attentive, and feel frustrated all the time, and this can affect your job performance as well.
Employment: Your job may be affected by a DUI conviction and arrest. Jail time, community service, and court dates can destroy your work schedule. The more your work schedule is interrupted, the more the risk of losing your job becomes. For job seekers, having a DUI record can be a disadvantage, as most employers aren’t comfortable hiring people with a DUI conviction. Jobs that need you to drive a company car like trick driving, sales, catering, pizza delivery, or cab services may not accept your application.
Background Checks: Most employers today conduct background checks before hiring anyone. During your background check, a DUI conviction will appear and this can thwart your efforts to acquire the job. Also, college financial aid, admissions, and applications request for background checks. A DUI conviction can jeopardize your chances of obtaining financial aid.
Professional Relationships: A DUI arrest can adversely affect how your employer and coworkers perceive you. Even if you may want to keep it a secret, your arrest may be made public by the local media. Once this happens, it can permanently stain your professional reputation. In some cases, you can even lose your job.
Personal Relationships: A DUI conviction or arrest may have you worrying about how your family and friends feel. It can also make you experience feelings of embarrassment and shame. Your loved ones may even begin to question your alcohol intake, and this can cause a massive strain on any relationship.
A DUI conviction or arrest has devastating long-term effects. But, with the help of an expert DUI attorney, you may avoid conviction and have the charges dropped.
Benefits of Hiring a Ladera Ranch DUI Attorney
Some of the benefits of hiring a DUI attorney for your DUI case include:
- A Detailed Scrutiny of your Case
A DUI attorney specializes in all things DUI. Their expertise gives them the skills they require to go through your case effectively and find valuable evidence for your case. Your lawyer will then determine if they can argue that the arresting officer behaved unreasonably during the arrest. Your attorney will also scrutinize the lab results and evaluate them to ensure accuracy. This type of scrutiny helps increase your likelihood of getting acquitted or having a lesser sentence.
- Prevent the loss of your driver's license
Typically, when you are arrested for driving under the influence, there is a likelihood of having your license suspended. Hiring a DUI attorney prevents the revocation of your driving license. Your attorney will use all the available evidence at their disposal to reduce your DUI punishment. Even if you get convicted of the DUI offense, your attorney will help prevent the loss of your driving license.
- Avoid a Permanent Criminal Record
As mentioned earlier, a DUI conviction or arrest can have serious consequences. It could ruin your relationships, career, and other opportunities in life. By having a DUI attorney fighting for you, you can avoid a permanent criminal record. After all, nobody wants to have their entire life ruined by something that could have been dealt with appropriately. Hiring a DUI lawyer guarantees that you get a favorable outcome from your DUI case.
Find a DUI Attorney Near Me
With the expertise and knowledge of a Ladera Ranch DUI attorney on your side, you have a higher likelihood of having the charges reduced or your case dismissed. We at the Orange County DUI Attorney have the right expertise in navigating DUI and DMV related cases. Get in touch with us at 949-377-2280 today, and we will help you navigate your case.