Whether you are facing a felony or a misdemeanor charge as a result of driving under the influence in Los Alamitos, you're probably not sure what to expect. However, we advise you to contact an experienced Los Alamitos DUI attorney to ensure you get proper legal representation, expert counsel, and evaluation of your case. The Orange County DUI Attorney is an experienced DUI defense law firm that is ready to represent you if you are facing a DUI investigation or DUI charges.
An Overview of Various DUI Charges in California
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately thirty people in the country died daily as a result of drunk driving in 2017. The State of California has been enacting different DUI laws, which are some of the stringent in the country, to try and reduce incidents of DUI.
A motorist is charged with DUI for operating a car while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or with a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 0.08%. A driver is well-thought-out to be under the influence if they are impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. Additionally, California has Zero Tolerance Laws that make it illegal for drivers below 21 years of age to drive with a BAC of 0.01% or higher. On the other hand, commercial drivers are liable for DUI charges if they drive with a BAC exceeding 0.04%.
Below is an overview of different DUI offenses handled by our lawyers and their consequences.
First DUI Offense
You will be charged with the first DUI offense if you have not had a driving under the influence charge in the last ten years. It is considered a violation of Vehicle Code 23152 (a) as well as Vehicle Code 23152 (b). It is punishable by:
- Three to five years of summary probation
- Mandatory enrolment in a DUI school for three to nine months
- Suspension of driver's license for six months
- A maximum of six months in jail
- Penalty assessments and fines that range from $1,500 to $2,000
- Installation of Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for six months
- Being restricted to travel to Canada
It is worth noting that there are instances the court will not suspend your license if your charges are reduced to reckless driving. However, the Department of Motor Vehicles could still withdraw your driving privileges if you have many driving points on your DMV driving record.
Since DUI is a priorable offense, a second DUI arrest within ten years will be charged as a second DUI offense, which carries the following penalties:
- Three (3) to five (5) years of summary probation
- Up to a year in jail
- Penalty assessments and fines that range between $390 and $1,000
- Installation of IID for one year
- Attending a court-approved alcohol education program for 18 to 30 months
- Suspension of a driver's license for two years
However, you can convert the driver's license to a restricted license after installing an IID for 12 months. The restricted license allows you to drive your car provided the IID is installed.
Notably, when a judge imposes a sentence that includes probation, the conditions below must be adhered to:
- You should not drive a car with any amount of alcohol in your system
- You shouldn't refuse to submit a blood, urine, or breath test if detained for DUI
- You shouldn't commit any other offense
Failure to comply with any of the above conditions leads to probation revocation. The court will then reinstate the sentence, which comes with time in jail.
Third DUI Offense
A DUI is considered a third DUI offense if a defendant has two previous DUI convictions that took place within the last ten years. Penalties imposed by the DMV or the court vary depending mainly on the circumstances surrounding the case. However, below is a basic framework of penalties to expect if you get a third DUI conviction in California:
- Summary probation for three to five years
- 120 days to one year in jail
- A maximum of $3,000 in penalty assessments and fines
- Installation of Ignition Interlock Device for two years
- Successful completion of DUI school, which takes 30 months
- Revocation of your driver's license for three years
Fourth DUI Offense
Driving under the influence is priorable. That means penalties increase with every consecutive wet reckless or DUI conviction that happen within ten years. A fourth DUI offense is charged as a felony, which is punishable by:
- A sixteen (16) months, two or four-year sentence in prison
- Fines that range from $390 to $1,000
- Revocation of driver's license for four years
- A Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) Status for three (3) years
DUI Causing Injury
DUI causing injury can be defined best by the elements of the crime that the prosecutor should prove beyond any reasonable doubt. These three facts include:
- You were breaking DUI law,
- While breaching the law, you acted negligently, and
- Your negligence injured someone
You break the DUI law by:
- Driving while intoxicated (VC 23152(a)),
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both (VC 23152(f)), or
- Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher (VC 23152(b))
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23153 VC, the penalties of DUI causing injury depends on whether it is a first or subsequent DUI offense within the look-back period (ten years) and the circumstances of the case.
DUI causing injury is a wobbler offense. However, you should note that a third DUI causing injury offense is an automatic felony. The following are the penalties you are likely to face if charged with a misdemeanor:
- Informal probation for three (3) to five (5) years
- A maximum of a one-year jail sentence
- Fines that range from $390 to $1,000
- Enrolment in a court-approved DUI school
- Restitution to all injured persons
- Suspension of driving privileges for one to three years
A felony charge, on the other hand, attracts:
- Two (2), three (3), or four (4) years in state prison
- A maximum fine of $5,000
- Attending DUI school for 18 to 30 months
- HTO status for three years
- Revocation of driver's license for five years
- A strike on your record in accordance with Three Strikes Law for any person apart from you who suffers severe bodily hurt,
- An additional three (3) to six (6) years in prison for every victim with severe bodily injury
- An additional one year in prison for any person with an injury
DUI Murder (Watson Murder)
Another DUI offense that an experienced Los Alamitos DUI attorney will handle is DUI murder, which is considered a second-degree murder under California Penal Code Section 187 PC. It is charged when a motorist with a prior DUI conviction kills another person while driving under the influence. It is common when the defendant has read a Watson warning in relation to previous DUI crimes or attended an alcohol education program.
However, the prosecutor can bring murder charges every time there is DUI with a fatality, and they can prove implied malice. Implied malice occurs when:
- The circumstances surrounding the case prove that the defendant was aware of the risk their conduct created, and
- The conduct showed a disregard for human life.
A Watson admonition is a warning read to drivers convicted with DUI in California. It mentions how DUI is harmful to human life and how consequent convictions can result in murder charges.
DUI murder carries the following penalties:
- Fifteen years to life imprisonment
- A maximum of $10,000 in fines
- A strike on your record under Three Strikes Law
It should be noted that your sentence is likely to increase if there are victims with injuries.
Commercial DUI Law
Under Vehicle Code 23152(d), it is illegal to operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or more. Importantly, these legal limits are strict and apply whether you are impaired by alcohol or not.
Violation of commercial DUI laws is punishable by:
- One year sentence in county jail
- Informal probation
- Attending DUI school for three to thirty-six months
- A maximum fine of $1,000
A commercial driver charged with any drunk-driving offense will also have their driving privileges suspended for one year. The suspension will also happen whether the driver was driving a commercial car at the time of arrest or not.
VC 23136 is a Zero Tolerance Law for underage drivers. It is illegal for a person below 21 years of age to drive a car with a BAC of 0.01% or higher. This law applies to all beverages and medicines with alcohol. It also applies irrespective of whether you were impaired by alcohol or not. In other words, you break the law by having any measurable amount of alcohol in your system.
You face a mandatory suspension of your underage driver's license if you are found guilty of underage DUI. Defendants with a history of breaking DUI laws risk having their driving privileges revoked for two (2) or three (3) years.
Penalties for a DUI conviction can be severe, but usually, first-time defendants don't serve time in jail. However, if aggravating factors are present during your arrest, your penalties will increase regardless of whether it's a first or subsequent conviction. These circumstances include:
- Excessive BAC
- A minor below 14 years of age in the car as a passenger at the time of the arrest
- Excessive speed
- Refusing to submit a chemical test
4 Ways an Experienced Los Alamitos DUI Attorney will Fight Your DUI Charges
A DUI attorney can use the following defense strategies:
Field Sobriety Test Defenses
If charged with DUI, the evidence presented by a prosecutor includes Field Sobriety Tests results that your lawyer can challenge. Generally, the prosecution team will give evidence that you did not perform well on the test. Consequently, they will conclude that you violated DUI laws.
A qualified DUI lawyer will argue that your balance and coordination during the FSTs could have been affected by fatigue, clothing, ear infections, diabetes, natural physical coordination, among others.
Moreover, your attorney can challenge the FSTs' reliability. According to the NHTSA, FSTs only predicts 91% of alcohol impairment. This percentage assumes that:
- Test conditions were perfect
- The person conducting the test was trained and experienced
- The tests administered were a one-leg stand, walk and turn test, and horizontal Nystagmus test
In reality, these factors vary, making the unreliability of the results a reasonable defense.
Bad Driving Pattern is Different from Intoxication
Another way to fight DUI charges is by arguing that you drove poorly but not while intoxicated. One thing the prosecution team will pay attention to during your case is the driving pattern. The arresting officer will always testify that you drove in a way consistent with a drunk driver. The allegations will include that you were swerving within the lane or over-speeding.
An experienced lawyer will request the arresting officer to bear witness about ways that you drove the vehicle safely and properly. Then your lawyer can use the officer's testimony to argue that sober drivers commit most of the traffic offenses and driving pattern isn't a reliable DUI predictor.
Objective Signs and Symptoms of Intoxication are Different from DUI
Your lawyer should also be able to challenge the prosecutor's use of symptoms of intoxication to claim that you drove your vehicle while intoxicated. Just like the driving pattern, your physical appearance is a major component of the prosecution testimony. The arresting officer will conclude that you were drunk because you had a slurred speed, flushed face, red and watery eyes, an unstable gait, or an alcohol odor on your breath.
Coincidentally, the above objective symptoms of intoxication are highlighted on a pre-printed DUI arrest form known as Form 5.2.5.
A proficient Los Alamitos DUI attorney can defend you against the charges by highlighting innocent explanations that could have caused the objective physical symptoms. They include allergies, fatigue, eye irritation, and cold.
The Arresting Police Did not Conduct a Fifteen-Minute Observation Period
The arresting officer should observe you for at least fifteen minutes before asking you submit to a breath test. Questioning whether the observation happened is an effective defense that your attorney can use.
Most arresting officers do not observe the observation period. Rather, they do paperwork and set up the breath test gadget. Proving that the police did not conduct the observation calls into question both the chemical test results and the DUI investigation.
Other Services Our Qualified DUI Attorneys Offer
- Plea Negotiations
The idea of fighting a DUI charge depends on how strong the prosecution evidence is. Therefore, if the evidence shows that you had a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limits or presence of aggravating factors at the time of arrest, plea negotiations may be the way to go.
Also known as sentence bargaining, plea bargaining is a process where the prosecutor and the defendant reach a compromise. You enter a no contest or guilty plea in exchange for a reduced sentence or charge. The prosecutor, on the other hand, gets a conviction without going to trial.
- Criminal Record Expungement
Those convicted of drunk driving in California have an opportunity to seal their records after completing probation. To be considered for expungement, you should file an expungement petition with the court. The process can be overwhelming; it should be prepared appropriately. As a result, you should consult a Los Alamitos DUI attorney who follows the required procedures and files the petition in time.
- Representation at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Hearing
If arrested for drunk driving, the California DMV will seek to withdraw your driving privileges. Out-of-state motorists also risk losing their home state driver's license if arrested for DUI in California. Fortunately, you have a right to a DMV hearing after an arrest to challenge whether the license suspension should be enacted or not. The hearing should be requested within ten days of your arrest.
California DMV hearings are more informal than criminal court proceedings. However, that does not mean you should take it lightly. If arrested for DUI, you should hire a skilled lawyer who will fight effortlessly to realize a favorable outcome and make sure your rights are protected. Additionally, the lawyer should request and schedule the hearing on your behalf.
- Obtaining an SR-22
If your license was revoked or suspended due to being convicted of drunk driving, failing to request a California hearing, or losing a DMV hearing, you need an SR-22 to regain your driving privileges.
An SR-22 is a form issued by your vehicle insurer that shows you've met California's requirements as far as auto-liability coverage is concerned. Immediately after issuance, the insurance provider should forward a copy to the DMV.
There is a lot of confusion that surrounds the SR-22 requirements. As a result, our DUI attorneys could break it down and explain everything to you. We will also help you file different SR-22 forms like:
- Owner's Policy Certificate,
- Operator's Policy Certificate, and
- Broad Coverage Policy Certificate.
Find a Knowledgeable DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
If you are seeking the services of a knowledgeable and experienced Los Alamitos DUI attorney, we advise you to contact our Orange County DUI Lawyer at 949-377-2280. We will handle not only your DUI court proceedings but also the DMV case. Get in touch today!