In California, according to the California Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC, it is illegal for an adult individual to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. The code is also known as California's per se' DUI law. The charges are harsh for a person who is 21 years or below and operates a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or higher. Although Rancho Mission Viejo is located in the south of Orange County, California, with multiple residential communities, there have been several reported DUI cases. That is why Orange County DUI Attorney has a team of attorneys specialized in DUI cases with enough experience and skills to make sure you stay out of jail.
What Are The Probable Cause for a DUI Arrest
Probable cause in DUI arrests means there is a reasonable amount of suspicion that you have violated the law. The violation of the law can be any traffic offense, including speeding, erratic driving, operating with faulty equipment, and other factors. So for the police to arrest you if they suspect you are driving under the influence, they will need probable cause. The U.S. constitution assures everyone of their freedom of movement, so a police officer can not unjustifiably stop your vehicle. The nature of your driving will be an essential factor for the officer in deciding whether there is probable cause for a DUI arrest. But that is only the beginning of the investigation as the officer may be likely apt to consider if you are having trouble getting your registration or license. The officer will examine you to determine if you are acting suspiciously, or there is enough evidence of alcohol or drug use. Factors such as the smell of your breath, visibility of smoke in case of marijuana use are primary to establish reasonable cause. Glazed or bloodshot eyes or admitting you are under the influence will also act as a reasonable cause for a DUI arrest.
Taking a Field Sobriety Test
Field sobriety tests are some physical procedures and mental exercises that help the police decide if they should arrest you on suspicion of DUI. The tests are not mandatory in the State of California, and you should know that you have the right to refuse to take the tests. Although, once you perform the tests, the result is used against you in a court of law. It is advisable not to do the tests as you can fail due to unrelated alcohol or non-drug use reasons. The reasons are age, weight, clothing, medical problems, incorrect instructions, medication, or improper observation. The most common tests in California include:
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test involves the officer instructing you to follow a stimulus to the left and to the right using your eyes. The officer will notice the angle at which your pupil starts to exhibit an involuntary jerking of the eye.
The Walk and Turn Test requires you to concentrate on both mental and physical tasks at the same time. The officer will need you to follow and remember instructions while carrying out either taking heel to toe steps forward and backward or pivoting around physical movements. The officer will be keen to notice whether you balance, step off the line, fail to turn correctly, or take the incorrect amount of steps.
The third test is the One Leg Stand test, where the officer instructs you to raise one leg six inches off the ground, hold still, count numbers, and look down at your feet. The officer will look for swaying signs, hops, or whether you put your feet down before the time countdown to determine your impairment level.
What Happens After a DUI arrest
After you have your arrest, the officer will either take you to a police station or jail for a breath test to measure your blood alcohol level. In cases where your arrest is from a scene of an accident, the officer will escort you to the hospital to take blood samples. For the breath test readings, the result is available immediately, while the blood sample results may take at least several days.
If your breath shows a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher, then you will be charged with California Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC. The tests may not indicate a lower amount of alcohol level, but the officer still suspects you of driving under the influence. Then you have to do a blood or urine test to determine if you were driving under the influence of drugs.
Refusal to submit to a chemical test will add refusal allegations to your charges, and you will carry additional penalties. The other penalties in California include mandatory two days of jail time and suspending your driver's license for one year.
You will then be booked and released after the DUI tests. You will still be arrested and booked whether or not you take the test. You may get a written promise to appear in court on the day of the court case, or you are released on bail. The decision depends on your criminal history and the facts of the case. The release usually happens after spending a few hours in a jail cell.
The police officer will take your California driver's license and issue you with a temporary pink-colored notice. The document is referred to as Suspension/Revocation Order and Temporary driver license. The warning serves the purpose of notifying you that 30 days after your arrest, your license is suspended.
After completion of all the necessary procedures, the arresting officer will record a report about your DUI case and submit it to the local prosecuting agency for review. Depending on the evidence, the prosecutor will either decline to file charges against you or formally charge you with California Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC.
California’s Options of Court Case Representation
The first option is to represent yourself in California DUI legal process. It is not advisable to represent yourself in court, as it requires a lot of knowledge and experience to solve your DUI case favorably. The California DUI case procedure is technical and complicated, in addition to that the prosecutors and judges are resilient to DUI offenders.
Another available option is to have a public defender take on your case. The advantage of public defenders is they are experienced criminal defense attorneys that have good relationships with prosecutors and judges. Also, a public defender will provide you with free legal representation. Despite the precedence, it is not preferable to have a public defender represent you due to the following reasons:
- The public defender may not have the right amount of time required to work on your case.
- They may lack enough resources making it hard to obtain reliable evidence.
- You do not have the option of choosing a public defender of your liking. If you do not trust your assigned lawyer, you will have to prove to a judge your current lawyer is violating your right to representation. You can then change your defense lawyer.
For you to qualify for a defense lawyer, you have to prove you have a low income or limited assets to afford a private lawyer.
The third and last option is hiring a private DUI lawyer to represent you in a court of law. It is challenging to decide the best law firm to handle your DUI case, especially if you are a recent resident of the Rancho Mission Viejo City. The critical thing to consider while hiring a private DUI lawyer is seeking the services of an attorney who invests their time and resources to develop an extensive defensive plan. That kind of lawyer has excellent negotiating skills, up-to-date with changes and updates in California DUI law, and informed of the DUI trial approach.
California DMV Procedure for DUI Defendants
The California Department of Motor Vehicles hearing happens to determine what transpires of your driver's license. Appearing for the DMV hearing does not mean you will not face a criminal charge. The State of California law requires a defendant to answer to two separate legal proceedings for DUI suspects. The DMV can not hand you jail time or penalties, but they have the right to suspend your driver's license.
You have ten days from the day of your arrest to request a DMV hearing, also known as Driver Safety Administrative hearing. Failure to do so will result in the suspension of license after 30 days. To schedule a DMV hearing, you must contact the driver safety office nearest to the City of Rancho Mission Viejo.
A DMV hearing takes place in the DMV office, but it is mostly done over the phone. You have the right to be represented by an attorney at a DMV DUI hearing. But one will not be assigned to you in the event you are unable to afford your own. Although a DMV hearing is different from a DUI criminal charge, you are still entitled to the following standard court procedures:
- Reviewing and challenging the evidence
- Subpoena and present a witness
- Cross-examine witnesses
- Testify on your behalf
Possible Defenses to a DMV DUI Hearing
If the officer did not personally observe you driving or a witness testifies in the DMV hearing, then no evidence logically establishes you were driving. The DMV officer is required by law to overturn your driver's license suspension based on the no driving defense to a DUI.
In cases where the Field Sobriety Test checkpoint does not adhere to the strict legal standards set by the DUI California State law, then the arrest is illegal. The illegal detention means that even if there is enough evidence that proves you were driving under the influence, you can not be charged.
The arresting officer may have held you in custody without probable cause. If you followed all the traffic rules as required by the State of California, the arrest would have been illegal, and the DMV officer should set aside the suspension of your license.
Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations dictates how the sobriety tests should be administered, stored, and examined. Failure to adhere to the procedure by the officer may lead to discarding the DMV hearing.
The breathing test instruments need to maintained after every ten days or 150 blows to provide accurate results. Title 17 regulates the operation of the device to avoid unlawful arrests. Failure to conform to the standards may establish the samples you offered inaccurate, forcing the DMV officer to revoke your driver's license suspension.
If medical explanations are proving either a particular diet or medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, acid reflux and heartburn triggered the high blood alcohol level false result. In cases where you are using medicine or breath sprays containing alcohol, then that proves you were not driving under the influence.
What Happens in a DUI Criminal Court Case
You will be arraigned in court within a few days from your DUI arrest, as everyone has the right to a speedy arraignment. At the appearance, the prosecutor will first provide you a plea offer before the plea hearing. The process is also known as plea bargaining. You will have the opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to your California DUI charges. If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced, and your DUI case closed.
If you plead not guilty, a trial is scheduled. At the pretrial hearing, you or your lawyer can review and file a motion to suppress the evidence. The evidence may include police reports, incriminating statements, or the chemical testing instrument. After presenting the proposals, the court will set a hearing and make final judgments.
Although most DUI cases settle before a trial, if you do not get a satisfactory offer through plea bargaining and negotiation, you can proceed to a jury trial. The DUI trial begins by selecting jurors to hear the case. Then the prosecutor and your will lawyer will both give an opening statement. Each side will then present relevant evidence that might include witness testimonies, field sobriety tests, BAC tests, photographs, and videos. After the evidence showed, both sides will give closing arguments and await the jury's deliberation of guilt.
If the jury finds you guilty or you plead guilty or no contest, the judge will assign a sentencing hearing. The hearing may occur on the same day the court finds you guilty or when you plead guilty.
California DUI Penalties and Driver’s License Suspension
If you are a first time offender, then your license will be suspended for six to ten months after you lose your DMV hearing. But in cases where your DUI caused injury to another person, or you refused to submit to a chemical test, then your license will be suspended for one year. You have the option of continuing driving if you get an IID installed in your car for four months. In addition to that, the Court penances you an amount ranging from $ 390 to $ 1000 and spend maximum time of six months in county jail. You also have to spend three or six months of DUI school.
For the second DUI case within ten years, the DMV suspends your license for two years. If you caused an injury to another person, your license would be suspended for three years. If you refused to take a chemical test, your license suspension would be for two years. You can be allowed to continue driving if you get an IID installed in your vehicle for one year. The Court will fine you an amount ranging from $ 390 to $ 1000 and spend 96 hours to one year in county jail. You also need to attend 18 or 30 months of DUI school.
If you are the third time within a ten-year-period, your license will be suspended for three years. If you refused to take a chemical test, your license suspension would be for three years. You can be allowed to continue driving if you get an IID installed in your vehicle for one year. The Court will fine you an amount ranging from $ 390 to $ 1000 and spend 120 days to one year in county jail. You also need to attend 30 months of DUI school.
If you have a fourth or subsequent DUI within ten years, your license suspension is for four years. You will be granted permission to continue driving if you get an IID installed for a specified amount of time. You will also face 16 months to three years and a fine of $390 to $1000. Attendance of 30 months of DUI school is also mandatory.
How Ignition Interlock Devices Work
IIDs are smaller version DUI breath test device installed in your car to stop your car from operating unless you exhale an alcohol-free breath. The residents of Rancho Mission Viejo did not have IID devices connected in their vehicles until the recent introduction of an IID restricted license in the State of California.
How to Reinstate your Suspended Driver’s License
You are entitled to convert your license suspension into a restricted license after a specific period from the time you lose a DMV hearing. The period is dependent on whether you are a first, second, third, or subsequent offender in the last ten years.
After serving your license suspension period, you can reinstate your license by satisfying the following criteria:
- Enrolling in a California DUI school,
- Once you submit an SR-22 insurance form, and
- Paying the $125 reinstatement fee.
Find a DUI Attorney Near Me
Driving under the influence is a severe charge in California as you put the lives of the residents at risk. You need a competent attorney that has good relationships with the judges and the prosecutor, and skills to negotiate with the prosecution. If you are in Rancho Mission Viejo, contact the Orange County DUI Attorney at 949-377-2280 for experienced DUI case representation.