California DUI laws are complex for a person without a legal background to understand. The criminal process of driving under the influence involves many issues, such as field sobriety tests, driver’s license confiscation, DUI arrest, blood tests, court proceedings, DMV hearings, among others. If you are thinking of going through these stages alone, you are likely to face significant challenges and stress. Thus, we at the Orange County DUI Attorney are here to help you with cases involving DUI and the DMV. Contact us today to talk to our local Santa Ana DUI attorney today. Our attorneys have in-depth knowledge of DUI processes and related issues across the entire Orange County area.
Overview of DUI under California Law
The State of California is widely known for its harsh laws. In Santa Ana, you are likely to get a roadblock and be required to undertake a test that would confirm whether you are intoxicated or not. These tests are known as field sobriety tests, and an officer would only flank you down and perform the tests if they suspect that you are drunk. Suspicion may arise from reckless driving, among other issues.
Once you are arrested, you are likely to face two criminal charges. You will face charges under VEH 23152 (a) for driving under the influence and VEH 23152 (b) for having an excessive concentration of blood alcohol.
As per section 23152 (a) of Vehicle Code, DUI entails a driver operating a means of transportation while impaired. Here, impaired means the inability of the driver to safely operate the vehicle due to the influence of intoxicating substances consumed. These substances may be in the form of alcoholic beverages, controlled substances, or an overdose of prescription medication.
The second DUI charge falls under the "Per Se" DUI law. This law sets a measurable limit through which a DUI enforcement team may render a driver unfit to drive. However, the law has several distinctions that vary based on the different classes of drivers. According to the Vehicle Code section 23152 (b) of excessive BAC, a regular motorist is rendered to be impaired when their blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or more. In a case whereby you have a BAC level lower than 0.08, then you will only be charged with Vehicle Code section 23152 (a) driving under the influence. This also applies when you are accused of using controlled drugs only.
Furthermore, commercial vehicle drivers are required to drive when their BAC does not exceed 0.04%, while underage drivers must not exceed 0.01%. In California, underage drivers are those below the age of 21years (which is the legal drinking age). Hence, underage drivers cannot drive with any measurable alcohol content in their blood; this is commonly known as the zero-tolerance law. Whether you are facing charges for regular DUI, commercial DUI, or underage DUI, please get in touch with our experienced Santa Ana DUI attorney for prompt assistance.
DUI Arrest Process in Santa Ana
If you have never been pulled over for driving while under the influence, you may be unaware of what happens during the DUI arrest process. Being pulled over might be overwhelming and confusing. However, it is crucial to note that throughout the criminal justice process, you have rights. Police officers must go through a process to comply with the law.
First, an allegedly intoxicated driver will be pulled over by the police or a DUI enforcement team. This can occur at various traffic spots, random roadblocks, or checkpoints. In some instances, an officer may be forced to stop you if he or she notices your reckless driving, a missing headlamp, or faulty tail light.
While at the stop, the police officer might ask you questions about where you are coming from, or where you are headed to. In this case, it is vital that you decline to answer any questions until you've spoken to your DUI attorney. You are allowed to only reply to basic questions, such as providing your name. It is essential to know your rights by understanding the Fourth Amendment protections, which enlightens against unreasonable search and seizure by the authorities.
Basing on the police officer's judgment of your actions or state, you may be asked to participate in the sobriety tests. These tests will help the police officer to ascertain whether, and by how much, the motorist is under intoxication. The tests, however, are generally torn apart between chemical tests and field sobriety tests. The chemical tests determine the specific presence and prevalence of intoxicants in the motorist's bloodstream. These tests can be administered on the spot, at a hospital, or a police station. The method of administering the test usually is via breath, urine, or blood samples. It is important to pinpoint that any attempt, in any form, that relates to refusing to comply with chemical testing results will lead to an automatic confiscation of your driver's license.
In contrast, a Field Sobriety Test, FST, can be anything involving a physical action like counting numbers, walking in a straight line challenge, balancing activities, reciting the alphabet, among others. FSTs are usually administered before chemical tests. Thus, FSTs are basic tests that do not ascertain that a driver is intoxicated, but to some extent, they can confirm an officer’s suspicion that you are driving under the influence. On the other hand, a chemical test will be used to confirm the exact level of alcohol in your blood.
You will possibly be arrested and taken into custody if you fail the tests. You also have a legal right to decline to a test or some of the questions asked by an arresting officer. However, you need to contact your Santa Ana DUI attorney so that you understand the consequences of any action, and how you can proceed if you are arrested and charged with DUI.
Possible DUI Penalties
DUI carries heavy penalties and sentences. A DUI conviction often means that you are likely to spend some part of your life in jail. A DUI crime will be convicted under three categories, as discussed below:
First Time DUI
A first time offender is more likely to receive severe, but less intrusive penalties. The typical punishments include:
- Serving a misdemeanor(summary) probation time of not more than three years
- Payment of fines & penalties to the court of a sum not exceeding $2000
- Participating in and completing a three-month Drug/Alcohol Program
- For a case of a mother, you must partake and complete of a one-day Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) course
- A suspension of your California Driver License for not more than six months.
However, the defendant may apply for an Ignition Interlock Device (IID), which can be installed in their car in case he/she wishes to continue driving. This will be monitored and restrictive for a period of six months.
Second Time DUI
This is a second time DUI offense that occurred within ten years after the first conviction. You are likely to face more severe penalties than the first DUI charge. The punishments include:
- Serving a misdemeanor probation time of not more than five years
- Payment of fines & penalties to the court summing up to not more than $2000
- Serving a jail sentence of not more than 90 days in county jail. However, in some instances, the sentence may often be converted to a home confinement
- Enrolling and completing a Drug/Alcohol program ranging between 18 to 30 months
- Participating in additional duties like enrolling in AA classes or community service
- Obligatory setting up of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for a period not more than a year
Third Time DUI
This involves a third-time offense within ten years after the first conviction. The charges involved are severe than the previous crimes. The penalties involved include the following:
- Serving misdemeanor (summary) probation time of 3 to 5 years
- Payment of fines & penalties not exceeding $2800
- Serving a minimum jail sentence of 3 months or more
- Enrolling and completing of a thirty-month Drug/Alcohol program
- Mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device for not more than two years
Common Legal Defenses that a Santa Ana DUI Attorney can Use
A DUI violation is a serious crime. Having such claims against you may not only be costly, wastage of time and embarrassing, but also have a detrimental impact on your record, thus tarnishing your life for good. Fortunately, a DUI charge carries with it several defenses that a credible DUI attorney may be able to use. Some of the defenses that we can use are discussed below.
Errors with the Breath Tests Kit
In California, many instances of breath tests have been scrutinized for their unreliability. This is due to the inconsistencies of the kits, known as a breathalyzer. The breathalyzer usually needs to be serviced and calibrated from time to time. This is done to guarantee the courts and DUI authorities that the results of the tests are accurate. If the kits have been serviced, the State must provide supporting documents to both the prosecutor and the defendant's attorney.
This document provides a log of the service history as well as the date of its previous service. If the breathalyzer was not serviced at the time of arrest, then your Santa Ana DUI Attorney may challenge the breath tests by arguing that the kit malfunctioned, and it was calibrated incorrectly. Again, if the documents supporting the kit's credibility are not available, then the court may render the kit's tests inadmissible towards your case.
You Did Not Know Your Miranda Rights
When the law enforcement officer apprehends you, it is required by law that he or she read you the Miranda rights before initiating a custodial interrogation. Typically, these rights are read to you when you are in their custody. If an officer tries to interrogate you before reading your Miranda rights and allowing you a right to counsel, then the case would be suppressed or turned out to be inadmissible by the courts. This is because of improper handling of the suspect by the police officer.
The Physical Condition of the Defendant Led to Improper Tests
The breath test kits are devised to acquire a sample of the alveolar air that is located deep in the lungs. However, some physical conditions can generate inaccurate blood alcohol examination results. A good example is gastroesophageal reflux disease. This disease produces typically acid reflux and heartburn, which cause acid flow from the stomach to the mouth. The gases produced contain alcohol content, which may interfere with the breath test results. With this in mind, your attorney may challenge the test results, arguing that your condition may have raised the alcohol level of the test.
Inaccurate Results from A DUI Blood Test
In California, a law enforcement officer is required by law to administer DUI tests upon suspecting the defendant of driving under the influence. A blood test falls among the list. However, the means at which the blood sample is handled is very crucial in your defense. In most cases, it is best to have a third party conduct the tests just to be sure of the results.
On the other hand, your DUI Attorney will check up the conditions surrounding the assortment, filing, and storage of the sample taken. In your defense, the attorney may challenge the authenticity and accuracy of the individual results. The blood samples may also have been contaminated or fermented due to improper storage equipment.
Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests
These tests don't always provide accurate results of intoxication. The administration of these tests may assume certain actions of the defendant to imply their impairment state. For instance, several factors may lead to bad performances during the examination. Conducting the test in a poorly lit area, poor weather conditions, uneven ground, inadequate footwear like shoes, among others, may deceive the officer that you are intoxicated. Also, if you have an injury, stressed, or fatigued at the time of the test, then the FSTs might be inaccurate.
Common Elements that Prosecutors Must Prove in DUI Cases
As per section 23152 of Vehicle Code, a DUI crime is a subjective offense. This means that the prosecutor has an immense task of trying to prove that you were driving under the influence by relying mainly on the personal observations made by the law enforcement officer. Therefore, for you to be convicted for violating the DUI laws, the prosecutor must provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that:
You were Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated
The prosecutor needs to demonstrate that the defendant violated the Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a) driving under the influence. They must show that you were unable to safely operate the vehicle due to an impairment that is attributed to consuming intoxicating substances such as alcoholic beverages, illegal substances, or an overdose of prescribed medication. Thus, the arresting officer must have seen you driving a vehicle, or there was a reasonable sign that concluded you were operating the vehicle. Also, there must have been signs that you could not drive in a similar way compared to other sober drivers.
You were Operating a Means of Transportation with an Excessive BAC Level
The prosecutor is required to provide evidence showing the excessive BAC level of the defendant. As per section 23152 (b), an excessive BAC level entails having an alcohol concentration level of 0.08 percent and above in the bloodstream of a regular driver, 0.01% for underage drivers, and 0.04% for commercial drivers. Therefore, the prosecutor has to provide chemical test results showing the percentage of alcohol in your blood at the time of the arrest. These results can also be stored for future reference.
The above two elements are the most crucial elements in DUI charges. If there are other factors or the prosecutor levels other charges, such as felony DUI, DUI hit and run, manslaughter, among others, the prosecutor must prove the above elements in addition to other elements of the specific crime.
Note that prosecutors usually level more than one charge of driving under the influence so that they have higher chances of winning at least one charge. Also, there are mitigating factors that may reduce the charges leveled against you and aggravating factors that may increase the charges leveled against you. Examples of mitigating factors are a BAC level that is very close to the legal limit and agreeing to undertake all tests. In such cases, your case may be reduced to a lesser charge, such as wet reckless, reckless driving, among others.
However, even before the court reduces your charges, our Santa Ana DUI attorney will negotiate/plead with the prosecution to possibly reach a plea deal. This way, you are likely to serve less harsh penalties.
Find a Reputable DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
If you are looking for a reputable DUI defense attorney who understands all the DUI processes and DUI cases in Santa Ana, we at the Orange County DUI Attorney have got you covered. We are available 24/7 to get in touch with you if you are arrested. Don’t go alone through the complex DUI procedures, but instead, get in touch with us at 949-377-2280 today!