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Defending a DUI or Related Charge before Trial

In this series, we’ve covered the background of DUI , DUI with Injury, DUID, other related charges, as well as information relating to traffic checkpoints, traffic stops, arrest, and vehicle impound. Today we’re going to discuss the important things you should know about the process of defending any DUI charges.

DMV Hearings

If you have been arrested for DUI in California, you have 10 days to request a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you fail to do this, your driver’s license can be suspended. If you contact the DMV within 10 days of your arrest, and ask for a hearing on whether you were driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or above you may also request a stay (postponement) of your license suspension, which will normally allow you to drive up until the date of your DMV hearing.

  1. Did the peace officer have reasonable cause to believe you were driving a motor vehicle in violation of one of the California DUI laws ?
  2. Were you placed under lawful arrest?
  3. Were you driving a motor vehicle when you had 0.08% of alcohol in your blood?

Defense in Two Venues

California DUI cases require legal representation in two different places: County Court for the criminal charges and the California Department of Motor Vehicle Administrative proceedings (regarding the DMV driver’s license suspension).

These are separate legal events in separate venues with separate though related consequences. You may be found not guilty in criminal court and still lose your driver’s license in a California Department of Motor Vehicles Administrative hearing.

In most cases, if you retain me as your lawyer, you do not have to appear in court unless you go to trial.

Misdemeanor versus Felony DUI Charges

DUI cases can be charged as felonies if you have three or more DUI’s (or wet reckless) convictions within the past 10 years. Felony DUI’s may also be charged if someone other than yourself was injured or if you have a prior felony DUI in the last 10 years.

Felony cases come with the possibility of a prison sentence as well as the (potentially) life-long negative consequences associated with a felony conviction.

Most DUI cases are charged as misdemeanors. Though a lesser crime than a felony, misdemeanor DUIs still have serious consequences. to learn more about DUI penalties.

Defending Against the Charges

An aggressive criminal defense is much more than plea agreement negotiation. Your lawyer should defend against the charges, including possible defenses using the vehicle stop, arrest, and blood alcohol testing. Different counties handle DUI charges differently, and this can also increase your chance of avoiding a conviction. I handle each of my clients’ cases personally, so I am able to craft a legal defense that serves your needs and long-term interests.

Possible defenses include:

Police Reports

Make sure you understand that the police and the district attorney’s office play two very different roles in our legal system. The police enforce laws. They do this by gathering evidence and making arrests. After an arrest is made, evidence is summarized in a police report that is given to the DA. After reviewing the information and considering the applicable laws, the DA’s office decides whether to file charges.

As your defense attorney, I obtain a copy of the police report and any other evidence the DA has. I review these reports to find inaccuracies and weak points in the DA’s case.

Witnesses

Witnesses referred to in the police report might be able to provide information that leads to charges being dropped or an acquittal at trial. I use an extremely good investigator, who reviews the facts with witnesses, visit crimes scenes, and finds evidence that helps us build the strongest case.

Lab Tests

If you are arrested for DUI, you may be required to give a blood sample that is analyzed for the presence of alcohol or other drugs. The alcohol level indicated by the blood sample—taken at the time of booking in the jail—is used to double-check the Breathalyzer test administered at the time of arrest.

In cases that also include drug charges—for both illegal and prescription drugs—it’s often advantageous to obtain a separate analysis of the sample. The testing experts I use provide detailed reports and are able to provide expert testimony at trial.

Suppression of Evidence

Without a reasonable suspicion, the stop of the vehicle and all evidence obtained from the stop are subject to a motion to suppress evidence. In other words, if an officer does not have good cause to pull your vehicle over, all evidence obtained as a result of the stop (odor of alcohol, field sobriety tests, statements, and chemical test results) may be suppressed (thrown out).

Negotiation

Most DUI cases are settled before they reach trial. My goal is always to get the DA to drop the charges. In instances when that isn’t possible, a reduction of charges to a Wet Reckless is sometimes possible, depending on the blood alcohol level and other factors.

Next week, we will discuss the various aspects of going to trial for a DUI or related charge.

In all cases, my previous experience helps me negotiate outcomes that best serve by clients’ interests. If you would like to discuss your case confidentially, please call me at (530) 823-5400.