The DUI Process

Your California DUI Arrest

If you’ve been arrested for a DUI in California, the offense will fall under “driving under the influence” which is governed by California’s Code 23152(a) and/or (b) if there is an accident causing injury California Vehicle Code 23153(a) and/or(b) may be charged. Most likely at the scene of the arrest, you were asked to perform a number of roadside field sobriety tests (FSTs).  If you were not given an on-the-spot breath test, you gave one in the hospital or police station after your arrest. While the results of breath tests readings are immediately available, it can take several days to get lab work back to know your blood sample analysis.
If your breath test results show your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.08% or higher, you will also be charged with California Vehicle Code 23152b VC, driving with an excessive BAC.

If your breath test comes back lower than expected, and the arresting officer suspects that you may have been driving under the influence of drugs, you may be asked to take an additional blood test.

The breath test before arrest (PAS test) is optional. You may decline to take it unless you are a minor or you are on probation for a previous DUI.

If you refused to take the PAS test at the scene, and are arrested for DUI, you must submit to a “chemical test” if asked. If you refuse to perform the tests, you will not only get arrested for drunk driving but you may also be charged with a “refusal” allegation. This carries added penalties, including an additional (48 hours) two days in county jail and drivers license suspension for one year.

Various types of lawyers work on DUI cases including public defenders, general practitioners, criminal defense lawyers, and specialist DUI attorneys.

A public defender is an attorney provided at little or no cost to defend people who are financially unable to hire a private attorney. In most counties you will not qualify for public defenders services unless you are unemployed or significantly under-employed.

Good questions to ask when searching for a DUI attorney include:

  • What are the attorneys qualifications?
  • Did he or she attend a reputable school?
  • Is he or she a member of the National College for DUI Defense?
  • How is the attorney rated for competence and ethics in the Martindale-Hubbell directory?
  • Does the attorney have experience with using expert witnesses in police procedures and blood alcohol content testing

Whether or not you hire a DUI attorney, it is probably a good idea to speak to a specialist in this highly complex field. We would be happy to provide a Free DUI Defense Consultation.

After Your California DUI Arrest

After being arrested for a California DUI, you are facing two different proceedings – the courts and the DMV. You must contact the California DMV to request an Administrative Hearing within 10 days to protect your driving privileges. Temporary driver licenses issued to DUI defendants expire after 30 days, but driving privileges will be extended until a DMV hearing has been held and a decision is made.

If you win the California DMV hearing, your driving privileges will be protected until the courts render a decision.

The short answer is “yes”. If you hire an experienced DUI attorney like the attorneys at who have won many California DMV Administrative hearings for their clients, you could win your case. There are three things the DMV has to prove in order to restrict your California driving privileges:

  • Who was driving the vehicle?
  • Whether the police officer had “reasonable cause” to pull over and arrest the driver (a complicated legal question).
  • Whether the driver had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or above (which is open to many challenges).

A vigorous and knowledgeable defense which may include an expert witnesses can raise serious questions about one or more of these criteria.

On your ticket, or somewhere else in your paperwork, you can find the date, time and location for your first court appearance. If you’ve hired an attorney, a different date may be set.

The judge will ask you to plead guilty or not guilty. Depending on your plea, the judge will ask you several questions to determine whether you want to waive your constitutional rights, including your right to a speedy jury trial.

If you plead guilty, the judge will likely pass sentence immediately. Depending on the charges you face, the county you are charged in, and the specific judge, this sentence will vary. Most DUI crimes entail, at minimum, some time in jail or a program that counts as jail, a drinking driver program, a substantial fine, and probation.

If you plead not guilty, your attorney will review and challenge the evidence that the prosecution has against you. This includes the arrest report and any tests you completed.

A DUI defense will take a minimum of several months but more complicated DUI cases can easily last six months to a year. Some felony DUI cases (ones involving accidents) or cases with multiple priors can last for several years. We will provide you with a time estimate once we review your case.

During this critical time, our attorneys will review all the evidence presented at the arraignment by the prosecution, and mount a strong defense on your behalf. When your California DUI defense attorney shows the other side the holes in their case against you, you may be offered a plea-bargain. If you accept the deal, you will not need to go to trial.

Going to Trial

Most California DUI cases settle before going to trial, but certainly not all.  At the trial, the prosecution must prove every element of its case against you “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  Your defense attorney will then challenge each item of evidence presented by the prosecution.
Most DUI trials in California last between two and five days.
You have a right to chose whether to have a jury decide your case. Speak to your defense attorney about his/her thoughts but most defendants choose to have a jury trial.
Whether you plead guilty to a DUI (or other reduced charge) or are convicted by a jury, the judge will decide your sentence. DUI penalties vary depending on prior DUI convictions and the circumstances of your current case.

Possible California DUI penalties include:

  • Incarceration from a few days in county jail to many years in state prison
  • Probation, either formal (with a probation officer) or informal
  • Monetary damages in the form of fines, penalties, and restitution
  • Restriction, suspension or revocation of your California Driver’s License
  • Mandatory attendance at treatment programs
  • Car impoundment
  • Installation of ignition interlock device

In addition to state sanctions, DUI convictions almost always result in significantly higher insurance premiums, and in some cases, adverse impacts on employment.